Venturing out on a vacation is so much fun, but equally undesirable are the efforts of planning it. I’d rather have someone do it for me! Hence, the Pune based social travel network ‘JoGuru‘ is a blessing for folks like me as it takes care of all my travel worries. Having reviewed it lately, and finding the platform a promising one, I got in touch with the founders to know its story, the present challenges and future plans.
The JoGuru story is an interesting one. Travel junkies - Saket Newaskar (right), Karthik Ramachandra (middle) and Praveen Kumar (left) had met each other in 2010 at HCL infosystems after having completed MBAs from MDI Gurgaon, IIM Indore and IIM Lucknow respectively.
Driven by the same passion that’s traveling, the trio planned a bike trip to Leh from Delhi. They started researching content on the internet about which bike to use, what permits to take and what rations and spares to carry, etc.
“It took us nearly a month to put all the data together. We later found out that people spend insane amounts of time on the internet for a self-planned vacation. Hence the idea of JoGuru.
“JoGuru is tailored platform for travelers. It’s a one stop solution to know for all your travel worries like - where to go? What to do? Where to stay and how to plan itineraries? On JoGuru one can find an array of tourist attractions, eat outs, accommodations and their reviews. It’s unique in the way JoGuru creates visual itinerary. It’s robust, simple and easy to understand.”
Prasant Naidu: What would be the USPs of JoGuru considering there are similar players in the market?
Praveen Kumar: Currently there are around 6-10 websites globally that allow planning itineraries but none is close to solving the user’s key pain points. We are different from all other itinerary planners in 3 major aspects:
1) We have an algorithm that produces optimized travel route that demonstrates sequence of places to visit as per distance between them and their opening and closing times. And preferred mode of transportation.
2) The design is completely different from all the other products and it is extremely easy and engaging for the users to use.
3) The itineraries are directly accessible through Google search queries.
PN: A community driven platform has its own challenges, what are the ones that JoGuru is facing and how are you tackling it?
PK: You are absolutely right here…but we are targeting users who are need-driven rather than community-driven. When a user is searching for a 3 day itinerary for Paris, we’d expect to be there catering to that exact need. We would expect to have a brand recall from a user’s perspective (i.e when the user is trying to plan a trip, he should come to JoGuru).
PN: Going further, what are the other features that you plan to launch?
PK: One of the ideas we have is around an intelligent Weekend trip planner. At this moment we might not be able to divulge more info than this. Majorly we would like to work around the itinerary planner we have and improve it. In next three months, we aim to add a database of hotels to our itineraries and add 500 plus cities to their list of itineraries. We want to make our algorithm even stronger and intelligent to meet travelers’ expectations. We recently have changed the way we look. JoGuru has been revamped. We hope people will like the new look which is more engaging.
PN: How has the response been from users for the platform?
PK: The response has been great. After the launch of the itinerary planner, our unique user hits have increased to almost 200% of pre-August levels. The engagement levels of user have gone up considerably with average time spent on the site hovering at about 4.5 minutes. In one month of the launch of the product, we had close to 800 itineraries planned by users.
Also our India and Global traffic rank has improved by leaps and bounds (source Alexa.com). We are currently ranging at around less than 19000 India rank (It was close to 120,000 a few months ago).
PN: Even though it is early, do you have plans to integrate with travel brands/operators? If so what has been the response and what are the other sources of monetization that you plan to do?
PK: We are working on a meta search model for hotels. It should be integrated with itineraries and will be available for users in about 1 months’ time.
JoGuru sure does have ambitious plans to create a complete experience for the travel junkie. The visual itineraries were quite impressive to me while reviewing the platform, and with the intelligent weekend planner, and meta search model for hotels, JoGuru will only get cooler.
Image courtesy: Yourstory