|Which flight will you board'
Mumbai, Aug 24: The dogfight in the skies has left air travellers in a tizzy trying to make sense out of the recent fare wars.
So if you are looking for a bargain basement air fare and don’t know where to look, help is at hand. And it is at a website called ghumo.com.
Ghumo is the brainchild of Ananth Narasimhan (30), an intrepid IIT engineer who has logged miles of experience in the airline industry, including a stint with United Airlines, the world’s largest airline.
The online travel portal ' which Narasimhan claims is the first in the country ' has advanced search features that allow travellers to hunt for that rock-bottom fare.
Narasimhan runs a spiffy army of four people collating data on a daily basis from the websites of the several airlines now operating in the domestic skies in India on the different rates and the availability of seats.
The site covers only four airlines at the moment ' Indian Airlines, Jet Airways, SpiceJet and Kingfisher Airlines. But with as many as 14 airlines ready to scramble into the crowded skies over the next 18 months, Narasimhan clearly has a winner on his hands.
For travellers or travel agents, the portal is a free service. “We are working on a referral model, where we’ll charge the airlines a referral fee,” says Narasimhan.
“We are talking to low-cost airlines to enlist themselves as clients. It’s a boon for them and it works in their favour.”
After having spent some years in the global aviation sector, Narasimhan is betting on the local civil aviation sector to drive growth and offer opportunities for entrepreneurs like him.
The site compares air fares with rail fares to give travellers an exact idea on the discounts on offer and estimate the difference in fares for the two modes of travel.
The idea to put rail fares on the site was probably encouraged by airlines eyeing rail passengers travelling in first class and airconditioned coaches as prospective air travellers.
The portal, which opened for the public on August 15, is designed for travellers who will use ghumo.com as a "reference point" before booking their tickets.
Narsimhan believes that the local airline industry will ramp up the fastest growth globally. He has based the surmise on regulated airline sector booming 20 to 25 per cent annually over the next five years on the back of surging investment and traffic.
Along with China, India has emerged as one of the fastest growing airline markets in the world and hogged the limelight at the Paris Air show earlier this year when Indian airline companies snagged deals for over 100 planes.
The private sector is already investing $20 billion over the five years, including doubling the number of civilian passenger planes to 400 from 180, civil aviation minister Praful Patel had said some months ago.
Ghumo.com in the coming days will even offer rack rates of different hotels to make it a complete referral point for any domestic traveller. However, the best tariff rates will not be available as hotels offer these to only "walk in" customers depending on the occupancy levels at that time.
Narasimhan, who was recruited by United Airlines in August 1999 as a revenue management analyst, is betting that ghumo.com will eventually mirror internationally renowned expedia.com or Sabre's Travelocity in the future, although he has kept the frills out for the moment and indigenised it keeping in mind the Indian air traveller’s needs.
Narasimhan was in the team that helped create an advanced passenger valuation system for Orion, the &D revenue management system of United Airlines. Later, he joined Sabre, which offered work on another world-class revenue management product with multiple airlines around the world, he says.
The period with Sabre provided him an opportunity of working with a product from the design board all the way to implementing the latest product.
The experience in the travel and transportation industry, with both domestic and international airlines in North America, Europe and Asia, has given him a proven track record of combining innovative solutions and skills to resolve problems and create opportunities, he says.