Inspirock prioritises engineering and awareness, sees stellar growth

Trip planning site Inspirock has created significantly more itineraries in the first half of 2016 than it did in the whole of 2015, according to co-founder Prakash Sikchi.

He told Tnooz that in the first six months of this year it has created 100,000 itineraries compared with 67,000 for the whole of 2015.

“The numbers for July so far are just as strong and we’re even more excited about achieving a significant multiple for 2016.”

The site now covers 38,000 destinations and has had plans created by users in more than 200 countries.

Inspirock is based in California and picked up $3m from India’s MakeMyTrip just under a year ago.

The growth is a result of initiatives around the site’s tech infrastructure, which reflects Sikchi’s background as an engineer who spent 20-odd years at Microsoft.

“We have introduced a lot of refinements based on what users are saying but it’s more than just responding on a surface level – we use data, artificial intelligence and our own algorithms to find out the cause of the consumer issues so any adjustments we make are deeply embedded into the core.”

He identifies two tech pillars which the business relies on – its travel graph and the planning engine. The travel graph “is built algorithmically and aggregates content from around 20 online sources. We then put our bots to work on this and try to predict what it is that the user will ask.”

Inspirock’s planning engine is the other tech focus.

“We look at other trip planners on the market and we think they fall short – there is a difference between a site suggesting an itinerary and one that is planned like ours. From a computer science perspective there are trillions of possible outcomes and permutations so we are using the latest techniques and engineering solutions to make sure we can bring up detailed and targeted itineraries.”

The team is currently working on ways to improve the connection between the planning engine and its supply partners’ booking engines.

For any consumer-facing online travel business, customer acquisition is always an issue, with Expedia Inc and Priceline Group’s multi-billion-dollar annual marketing spend often cited as an unsurmountable challenge.

Sikchi says: “I’ve been thinking about this for years, and customer acquisition comes up in almost every conversation I have with investors.”

In terms of paid-for advertising,  he adds:

“We’ve been tracking the big companies for years and we’ve noticed that they focus in on the moment of purchase, when the customer is about to buy, and they are very good at targeting that specific moment. But this does leave an opening for us in the research phase, where the user is still thinking about where to go. The big OTAs tend not to spend during the research phase because it would not be cost effective for them to buy users at that stage in the funnel.”

He also believes that there is “a big unmet, latent demand for proper trip-planning tools and quite often travellers don’t know that they want a trip planner until they need one”.

As a way of raising awareness of the availability of trip planning tools, Inspirock has been quietly integrating its tool into some of its partner hotel sites, essentially allowing the hotel to host the users trip plan, created by Inspirock, while also allowing the user to book directly with the hotel.

He is keen to point out that this isn’t a “B2B pivot” and that B2C remains its goal.

He explains:

“By embedding our planner into a hotel site we are exposing that user to our planner, but we are also helping the hotel by keeping the user on their site. It also gives hotels with our planner a point of differentiation and hopefully bring in more direct business for that hotel.”

Sikchi adds:

“It’s not a pure B2B play, we’re co-branding the planner on the hotel site, not white-labelling it. We’ve been doing this since the start of the year and we see it more than just a user-familiarisation play – it gives us another insight into how our tools are used and there’s the potential for this to become a significant revenue stream.”

Related reading from Tnooz:

How a trip planning startup can succeed (Jan 2016)
Why you should never consider a travel planning startup (Jan 2016)
Tnooz Startup Pitch: Inspirock (Sept 2015)

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Martin Cowen

About the Writer :: Martin Cowen

Martin Cowen is contributing editor for Tnooz and is based in the UK. Besides reporting and editing, he also oversees our sponsored content initiative and works directly with clients to produce articles and reports.

For the past several years he has worked as a freelance writer, specialising in B2B distribution and technology.

Before freelancing, from 2000-2008, he was launch editor for e-tid.com, the first online-only B2B daily news service for the UK travel sector.

 

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