I was here at the Mandarin Oriental in NYC exactly a year ago for the last Tiger conference. The last time I was a newbie to the conference, Tiger having just invested. This year, one is a bit of a veteran since there were so many new investee companies.
Sitting at tables or standing with coffee, making bocphet on all matters big and small with a group of almost 200 other founders of internet businesses across the world, I am struck for the first time by this whole new brotherhood. Almost everyone here is from the non-western world and absolutely everyone is a product of the 30 year reign of prosperity in the developing world let loose by the Thatcher+ Reagan regime in western countries. The world view among these 200 people is surprisingly uniform and upbeat, a far cry from the relatively pessimistic view from Larry Lindsay, the ex economic advisor to the previous POTUS, George W.
There is simply no doubt that the internet and mobile are together making fairly significant changes to just about everything human beings do and I am definitely happy to be part of this. Of course, the fact that I do something that is of real interest to my two sons is the real payoff. How many dads can say that . Certainly keeps me young.
Here is why I love the business I am in – because it piggybacks on the biggest thing in Travel since the Wheel (ok – mild exaggeration, but still…)
The Internet has become the most popular medium for Chinese travellers seeking information about their trips, according the latest Nielsen China Outbound Travel Monitor. The Nielsen survey found that travellers will search for conventional destination information ahead of their trips (61 percent of leisure trips taken), and then turn to online travel discussion forums (48 percent) to fine-tune their plans. This suggests that opinions and comments about travel experiences posted to online forums are nearly as likely to influence travellers’ decisions as the destination websites themselves. Conventional travel agents were approached on only two in five travel occasions.
The Nielsen survey also found that travellers were much more likely to recall seeing Internet advertising for travel destinations, compared to seeing travel advertising on other mediums. Close to 70 percent could recall seeing travel advertisements on the Internet, with only four in 10 recalling seeing a travel advertisement in a magazine or newspaper, at a travel agent or on TV and radio.
Yesterday’s Mint newspaper carried the story of Cleartrip’s next round of funding. The associated graphic showed all the 7 players in online space. The 5 players that have been funded for sometime (Yatra, Cleartrip, Makemytrip, Travelguru & HolidayIQ) and the two start-ups (Ixigo, Atyourprice) who have just received angel funding. What is really interesting for me is the extremely unique position occupied by HolidayIQ in this group (even though I say it myself!). We are the only travel information business (media & publishing) and actually works completely complementary to all the other players in the travel space, be it online players, offline travel agents or travel suppliers. The other aspect I notice is the high efficiency of capital we have had, having spent considerably lesser money than the funded online travel agents.