This Thursday, we’re bringing you an interview with Narinder Dhiensa, co-founder of Cruise.me. This man is at home with localization projects of web startups in Europe and Asia, as his heritage is an even mix of Britain and India. His parents emigrated from Punjab, India, to Derby, United Kingdom where he learned that ”our positive beliefs coupled with our actions largely determine our results”. He uses this philosophy in everything he does, and what he is doing now is on-line cruise booking, in style.
As a cofounder, what gave you (and other cofounders) the idea for the Cruise.me? How did you gather your team?
The co-founders on our team have always been strong supporters of the .me top-level domain, as we own quite a few. When Cruise.me came up for auction in 2012, I jumped at the opportunity. The first member to join the team was Benoit Duverneuil. He had spent over five years with Norwegian Cruise Lines. During his tenure at NCL, he and his team were largely responsible for e-commerce and online marketing.
Next to join was Imran Ahmed. Imran has an extensive background working for two of the largest financial companies in Europe building complex web tools. He had suggested Mark Kemper to fill the role of our Chief Technical Officer. He has amazing ability to architect and design broad based applications along with pixel perfect front-end and back-end skills.
The last person to complete the team was Stephen Chip. We needed someone with strong business experience and who had also achieved a level of success. His input has been vital with regard to our user interaction and experience as well as our business objectives. It’s important to note that the team came together very quickly over a period of less than two weeks. Also, surprisingly, the five of us have never been together in the same room!
Among all travel possibilities, why did you choose cruises?
The numbers around the cruise industry were astounding. The Cruise business produced 38 billion dollars in annual revenue last year. The market has been growing at about 7.4 percent annually, year-over-year since 1980. In 2012, 17 million passengers rode the high seas. This is a business that has shown itself to be recession proof. It has done extremely well in good times but also faired well during a financial downturn.
What separates Cruise.me from other online booking agencies or cruise lines?
First off, the user experience plays a big role.
There are a lot of moving parts with booking a cruise. Consider for a moment that there are more than 2,000 embarkation ports around the world, dozens of cruise lines and ships, dozens of cabin categories, hundreds of onboard activities and the list goes on. Not only is it complicated to book a cruise, but also it’s anything but fun and closely akin to frustration. For this reason, currently only about 10% of all cruises are booked online.
By re-imagining the cruise experience, we wanted to make the booking experience as enjoyable and exciting as the journey itself. We created a revolutionary user interface with multiple immersive ways to get inspired, plan, search, and book a cruise.
We added personalization into the mix. By leveraging visitors search behaviors as well as data collected from their social graph, we can provide relevant results and suggest inspiration. Visitors can save destinations and ports to a “wish list”. They can prioritize the previously selected ports and destinations and Cruise.me will pull together cruise itineraries that best incorporate those preferences. We allow visitors to explore ports and destinations as an option to the search experience. Visitors can learn about the food, culture and any events prior to booking. This experience is not found on any other cruise booking sites.
And last but not least, we incorporate deep social features. On most cruise booking sites social means the ability to login with Facebook, Google Plus or Twitter. On Cruise.me a visitor can create a cruise profile to share memories, list prior cruises, ports visited and favorite destinations. Through our patent pending technology we also allow our users to connect with fellow cruisers, friends and family, before, during and after their cruise.
Your site says ”We’re setting sail soon”. Can you tell us when you’re launching?
Currently we have a minimum viable product with a roadmap taking us out a year and a half. We plan on launching in 2014. Without any advertising we have been amazed at how many people have put their name on the launch guest list. It just goes to show how strong the domain really is and how much people are looking for disruption in this industry!
And this is it for this interview. Stay tuned for more news about Cruise.me, and more interviews about .ME world!