Makes Malaysian debut to validate business model’s scalability
If successful, will seek fresh round of funding to catalyze expansion into Indonesia and Philippines
TRAVEL portal TripZilla has launched the Malaysian edition of its site, claiming 69 travel agencies on board with over 3,000 packages and itineraries.
Built and run by Singapore-based start-up Travelogy.com Pte Ltd, TripZilla was launched in November 2010. The travel portal aggregates prices, packages, itineraries and travel promotions across all major booking channels in a country.
The Malaysian portal has been in the works since October of last year and is currently aggregating travel deals from 13 daily deals site, all low-cost carriers, major airlines, credit card companies and hotel chains.
In an email interview with Digital News Asia (DNA), Winnie Tan, co-founder and chief executive officer of Travelogy, said the portal started with the intent of just aggregating tour packages and itineraries from travel agencies. However the rapid growth of the portal over the last two years has prompted a grander vision -- to make TripZilla the first stop for anyone who is thinking of traveling.
"TripZilla offers curated, localized content that can save our users much time and money. For example, if a user performs a search for Taiwan on TripZilla, he will be able to find tour packages and itineraries, travel promotions and deals, or discounted airfares and hotels to Taiwan, all in one site,” she said.
Currently, TripZilla claims over 150,000 visits and half a million pageviews per month. Hundreds of enquiries and transactions are made via the site daily, and user registrations are growing at more than 15% monthly.
The initial strategy for the Malaysian market will be focused on increasing web traffic and user acquisition.
Tan said that given they themselves are a digital media platform for travel, the team is very comfortable with and fully believe in the effectiveness of online marketing, which will form the main strategy for branding and user acquisition.
The team believes localization of TripZilla and its offerings are very important, and will be the main challenge with its entry into a new market, she added.
“It is crucial that we understand the nuances of Malaysia's travel industry and its travelers’ mentality, which can be quite different from that in Singapore. As an example, there is a big domestic travel market in Malaysia but domestic travel is non-existent in Singapore,” said Tan.
After working hard to validate the business idea over the last two years, a successful entry and growth path in Malaysia would demonstrate scalability, and readiness to take on more countries in South-East Asia.
Eric Koh, co-founder and chief technology officer of Travelogy, said that from the onset, TripZilla’s architecture was built so that it can easily be scaled to many other countries in the region.
“Technically, however, the team wanted to validate the product and ensure that we are profitable before we took on regional expansion. As more businesses move their marketing dollars online, and more people perform their travel research and bookings via the Web, we are confident that our market will keep growing,” he said.
Tan claimed that revenue has been growing and the portal has been profitable on a monthly basis in the last six months.
“Monthly revenue is in the six-digit range in ringgit. By letting our costs trail our revenue, we have built a longer runway for ourselves. This will allow us the luxury of finding investors whose vision is aligned with ours and can who can value add to the investor-investee relationship, instead of jumping at the first offer that comes along,” she said.
In September of last year, Travelogy secured S$250,000 (US$ 199,776) in funding from Crystal Horse Investments and the Singapore Media Development Authority via the i.JAM Reload scheme.
“Once we are confident that our product and team can execute well in two countries, we will seek our next round of funding to catalyze our growth and scale to Indonesia and the Philippines,” said Tan.
Tan, a computer science graduate from the National University of Singapore, boasts a strong business track record which includes a bubble tea chain, a real estate agency and an art gallery. Co-founder Koh is well known for the successful sale of his company JobsCentral to CareerBuilder.
When asked what has been the biggest challenge in the Travelogy journey so far, Tan share that it was finding “the right talents with the right passions and attitude.”
“It took some time and much work but we’ve managed to pull together a fantastic team who shares the same vision and feels passionately about our business idea,” she said.
On how the Travelogy team keeps themselves motivated, she said: “We think good people like to work in a good team, and they can fuel each others' passions and motivations. Of course, the best motivation is seeing the business grow and work well, and knowing you played a key role in making all this happen."
Her advice for budding entrepreneurs?
“In a start-up environment, there are lots of unknowns and things never turn out as expected, so there is really no point in over-planning. Rather, just take action, do stuff and learn fast. We think 20% planning and 80% action is a good balance during the initial phases of a start-up.”
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