When you started this business the customers were generally Americans traveling to India. Now more of your business is Indians traveling domestically. How did this switch come about?
To be candid, we were waiting for the Indian market to open up. The nonresident Indian market, or Indian folks in the U.S. coming back home, was really one part of the business plan, not the entire business plan. It would be fair to say it was like one-third of the business plan. But when we launched in India in 2000, we realized we didn't have enough people buying. We had lots of lookers but very few bookers. So we waited patiently, focused entirely on the U.S. market, built a business around this and waited for the Indian market to open up. Really it was a couple of events that convinced me that the market was ready, most notably the advent of budget carriers. That really helped us because now the content was not available to the traditional travel agents so easily, and we could use technology and pull all the content together and really solve customer problems. The second thing was that Indians had started buying online on the Indian government railway site.
Who are some of your major competitors?
We have two Indian-grown companies that are venture-funded competing with us. One is half our size and the other is about a third our size. The rest of the market, or around 10%, is comprised of
(EXPE - Get Report)
in India, who have been there for a couple of years, albeit keeping a low profile. And also there are a host of other smaller companies.
Now that you've gone public, what are your growth plans from here?
On the products side, we are really going to focus a lot more on the accommodations, which is hotel and packages. It's a higher-margin business. Of course, we will keep selling air tickets and bus tickets because this gets people in the door, but then we will cross-sell them hotels and packages. We also would like to expand in the region and go beyond India and look at the region, which is Southeast Asia and the Middle East, where our customers are traveling.
Reported by Gregg Greenberg in New York
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