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Travel planning cum hotel-booking site Tripstor banks on social connect to carve a niche

Screen Shot 2013-04-29 at 7.41.21 PMRanking Analytics Pvt Ltd, the company that owns and operates Tripstor.com, comes across as yet another new generation firm targeting the now crowded online travel agency (OTA) business. One of the startups which showcased its product at Techcircle Demo India event recently, Tripstor seeks to differentiate from the incumbents by gelling multiple elements of social networking with its platform to stand out.

The site basically offers reviews and advice on hotels, resorts, flights, vacation rentals and packages, travel guides, etc. This is similar to most OTAs who have either created their own user review element or integrated it with Tripadvisor's massive database.

Where it differentiates, however, is in terms of going deeper with social connect.

"At Tripstor we are solving the concerns of a traveller who has to hop from one site to another for knowing about a destination, selecting a destination, booking at the said destination and then sharing their experience about the trip. More importantly, we give them a social networking platform to relish and relive his/her experience," said Jaydev Joshi, co-founder, Tripstor.

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According to Joshi, the company's USP is that it allows creation of user travelogue (including all forms of memoir portrayal) and its social networking like features which is different from a 'classical booking engine'. It is also planning to offer a first of its kind 'in-window-chat' for the users to interact with one another.

The company was founded by the trio of Joshi, Killol Desai and Hiren Dhaduk in December 2011. The site is in public beta as of now and will go off beta by early next month. While it is not offering hotel bookings as of now, the same will be added by July this year. To begin with, the site will offer bookings for around 1.5 lakh hotels spread over 230 markets.

Why only hotels?

"Hotels are the immediate extension of the travel process post selection of a destination. The very concept of Tripstor to begin with is the user-created information consisting of blogs, photos, travelogues, etc., about a destination. As of now we are showcasing over 25,500 destinations, this number will only increase going forward," said Joshi.

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Also, while the company is not looking to provide flight booking (which we believe would be a natural extension and a much needed addition to its offering) anytime in the near future, if it does so, it will directly partner with airlines and not tie-ups with OTA's (like MakeMyTrip), according to Joshi.

Competition, challenges & what's in store:

Headquartered at Ahmedabad, the company also has an office in Rajkot. The present team size is 20, but it is planning to double this number in the coming months. It is also planning to open another office in Jaipur. The challenges faced by the company include competition from large players and making users indulge in the site and add content to it.

While the company is bootstrapped as of now, it is looking to raise an angel round, out of which, majority will be spent towards marketing and product enhancement. It is also planning to launch apps for most of the popular mobile platforms (like Android, iOS, Windows and Blackberry) by June 2013. The company is also planning to kick start expeditions, motor rallies, etc., to connect with its customers offline.

"We want to plug the gap of the 'social connect' which exists today in the online travel market and also set the users free from the clutter and confusion that they are faced with on other OTA sites, considering most of their offerings are powered by sponsored deals and packages by airlines and hotels)," concluded Joshi.

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