Planning a trip – check out for RatedApartments.com
Trip planning just got a little easier for those globe trotters who favour upscale apartments over hotels, thanks to RatedApartments.com. RatedApartments.com was designed to help such travelers make informed decisions about short term apartment rentals, while connecting them to accommodation providers. The website is not unlike those offering hotels and car rentals, as the user can book a reservation online after reviewing prices, availability and customer ratings.
When asked what inspired them to create RatedApartments.com, the company’s CEO and co-founder, Sid Narang, said, “In 2010 we did extensive market research and realized that the single biggest area of travel that was poised to grow worldwide was Vacation rental marketplace.”
According to Mr Narang, in recent years there was an exponential growth in the vacation rental industry which prompted PhoCusWright, an independent industry thinktank, to estimate the industry’s US and European market size to be around $48 billion. While this caught their attention, it was after their first company, which focused on corporate housing, started getting far more enquiries than expected that the founders decided to move forward with an online solution catering to this segment of travelers.
“We also soon realized that standard Travel OTAs were not well equipped to handle the specific challenges of small vacation rental operators and there was no focused player in India only on this marketplace,” added Mr Narang.
Like most fledgling enterprises, RentedApartments.com encountered its share of hiccups at first. Realizing that the company needed to leverage technology to close the gaps faced by owners and guests, the founders chose a cloud based platform and rating algorithms to help them meet the needs of their members.
Mr Narang and his team quickly discovered that managing an online business is not always an easy task, since traffic acquisition is not the primary hurdle. He says the key challenge is being able to convert web surfers into loyal customers by offering a competitive product.
Referring to this conversion, Mr Narang insisted that trust and quality are paramount, and that extraordinary technology and design aren’t merely optional, but are necessities. He then went on to say that price alone isn’t enough to lure travelers, and that “In the accommodation business it is the neighborhood first, then what people are saying, then any unique selling points and then comes price.”
While RatedApartments.com is functionally similar to other travel sites, Mr Narang points to several things that he says his team is doing differently, “We are targeting 100 crores of sales within less than 3 years, we want to have more accommodation offerings than MakeMyTrip in less than 2 years and we want to be a dominant accommodation player in the travel industry and be a top 5 accommodation player in 2 years. By achieving these goals and continuing our European growth we can achieve $100 million of annual revenue in less than 5 years, which could value us more than a billion dollar venture.”
When asked about plans to raise capital he said, “We are currently looking to raise $2 million to $5 million to scale up our operations, invest in mobile and cloud based solutions for our community of users, innovate in the industry, and attract top notch design, engineering and marketing talent.”
At the moment, it appears that Mr Narang and his team have the golden touch, as they have enjoyed quick revenue from their core markets in London, Paris, New Delhi, Singapore and Goa.
Commenting on the company’s success he said, “From Bangalore, Mumbai and New Delhi we have seen a lot of corporate buyers come back to us and in significant value to purchase accommodations in these key markets; this shows that we add value to a second layer of commission agents because of the quality product we bring to our platform and the price we offer. In Goa we have become the marketplace of choice, being chosen over established players like MakeMyTrip or Yatra because we offer a wider choice, better prices and a curated collection close to the beach.”
He added that the community is encouraging the company to establish the same model of premium, curated accommodation options in other markets across Asia and Europe.
Sid Narang started his career in investment banking at Morgan Stanley in New York, and went on to work as Vice President at Citigroup before becoming an entrepreneur in the hospitality industry.