Hi, This is DevJ with Hari Ganapathy co-founder of pickyourtrail .
Startup Name: pickyourtrail
Founders: Hari Ganapathy, Srinath Shankar.
Hi Hari Good morning, Let us start our interview?
Hi Dev Very good morning, yes sure we can.
Why pickyourtrail? Can we know the reasons to start?
I (Hari) & Srinath were motivated by our quest to provide Indian travellers to experience destinations at a leisurely pace rather than as cumbersome and restrictive packaged tours. This idea came up during our Euro trip in Aug 2012. We had to invest close to 2 months to put the entire plan together, make the bookings, ensure visa docs were in order. During the trip, we met fellow travellers who were part of package tours and were amazed at the kind of flexibility we had. Once back home folks within our network started pinging us for details on how did we go about this entire trip? These interactions slowly sowed the seeds for the overall idea.
That’s how it all began.
How your journey initiated?
We actually started off as an activity marketplace – as we believed that what you do in a place defines your vacation experience. In hindsight, we were slightly ahead of time. We had great traffic on the product, but conversions were paltry. We figured that there was no hook to book. With flights and hotels, price and availability being clear hooks. This wasn’t the case with activities. In the process of figuring out why this was not working, the constant pain point that came through from customers was that planning an end-to-end vacation was a huge pain!
In April 2014 we pivoted. Once bitten twice shy – this time around we didn’t end up building a product end to end. Pick Your Trail was now a one-page website. We marketed it among our network, social media and email base of sign-ups we had. We had 1000 sign-ups in less than a week and our first convert on the 9th day! That was a huge morale booster. The new model meant we were also responsible for pricing and execution. Over the next 12-15 months, we spent significant time building supplier relationships, understanding the Indian outbound traveler and drawing the product roadmap basis customer interactions.
Our initial MVP website:
By End of 2015, we had an internal tool that helped us build personalized itineraries in about 30 minutes. We launched VEHO in March 2016 – VEHO was the first platform in the world where travelers could create, customize and book vacations online. The biggest differentiator was the personalization algorithm. It was the closest solution to either building an itinerary on your own or talking to a travel agent and customizing one. The catch was – all of this took hours and days while VEHO took only 2 minutes! It was an instant hit – the revenue and our efficiency scaled – we discovered new price points. Like 60,000Rs for a 5 night Bali vacation! Machines were taking over humans in true sense!
By Aug 2016, we knew that we can’t just put an MVP (VEHO) and expect more folks to come and be part of the journey. In March 2017 – we launched the current version of Pickyourtrail. We had taken VEHO one step ahead and solved multi-country itineraries. And there has been a complete design overhaul too! We have had 24-day itineraries created and booked on the platform! We now have 230+ cities to which you can plan trips to using the platform.
What are the hurdles you faced and how you beaten them?
The problem we set out to solve has not been easy to crack. Be it the biggies in India or world-over. Everyone still sells packages. Indian travellers continue to be exposed to packaged, run-of-the-mill travel experiences. Aren’t you tired of Waiting for agent quotes, or putting your vacation plan together in an excel? We want to make vacation planning fun. Help you discover the best possible price, suggest that unique activity that suits your taste and provide real-time support that elevates you are in-trip experience.
Most importantly, we want to make vacation planning and booking a delightful experience. This has been the single biggest challenge that we have faced and will continue to face. How do we ensure that a complex problem is well broken down and the overall experience is seamless? That begins from not only working with cutting-edge technology but also truly understanding what the customers want, and surpassing that. We are here to break barriers – both literal and metaphorical.
There are obvious challenges like hiring, training and finding the right balance between work and life but I guess that’s part of every startup story 🙂
What both of you are doing before becoming an entrepreneur?
Hari Ganapathy, Co-Founder:
I am your’s quintessential jack-of-all-trades. I was dabbled in roles across Strategy, Sales, Marketing and Investment banking. I love to travel is combined with the urge to leave a dent in the universe drew me to start Pickyourtrail. I achieved want I want to 30 countries-by-30 goals, and post graduated (MBA) from IIM Bangalore.
Srinath Shankar, Co-Founder:
Bikes, Travel, and Data are what give Srinath the high in life. An All India True Wanderer 2.0 competition runner-up and Flickr photography finalist, he prides himself in having biked 18,000 km across India. His in-depth research and knowledge about places continue to amaze us (and our customers). Srinath holds an MBA from NMIMS, Bombay. His dream trail is to explore the Australian outback on a bike.
How you funded the company?
Pick your trail was completely bootstrapped with a seed capital of less than a Lakh and it remains the same even now. As a bootstrapped startup, unit-economics is key especially as you scale. Otherwise, you can suddenly find yourself cash-strapped in an Augenblick. Our focus on cracking unit-economics early on has augured well for us even as we have scaled.
Okay, if I am a customer for you, why I should choose pickyourtrail?
Pick your trail began as an attempt to break how vacations are currently being planned and booked by travellers. At its very heart, Pickyourtrail wants to create happiness, not sell a package. Travel is an experience and we wanted to re-create that magic while putting your trip together. That became possible with our unique personalization algorithm. Pair this with our ability to find best online prices and you have a hassle-free and easy-to-use vacation platform!
Can you briefly explain your evolution from the start and impending strategy?
We have grown ~100% year on year from the time of inception. And all of this has been at the back of amazing customer love and support. Right now we are a stage where we believe that the tailwind is strongly behind us and we are set for an even faster growth. Having said this, history is filled with examples of companies that lost their plot after reaching great traction. We are extremely cautious as we try and balance the scale and standardization game. We cannot ever put our customer happiness on the back burner. In fact, one of the key levers for our growth is unprecedented leaps in customer delight.
In the short term we are excited about three crucial things ?
Mobile story – We are on track for a Sep launch of our travel genie app. This app would be an industry first with respect to both the tech at play and the kind of control travellers will now have over their in-trip experience. This app has been in the works for almost 4 months now – we are excited to translate our learning from over 10,000 customer reviews!
Under the hood changes – Right from the personalization algorithm, to routing algorithm to the product design – we have been making incremental changes over the past 3 months. We are excited about the first phase of that launch in late July. Followed by a slew of releases through August and September.
Expanding Coverage – We are constantly working towards getting more cities and routes added to the product. We hope to bring Scandinavia, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, and Hong Kong online by end of September. With this, we would have hit coverage of 500+ cities.
In the medium, to long-term, our goal is to take the product global and help more travellers discover new lands at their own pace and style 😉
Anything you want to say for the budding entrepreneurs?
Have a north star for yourself. A guiding light on why you are doing what you are doing. I and Sri were quite clear that we are here to build a consumer brand and not a tech startup that would flip/sell in “x” years. You would be surprised the amount of stability it gives you as you try and build your startup. There is no right or wrong, but having that clarity is important. It changes your perspective, time horizons, and metrics that you would measure your startup’s success with.
How hard is it to have a work-life balance as a startup founder and how do you manages it?
While it’s easier to say hard to do, have a life outside of work. It could be a hobby, it could a reading club, travelling, or even kids. But that balance helps you work better. I know it might sound counterintuitive, but some of our best ideas have come in our switch-off modes! And most importantly, enjoy the experience. If done well, it’s the best learning curve for your individual.
What is your point of view on Startupsindia.in?
I think Startups India is doing a great job of broadcasting inspirational stories of budding startups which otherwise goes unnoticed. We wish you all the best from Pickyourtrail. Continue to share more such stories. More power to you!
Thank you, Hari Ganapathy for giving your valuable time and clear view of your startup.
Thank you Dev. Its great talking to you.
That’s for today, signing off. Let’s meet with another story.
Visit website : https://pickyourtrail.com/
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