For the most part, Indian travel web sites have catered to bringing the South Asian Diaspora home. The sites did little to rescue travelers from long lines for tickets inside India’s thronged train stations and airports. Nor did they provide much information about towns off the tourist circuit.

But with new low-cost airlines competing for travelers, and a rising, increasingly Internet-savvy middle class eager to explore the homeland, there is room for a new type of travel site. That’s why Pramod Haque, managing partner at Norwest Venture Partners joined Indian media company TV 18 and Reliance Capital to invest in Yatra.

With an expected launch date of May 2006, Yatra, which means journey in several Indian languages, will tap into the burgeoning domestic Indian travel market. The Indian travel industry is expected to reach $32 billion by 2008.

Yatra will allow wayfarers to book travel through call centers servicing 18 languages, via SMS, and over the Internet. To anyone who has waited in the ticket line at Mumbai Central station, such services are long overdue.

The need is so great, that Yatra is not alone. WestBridge Capital Partners, India’s largest and most active venture capital fund, in January invested an undisclosed sum in Travelguru, which is targeting India’s online travel market. Customers will be able to book their travel across 300 airlines and 55,000 hotels in India and abroad.

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