Sunday, November 16, 2008 Review

Couple of days back, I received the following email:

Hi Sridhar,
I'm the co-founder of a startup,
I recently went through some of your blog entries and find your blog
interesting. I would be delighted to have you review this startup
on your blog. Here is a description of how this website serves people:

You need not necessarily provide a positive review on the site,
we would like your honest, unbiased opinion. However please
do add our URL in the review, that will make it easier for the readers to
see the site for themselves.

Thanks in advance,

Amit Meckoni

So here's one for you Amit.. you owe me one :) is a novel idea. In a nutshell:
  • You enter your trip details and ask for a rate quote.
  • Travel Agents (mostly desi ones) bid for lowest price.
  • You buy tickets directly from the travel agent quoting the lowest price.
Many Indians (in America) know that travel agents are the most inexpensive way to get your tickets to India from. Travel agents even suggest you the dates when you can travel to avail certain benefits/schemes in order to get the cheapest flight home. Although being the geek that I am, I don't see why one cannot write a script to automatically query sites like Orbitz , Travelocity , Priceline etc to get the cheapest quotes.. I dont have the inclination or the energy to write one... Calling a travel agent saves a lot of time and energy. Typically I get some travel agents name from friends/google, call them and get the quotes, and settle for one which suits my needs. automates this process.
Desicow is still in its nascent stages but am sure it will grow when it sees alot of end user participation. It depends on user generated content. You can browse through the listing of requested quotes and directly contact the travel agent offering that quote.
How does it compare to other online websites? .. well it doesn't. There is no possible way a travel agent can give you cheaper tickets than that available at (, or negotiated using (reverse bidding site)... PROVIDED you buy the tickets at the right time, you will pay more if you buy the tickets a bit earlier or bit later. Travel agents block the tickets when the price is just right (the process is a bit shady) , so it's worth getting quote from one when you are buying a ticket. The best way would be to get quotes from orbitz and desicow/travel agent and then ask for a lower price at priceline.
The review process: I asked for a rate quote for a flight from SFO to Bangalore and compared it with the rates available on other websites. The turnaround time was a day and only one travel agent responded (something which would change if it gets alot of traffic).. The rate quoted was higher than that on orbitz. Both the rates and the turnaround time were abysmal (in this age of instant "getification"). However it would unfair to judge this service it its nascent stage.. its got potential but still has a long way to go.

Some features I'd like to see implemented though:
  • Searchable requested trip list: I don't want to wade through the list to get find the quote. This would make the website more scalable.
  • I would like to see existing quotes of the trips that I requested (which were requested by someone else).
  • Trip details along with price quotes: I don't want to wait 20 hours in some god forsaken airport..
  • I want prices from various sources like orbitz etc to be listed alongside the quotes.
  • Travel agent ratings: There should be a way for the user to rate a carrier and travel agent. I have burnt my fingers couple of times.
  • Faster turn around times: Do what ever you need to do to get it done fast, even if it means calling the travel agents yourself to get the quotes.
  • Add more travel agents.
  • If a user finds a cheaper deal elsewhere, then he should list his sources.
Final verdict: Any startup that depends on user generated content needs to be jump started. To start generating large amount of data, one needs to spent alot of time selling this idea to a lot of people and getting them involved. All that needs to be done is a lot of boring marketing stuff (well.. i find it boring :) .. I think for the website to be of any use, it needs more data and definitely more travel agents. Although I dont really know what the future has in store for desicow, I certainly do hope that it would be a lot more useful next year when I book my tickets to India.


  1. hmmm...nothing new...There are many of these kind of sites doing the same I guess from 3-4 yrs...which know is and so on.

  2. @Anonymous.. I guess you may be right about that. Thanks for the links. I will check them out.