Going on a holiday is fun, but the amount of research and planning that comes before it, not so much. This thought led to travel enthusiast Amitabh Misra conceptualising GoFro. Being the former CTO of Snapdeal, Misra is no stranger to the marketplace model and wanted to bring in the same concept to the travel and tourism industry. GoFro is a part of his own venture Bona Vita Technologies.
Listing out the woes that a traveller usually faces, Misra says, “There is a lack of flexibility when it comes to building our itineraries which allow little or no personalisation. We need options when we are planning our holidays to do things depending on our interest, budget, and the people we are traveling with. Today one has to visit numerous websites or talk to multiple agents to check prices and buy, making the whole process a harrowing experience.” With GoFro, he aims to bring large number of offerings at great prices and deals from hundreds of suppliers on a single platform. “Very importantly, what GoFro offers is not just flights and accommodation but everything a traveller needs from activities, to local transport, tour guides, rentals, Visa, Travel Insurance, Forex and international calling cards. And all that through a very intuitive easy to use single-page app,” adds Misra, explaining the concept further.
Additionally, the startup looks to address the big gap in the consumer experience right from booking to in-destination. “We offer a host of post booking ancillary services including a path-breaking in-destination concierge app,” says Misra. Joining him in this endeavour are Mohit Sardana, the Chief Business Officer who previously worked at MakeMyTrip, and former Snapdeal colleague Sanjay Kumar, the Head of Engineering, who are the founding members of GoFro and bring with them knowledge of the business and technology.
The GoFro team consists of over 70 members, predominantly with expertise in Engineering and Product. “Our Product-Engineering team formerly built India’s largest online marketplace from scratch. Our overall senior leadership includes veterans who have deep expertise over consumer internet space in India, especially in travel and product commerce,” shares Misra. Explaining the business model, Misra says they are operationally profitable. “The underlying business dynamics are very favourable to that. First, the travel business is a profitable business with margins up to 35 percent. Second, we intend to remain a lean technology company that facilitates transactions on our marketplace platform and not be operation heavy. Finally, we do not intend to take any inventory on our books,” adds Misra.
Misra calls GoFro more of a technology company than a travel company. He says they have built a powerful marketplace platform that is extremely user-friendly. The platform is easy to customise where users can build a day-wise, city-wise plan complete with flights, hotels, local transport and things to do on a single page itinerary app. GoFro’s proprietary algorithm powered recommendation engine suggests additional things to do, deals to be had, alternate itineraries that can save money, among others. These suggestions are personalised based on user’s existing itinerary and offers at the destinations, says Misra. Additionally, while planning their personalised itineraries, users can seek advice from travel experts, who can join the users online and view and co-edit their itinerary live.
Misra highlights GoFro’s in-destination support, in particular as a feature that could come in handy for users. While travelling and in destination, users may use GoFro Companion app to chat and seek information or help 24x7 from GoFro customer care. The customer care professional already has the whole context of the traveler and is equipped to even arrange for local physical help. Additionally, the companion app routinely provides alerts and useful personalized information to the traveler.
Sharing details about funding, Misra says they raised $5 million from MakeMyTrip last year as seed. While they have not actively started to look for funding, they see a clear path for growth for which they will need additional resources in the coming months. The company wishes to invest significant amount of time and energy to strengthen their technology platform, both on the consumer side as well as on the supply side. “We would like to launch our mobile app with innovative features such as live chat with our customer service agents, providing assistance on-ground issues quickly and in real time in the immediate future. The app would also provide customers their entire trip plan in one place on their phones without having to carry multiple sheets of vouchers as print-outs. The app would also bring customers and suppliers together creating a win-win for both. So an Indian restaurant or a shopping outlet in Singapore would be able to push specific offers to customers in their vicinity providing exclusive deals to customers and additional business to these commercial establishments,” says Misra talking about the company’s growth plans. He adds here that they are also working on launching a product feature to enable online buying of cruises, rental services and tour guides on the GoFro platform.
On the business side, GoFro will look to expand on its consumer offerings by adding more destinations, more suppliers, more products and services to the platform. “We plan to have 50+ destinations on our platform by year end. Additionally, we aim to have 2000+ suppliers in our eco-system by that time. Furthermore, we will launch branded group tours from most major International tour operators in the country by the end of this month. For the consumer this would mean having wide choices at great prices all availed from comfort of their homes and at click of a button,” envisions Misra.
When asked about the immediate milestones that the company wants to achieve, Misra says they are targeting to book 1000 holidays a month by end of this year and also aiming to shift a significant portion of their business to the mobile app.