With so many choices for travel destinations, travel agents, airline companies, and hotels, vacationing in China can frustrate both foreign and domestic travelers. Creating an easy way for travelers to pinpoint the best deals from thousands of choices is Fritz Demopoulos's mission. He has co-founded Qunar.com, a Beijing-based meta-search engine for the travel sector in China.
Fritz came to China as the business development manager for Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, and then co-founded Chinese sports website Shawei.com, which he then sold to Tom.com. After that, he was the Senior VP for Netease.com.
What was the genesis for Qunar.com and how was it first developed?
My two partners and I were keen to start something. We realized that 20% of Google's revenue was travel-related. We asked ourselves whether there was an opportunity to have a laser focus on travel while doing a slightly better job than existing search engines.
Who are the main management personnel for Qunar?
CC Zhuang is our CTO and Co-Founder and was formerly co-founder of Shanghai Wei-Bo which was sold to News Corp. He was also the CTO of Shawei.com and a Senior Systems Architect at the World Bank in Washington, D.C.
Douglas Khoo is our Executive VP for Business Development. he was formerly the General Manager for Mindshare, a Co-Founder with me at Shawei.com, co-founder of OneXeno, Managing Director at M-Digital, and a Media Director at J.Walter Thompson.
Why focus on meta-search for the travel sector in China?
The research suggests that travel and search are huge markets, and growing rapidly. Also, the existing service providers are not meeting customers' needs. Search is rapidly growing at about 50-70% per annum. Online travel is growing too at about 50-60% per annum. Travel in general is growing too, with 50 million Chinese nationals expected to travel abroad by 2008. In addition, studies show that over half of Chinese think current travel sites are mediocre or not worth it.
Do the Chinese travel websites view you as competition or as a partner?
We are partners. Qunar provides a marketing platform that delivers highly qualified users to online travel sites.
We currently search 320 web sites. We search intermediaries like Yoee, Golden Holiday, 24 hotels, Ctrip, and eLong and we go to suppliers directly–China Southern Airlines, Holiday Inn, Hilton, and Air China.
What sort of challenges have you met in launching your service?
Identifying good people, developing a product that was head and shoulders above what exists in the market today, and recuriting a few launch clients who are willing to pay. These were challenges, but we overcame them.
How do you see Qunar.com expanding and growing in the next 3 years?
We expect to be the largest online classified advertising and paid search company for the travel category in North Asia, starting with China.
We are an Asian company. Therefore we are targeting Korea and Japan as next steps.
Also, we continue to develop new product ideas and concepts that already complement our core search service, such as wireless applications, alerts, and dynamic pricing.
We plan to monetize through selling advertising–paid search and classified advertising–and referral fees. The mix will be 75% advertising; 25% referral fees.
How is your company financed and what type of financing are you seeking in the next year?
We are completely financed by the founders and a few select Internet industry insiders. We have not decided whether to take institutional this year.
Where do you like to travel most in China?
I'm a city person and I enjoy traveling to Shanghai. However, as a golfer, my favorite places are Dalian, Kunming and the Guangzhou area.