While the internet and software super-charged the growth of the world’s economy, the most crucial aspect of that progress might well be the revolution in understanding consumer behaviour, amplified no doubt by the combined clout of Google and Facebook, who dominate the global digital advertising market, through packaging their advanced user data-sets to the advertisers’ liking, from aggregating, mining and visualizing users’ likes and interests and tying them with geography.
Since time immemorial, many people have claimed that travelling expeditions, undertaken from time to time, have enabled them to come up with life-changing insights about themselves or their life in general, personal or professional. Today, at the far end of the second decade of the twenty first century, travelers, are at an all-time high, as they traverse across the globe in groups or undertake solo trips laden with a blitzkrieg of adventure based activities, during business or leisure or both.
One might as well claim that the travel industry is surely responsible for contributing its part, to the visual revolution of social networks, which made sharing pictures a habit, as compelling as eating, no doubt aided in part by the visual editing exercise that mandated dedicating some mental energies and time to. Amidst such competition in the travel industry, it may well be that personalizing a travel itinerary to the tastes of an individual or a group, and then providing off-beat, yet niche experiences, would be a task easier said than done in today’s day and age. Who would be the first to market, if not someone already?
Give a brief info about your startup?
We are a travel consulting and property management firm. It is a registered Pvt Ltd firm with the head office in Surat.
As travel consultants, we provide bespoke and personalized travel related advice, planning, itineraries and other services to our clients. We help people plan their travel calendar and find out places suitable for their travel needs – be it for a vacation, an event or just like that mood. Our personalized services make us attractive to our clients who keep returning for more trips. Our clients are mainly based outside the country or those who are placed temporarily within India due to work. We generally handle sectors within India and South-East Asia.
What made you start your startup and what problem does it solve?
As a passionate traveller, I always felt the need to find out more about the place that I wish to go to than what was provided in the regular packages, the offbeat locations or something local to do, etc. If I spoke to a travel agent, the personal touch was always missing, once a trip was finalized, there was no connect or record for my future travel about my likes, wants, etc. This was the major driving factor behind the travel consultancy services that we provide. Our personalized travel services where we know the likes and dislikes of all our customers and we provide options and suggestions based on the same help give our clients the feeling of being special and cared for.
Tell us about yourself, your previous jobs/ventures? What were you doing before this startup?
I am an ex-corporate with 20+ years of experience in the fields of Sales, Business Development, Programme Management and Training. IBM, Microsoft, Satyam Computer Services are amongst the companies that I have worked at.
Where is your startup based out of? Why do you think that is the best place for you?
The business’s main operations are based out of Bangalore while the team that I work with is spread out in different places. Bangalore is a very good city for providing travel related services as there is a good and regular inflow of expats who make a large portion of our clientele. Apart from that, the people of the city are willing travelers, wanting to explore new places and get new experiences. Being in a growing city makes us have constant flow of new prospects.
As a startup founder, what are you paranoid about? What keeps you awake at night?
As a startup founder or as an entrepreneur, my biggest fear is a slowdown in economy. When purse strings are tightened, the first thing that takes a hit is the travel budget – be it in a household or a company.
Also, if there is a volatile situation, politically or otherwise, in a popular destination of the season, travel industry gets hit badly.
These are the 2 major reasons that can give me sleepless nights.
Who are your competitions and how are you better than them?
All big travel agencies that provide customized solutions are our competition. The way we make ourselves better than them is by adding the personal touch to our services. We know the likes, dislikes, wants and budgets of all our customers – this is added to their lifelong records and we provide suggestions and options based on the same. So if a client takes a service from us today, we keep their details in our records and use them for all our future dealings with them. This makes the client be at ease with us and they know they do not have to go through the same cycle each time they want a trip.
How hard is it to have a work-life balance as a startup founder and how do you manage it?
Being personalized service providers to clients in different time zones, we need to be available at odd hours at times. This makes it difficult at times to balance personal and work life. At such times, we ensure our clients know about the exact timings in which we are available and we ensure keeping those too at home when I stay away from work in the off-hours to spend time with family.
Have you raised funding? If yes, then we would like to know the details. If no then please tell us if you are looking to raise.
At present we haven’t raised funds so far. We may look at this option in the future when we plan to expand.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about you? Why do they have that? What’s the reality?
Travel service providers keep very high margins and if clients bargain enough, they’ll get very low prices. This seems to be the biggest misconception that we fight with on a regular basis. This is because various travel agencies provide pre-determined packages and these are available at much lesser rates as compared to personalized packages.
This is because in a personalized travel package, we negotiate individually with the service providers in various locations and arrive at deals that suit the wants and budgets of our clients. This may make the package price slightly higher than pre-packaged tours.
In reality, we want to keep our pricing attractive and hence have very minimal margins so that we can cover our costs and some.
What gets you excited about this company?
The customer is our King and that is our motto.
When we are working on our client’s requests, there is never a dull moment. Everyone’s liking is different and hence, we look at every place with a different lens. This keeps me excited about the work I do, I am constantly learning new things about the same places.
Tell us how a day in your life looks like? Your schedule for a day right from the time you get up till you hit the bed at night.
Generally, a day would start with me taking 15 minutes for myself, thinking about the activities for the day and mentally arranging them in sequence. It would then be getting my child ready for school, spending some time with my husband and seeing them off. We have a very informal home-office setup and so I get into work mode after a quick exercise routine. It is work time and meetings till about 4pm when I take a break to spend time with my child who’s back from school by then and later with the family. Post 9pm is when I look at work again for a couple of hours and go to bed. It is sometimes, when it’s inevitable that I work post 4pm and have meetings then.
Tell us about your team and how did you meet each other?
I have a diverse team of members that work from different places in a home working setup. Many of my associates, I have met online through common friends and groups.