Zooming Web: A closer look at the www

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Travel Portals: Part 2

Since long time there was a need of Internet reservations in bus service. More than a website design, the real issue was organising private vendors spread across different cities in inter and intra state bus services. Most of the state government bus services are already organised and reservations was easy via the agent next door. In some states like Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh even the state bus service reservation is available online. A few private Bus services like Raj Travels also provide online reservations. For less distance like Bangalore-Mysore , Mumbai-Pune, Delhi-Jaipur or Bhopal-Indore, reservations were always ad-hoc and there was always chaos during festivals and peak season. Redbus.in: a bangalore based startup is addressing this problem. Apart from english they have kannada, tamil and telgu versions also. Another interesting feature is that their webite is mobile booking enabled. Hopefully they will spread their business across India soon covering all the major cities. Another indian portal indiatransit.com integrates all the bus service information. But unlike redbus.in, it does not have any online booking fascility. But it has the best travel content (copied from various online websites). This portal earns its money from advertising.

During the start of their operations, Airdeccan and SpiceJet provided Rs. 1/- tickets as promotion when they started their operations. The easiest way of getting one of those low fare deals was to check the updates on websites now and then for latest offer announcements. I along with my friends wrote a simple web scrapping java program which:
  1. Did http call to the airline website every 10 minutes.
  2. Check the content for any change
  3. If it finds any change then sms us an alert.
For SMS we used the free sms service provided by vaartha.com. The reason we tried this was that in those days when we were students, travel date did not matter us much as the fare. ClearTrip Alerts is an official (non-hacking) way of getting alerts. This is really useful when the cost is an important consideration and the travel dates are flexible.
[Note: Airlines still provide these low fare tickets but now the added costs like airport taxes, fuel surcharge and airport development tax which adds up to odd Rs 2000+. The increased cost of commuting to new airports like of Bangalore and Hyderabad itself makes the Rs 1/- deal non attractive (atleast for short distace flights). ]

ClearTrip Graphs show the changing fares of all airlines for a given sector. So it makes the checking fare simple for a customer otherwise he gets the same information after individual searches. Graphs are often used to make it easier to understand large quantities of data and the relationship between different parts of the data. Such graphs will be really useful for instance in railway reservations where instead of fare on the y-axis, showing availabity of seats wil avoid unnessary searches by the customer.

Fares at your fingertips via SMS In case of urgency or even otherwise when you are on move and no internet is available, SMS search comes very handy. ClearTrip Mobile supports this mode for fare search. And since in SMS the combo box help (or value help) is unavailable for city selection, it also allows search based on old ot new names of cities and even the shortcut names (like bom for Bombay). For example: > fly mumbai delhi 10 oct> fly bom del 10 oct> Fly Mumbai Delhi 10 Oct
will all return the fare of all flights available from Mumbai to Delhi on 10th Oct.

Treasure Leaves section of redbus.in brings travel related information from various tourists websites, blogs, travel guides and search engines. It is available at redbus.in. It saves a lot of time for a customer who as of now searches about any city with different permutation and combination of search criteria.

Viaworld.in has tied up with BIAL (Bangalore International Airport) for providing the ticket booking of Valvo Vajra. Whats more ? You can also choose your seat online for this local commute to Airport from any Volvo Vajra bus stop in the city.

90di shows the whole route on a map. It also shows the number of hops. It is interesting but such type of applications will be really useful only for a first time traveler. The map applications like google maps helps mainly to people commuting by their own vehicles so that they get the directions. It would make more sense to have such type of map when rail, bus , airlines and local transport is integrated well.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Travel Portals: Part 1

Today i browsed through indian travel portals. The most popular ones are ClearTrip , MakeMyTrip, ezeeGo1, Yatra and TravelGuru. And there are relatively unpopular ones such as tripMela, rediff FareSearch, ixigo, 90di, travelocity, RajTravel and indiatimes travel site. The sites such as rediff FareSearch and ixigo are simple search engines which do not provide any ticket booking facility.
Here is a video file where i captured these popular portals:

video



Technical integration & business model of travel portals:

For integration and automation of booking and ticketing processes along with real-time access to flight details, Airline Reservations System (ARS) was evolved. Most of the travel portals use GDS (Global Distribution Systems) like Amadeus, Abacus and Galileo etc. - They provide access to full-service airline systems for fare/availability. These GDS companies have developed their own Web interfaces, and now sell their services directly to consumers ( online travel portals). The travel portals also have to register with IATA in order to do ticketing and settlement. Additionally, they register as an agent with low cost carriers and negotiate with the airlines for commissions and bonuses. Online advertising and commissions on ticket bookings is the main source of revenue for these travel portals. So which portal is the best ?? Well its a personal choice and experience. Here is my personal favourites in each category : Airlines, trains and bus ticket bookings:

ClearTrip.com
irctc.co.in
redbus.in

In my next posts, i will try to show some unique features of these portals. Also ill try to bring out a UI design of an All-in-One travel booking portal which will include air, train and bus train bookings together :).



Saturday, May 3, 2008

Isn't it exciting ?


Vannevar Bush proposed the basics of hypertext in 1945.
Timothy John Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in March 1989. Nov 1992: There are 26 webservers online.


10 years later:
Netscape, Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Ebay, AOL, Mozilla and Apple define what we call the "World Wide Web".
World's first hindi portal webdunia.com was launched.
Rajesh Jain sells IndiaWorld for $115 million.

Another decade later:
About 100,000,000 websites online.
Web2.0 Arrives..Aims to enhance creativity, information sharing, and, most notably, collaboration among users.
Blogger, Flicks, Youtube, Orkut empower the users accross globe.
World Wide Web supports multiple languages. BBC, AOL, MS (BhashaIndia)launch websites in Indian languages.
Hindi bloggers of the world come together to form Akshargram.com.
NetBanking gets the trust of users.
Software as a Service (SAAS) arrives.
Google buys Writely integrates with Salesforce which gives giants like SAP, Oracle and Microsoft a run for their money.
Indian Matrimonial and job portals grow at 50-100% per year now.

Isn't it exciting :).

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