90di.com, the site which i reviewed yesterday and really liked, can be an inspiration to many others out there and so it did make me contact them and ask for an interview, which can talk more about them. Here is an interview with the co-founder of 90di – Abhinit Kumar!
When did 90di start and who all were behind it?
90di was founded in may 2007, and we released our first beta version in September 2007. it was co-founded by 3 ex Infosys employees Khushnood Naqvi, Kiran MS and Abhinit Kumar. So its 2 years now since our first release.
Ok, so you guys left the job or had just planned and worked on 90di with job still being your primary status?
Khushnood left first and he did some ground work, but actual work started only after all of us left our jobs. And we started coding from our first day in office.
What few things keep 90di stand out from those many travel search portals in India?
The first thing is coverage. We cover all Indian cities, small and big, and all travel modes which include, train bus and flight.
We were the first travel website to do mixed mode routing in India apart from showing train combinations. We showed routes involving a flight journey and a train journey. Another thing which we did was natural language search, where users can type their search queries in simple small sentences, and using our custom made NLP engine we interpreted the queries.
Another thing we work closely on is quality of data we show, we put lot of effort to make sure that we show correct and best fares, which we think will help us in getting user acceptance in long run.
How did you start out with it, like what plans you had in the beginning?
We wanted to do something unique and new. We wanted to solve a pain point for our users, so we shortlisted on some ideas and we though train + flight routing and train combination routing is the right thing to do. So we went ahead with travel meta search idea.
With the rise of some new startups everyday, do you think 90di will be able to maintain its position as one of the best?
If we are able to keep innovating and keep focus we can maintain our position. Its a big challenge and we are up to it.
How did you get inspired to make something of this kind?
Inspiration came from within. It was about wanting to do something unique and different. Start up needs lot of self motivation to keep you going. There are hurdles all the time. So you need tons of self belief and motivation.
Have you set something that can make people help in making 90di better with the search results?
We have given special focus to user feedback and opinions from start. Every feedback or criticism we get, we take it very seriously. Apart from general feedback about our website we ask user opinion about every search we do. We have given users the option of disagreeing with our route rankings.
One fact about Indian internet usage is the slow connections. Do you think Java functionality will be a hit for slow internet speed?
That’s a good question and very valid concern. Internet is moving towards rich clients. But still in small Indian cities people use dial up Internet connection. So we have a low bandwidth version of our website where people can access basic functionalities of our website even from dial up connections. Similarly we have a super light mobile friendly version for people using our site from mobile browsers.
Ok, good to know that you have planned out everything for people from every part of the country, similarly can you explain something about the email search which i could not clearly understand?
Email search lets users search, when you have a email access but no Internet access. This situation is very common in many corporates, where people have official email access but no Internet access. It also helps you get the search results in your inbox so that you can review them later.
How many people are currently working on the site, and do you have any future plans to increase the workship?
Currently we are three people. As of now we do not have immediate plans for expansion.
What are you concentrating more on to provide for users? Travel or accommodation? And which is more searched for in 90di?
As of now we do not have hotel search facility on our website. It is one of the things which we may do in future.
What are your plans on monetizing the site? Do we see some memberships and fees in near future?
We do not have any plans for charging our users. Our model is based on referral. We provide quality leads directly to airlines and bus booking websites. So for each successful booking we get a referral.
I got to know about you guys through Twitter! That shows you are trying to spread yourself through networking(or is it just me?), where else are you promoting yourself to gain the user base?
We consider social media as a good medium to connect with our users. This is one of our focus areas. We also rely heavily on word of mouth to spread the word about us. And of course on bloggers like you. 🙂
Will you limit yourself for travel or have any other plan for another start up in the near future?
As of now we are focused only on travel. We want to expand our services to cover more aspects of travel.
Lastly, do you have anything else to let our readers know about the start up?
Start up is a journey rather than a result. You need lot of focus to do a start up. There are small problems every week and major obstacles every month. One needs to stay focused and keep trying. Also as a start up you have to be ready for change always. Nobody can guess user behavior accurately. So one needs to look for user behavior continuously and keep changing according to that.
Thanks a lot Abhinit for the interview and taking out time to share the knowledge about the startup with the readers!