Online travel firms hit the ground

Clicks are not going far enough without the bricks. Online travel companies are taking the competition to the High Street. Faced with a low Internet usage and a slack penetration of credit cards, the main payment avenue for online bookings, leading online travelling companies such as,, and are looking at setting up retail shops.

The concept had caught in places like Bangalore, and is now spreading across the nation. In Delhi, customers can walk into Makemytrip's office to make a booking, after grilling sales executives.

Yatra, an online travel portal in which Silicon Valley venture capitalist Pramod Haque is an investor, is planning to set up a shop in Gurgaon to sell holiday packages.

"I was planning a holiday in Venice and while I did all the research on the place online, but I was not comfortable in making payments online," says Sudipta Basu, a 32-year-old executive working in a Mumbai-based business process outsourcing (BPO) unit. Finally, she decided to go to travel agent SOTC, even though the price was slightly high.

To make travel less cumbersome for people like Sudipta, online travel agents are adopting an online-offline strategy. Cleartrip has recently joined hands with Big Bazaar tycoon Kishore Biyani's Future Money to provide finance on extended monthly instalments to people who want to buy its travel products.

This facility will be made available at four Big Bazaar outlets in Mumbai. "People do not have to think twice before going for a holiday. Our plan is to make travel products affordable to the masses," says Sandeep Murthy, Cleartrip's CEO. Cleartrip will soon extend this tie-up to other Big Bazaar outlets in the city and other metros. This facility can be used to pay for all Cleartrip's offerings like air tickets, hotel bookings and tour packages.

- Contributed by Vaibhav Agarwal