Travelyaari.com sells bus tickets directly to the traveller and has grown as one of the largest online bus ticket booking Web sites in the country.

After exploring different industries and discovering India’s overwhelming demand for long distance bus travel and the urgent need to organize and modernize the bus travel sector, Aurvind Lama and Parthasarathi Sinha made their 2007 debut in the transport industry with Travelyaari.com.

With a new boom happening in the Indian e-commerce segment, companies like Travelyaari.com are building what might eventually be similar to Expedia.com. This is reflected in the numbers. According to a study by ASSOCHAM, higher secondary market spends are estimated to reach $20 billion by 2015.

Aurvind Lama holds a B. Tech from the Indian Institute of Information Technology in Allahabad (2003) and an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad (2007). Lama has worked for Infosys, Honeywell and Deutsche Post World Net. Similarly, Parthasarathi Sinha earned his B. Tech from the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi (2002) and his MBA from the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad (2007). Sinha has worked for Rickett Benkiser, Development Bank of Singapore and Boston Consulting group.

Beginnings

Lama and Sinha were not the first to respond to India’s bus transport crisis, since other startups like redBus.in had already arrived on the scene; but the team did their part to identify the myriad problems which caused a simple task of booking seats to become unduly stressful for bus passengers, and they resolved to create a solution that would enable a better customer experience while functioning as both retailer and distributor. The two discovered that aside from a gross lack of professionalism, order, convenience and common courtesy in bus services, other major hassles India’s travellers suffered included the absence of transparency regarding seat availability and pricing, along with operators’ total disregard for accountability or reliability. Double booking of seats, i.e. selling one seat to two different passengers was also a frequent source of chaos for bus travellers. Despite being a transportation provider’s number one source of income, the Indian passenger was rarely valued and often subjected to dishonesty and apathy at every turn. In short, Lama and Sinha found India’s bus transport industry in dire need of a complete overhaul.

Travelyaari.com isn’t just a lucrative business opportunity; it’s also their contribution to the on-going improvement of industry standards. Realising that technology was the need of the hour, Lama and Sinha decided to build an online end-to-end integrated platform to connect all stakeholders of the bus transport industry- from bus operators to agents, while also making the booking process painless for the passengers and prompting bus operators to wrap their heads around the notion of acceptable booking procedures. The job entailed the construction of a computerised reservation system to support critical business processes such as ticket booking, agent networking, accounting, reporting and analytics, collaboration and customer relations management (CRM).

Referring to Travelyaari, Lama said, “‘Computerised reservation system gives a huge proposition to bus transporters in terms of reduced operational cost, increased sales revenue, better business control and collaborations with other players in the market. This product plays a very strategic role in the entire value chain. It helped to create real time bus inventory for online booking, which was a huge relief for the customers. Travelyaari.com sells bus tickets directly to the traveller and today the portal has grown as one of the largest online bus ticket booking Web sites in the country.”

Differentiation of service

Travelyaari also distributes bus inventory to different online travel agencies such as MakeMyTrip, GoIbibo and Ezeego1. When asked how Travelyaari is different from other online booking sites, Lama replied, “Other bus ticket booking websites do not have deep supply chain infrastructure which Travelyaari.com has deployed over last few years, which enables Travelyaari.com to deliver reliable service to its customers.” He later added, “At present, Travelyaari.com has deployed its products right from Katra in J&K to Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala and from Dwarka in Gujarat to Guwahati in Assam.”

Challenges faced

On their path, Lama and Sinha encountered some hassles of their own, both personal and professional. Certain family members didn’t want them pursuing their shared dream, so time and energy had to be spent convincing those individuals that it was a worthwhile venture. Then there were the usual challenges of choosing the right people to join their team, along with the need to identify and address various industry needs so that robust products and solutions could be developed. Educating bus operators and service providers about the perks of modern technology and the vital role it plays in creating efficiency, pleasing customers and increasing revenue was another challenge altogether.

Commenting on the success of Travelyaari Lama said, “Travelyaari’s back-end system is used by more than 650 transporters across the country. Travelyaari.com itself has become very popular among the bus travellers community and is growing at more than 400 per cent growth rate. In last 2 years Travelyaari’s sales increased from Rs 5 crores to Rs 150 crores. This financial year Travelyaari.com will do Rs150 crores and next year it is targeting sales of Rs 500 crores and a year after that sales of Rs 1100 crores. It is because of the end to end model which enables Travelyaari to deliver such a high growth rate.”

Future plans

When asked about plans to raise more capital for Travelyaari, he replied, “Two and a half years back a venture capital firm had invested $3 million in Travelyaari.com. We are still in discussion with couple of fund raising firms to raise $10 million, which shall mostly be spent for branding and marketing.”

It is a tough task trying to straighten out an unorganised sector. Whether the company succeeds, time will tell.

venkatesh.ganesh@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on March 14, 2013)
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