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Startup adds more spice to Indian travel, tech sectors

Following the footsteps of Mystifly and Red Doorz, the latest Indian-founded travel tech startup to watch out for is Travelspice. The opaque hotel booking platform was recently named by the Government of Karnataka as ‘2018 Travel Tech Startup of the Year’ in its ELEVATE100 entrepreneurship programme.

Based in Bengaluru, part of the state of Karnataka and considered India’s Silicon Valley, Travelspice began as a 24×7 free travel planning helpline for domestic tours. After pivoting its model, it now allows guests to compare areas, star rating and hotel prices on Google or TripAdvisor before placing a bid on the “Quote Your Deal” platform at a rate acceptable to them. Once a guest pays upfront, Travelspice accepts reaches out to its hotel network with that bid price. If the bid price is acceptable to a hotel with the requested star rating and the room is available, Travelspice lets the guest know through an email voucher. All stays include complimentary breakfast.

How do hotels benefit from Travelspice? The platform allows them to fill out their room inventory through fully-paid, non-refundable bookings without violating rate parity mandates and decreasing their brand value through online price reductions. It also allows hotels the discretion to pick out the room and its amenities at a bid price acceptable to them; guests can just reach out to them directly if they need a smoking room or extra beds. It comes in web, mobile web-friendly and app versions, with hoteliers being able to add a Facebook Messenger chat option and guests having the ability to postpone making an account until after the first trip.

Travelspice’s ability to provide deep discounts of up to 70% has proven popular with the rising number of Indian short-stay leisure travellers both domestic and abroad, many of whom are brand-agnostic. It’s no wonder it’s become one of 100 shortlisted startups chosen out of 1,700 across the state of Karnataka through a four-layered selection process. It was the sole travel tech player in the competition, where all shortlisted startups become eligible to receive pilots, private VC funds, accelerators and mentors in addition to the state government’s own VC and startup funds.

Travelspice interface

“We are grateful to Shri Priyank Kharge and the Government of Karnataka for this award and the grant,” remarked Travelspice CEO Ramu Kallipalli, who received the award together with his co-founders, COO Prashant Mitta and CFO Ankit Manglik at the Bangalore Palace. The award included a grant worth Rs 15 lakhs (US$23,580.64).

“We are elated with the results announced for the ELEVATE100 award,” added Manglik. “It gives us a push that the government also recognises our efforts and validates our idea.”

“Travelspice is well suited for intelligent Indian consumer and has rapidly made a mark in the online hotel booking industry,” said IT and tourism minister Shri Priyank Kharge of the state of Karnataka. “The grant we provide to ELEVATE100 startups will accelerate their product innovation and go to market strategies. We are looking forward for Travelspice to provide employment to youth in Karnataka and support hotels in tier 2 and tier 3 towns in Karnataka and across India.”

Travelspice matches the three As – Aspiration, Affordability & Availability – between customers who need a place to stay and hoteliers who need to sell rooms

Travelspice currently works with more than 8,000 hotels across the star rating system in more than 220 Indian cities and 10 cities outside the country, including Colombo in Sri Lanka, Kathmandu in Nepal, Thimphu and Paro in Bhutan. It has stated that its goal in the next four years is to extend the opaque platform across all perishable travel verticals like buses, flights, and vacation rentals. Prior to the ELEVATE100 win, it managed to raise an undisclosed amount from angel investor Eagle10Venture and brought startup consultant Jim Hertz, currently with FasterCapital, on board as advisor.

* This is part of a series called the Crush List, featuring the hottest startups in travel tech. Watch this space for more startups that are killing it this 2018!

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