Tushky: Travelling to a new place? Get guidance from the locals

We’ve all travelled on vacations and we’re aware about the drill of going from a ‘Sunrise point’ to a ‘Sunset point’ to a ‘Suicide point’. Vacations are always a great break but sometimes the process gets a tad bit monotonous. Startup Tushky brings to you something different and tries to spice up this scene. What Tushky tries to do is to put in a local flavor to your trip, so that you can explore a new place better. We at YourStory.in caught up with the founder entrepreneur Talvinder Singh, an engineer from IIT Bombay to to know how effectively can this be done.

Tell us about Tushky!

With Tushky, we plan to disrupt the legacy of travel companies by connecting travelers with local, lesser known or unknown guides, tour operators and experience providers. Tushky.com is an e-commerce marketplace to discover, book and offer unique and hidden local experiences, like tours, getaways and activities in or around the city, aggregated from hand-picked local experts. Anyone who loves to share his small world with travelers can be a guide. “You know the best nightlife joints, become a guide and earn!”

How did you come up with the name? 

After researching, creating data structures, caffeinated number crunching and establishing correlations between names and their implication on profit curves, we felt that a five letter word like Tushky will catapult us to the next orbit. No, just kidding.

We felt that, experiences are personal and we also wanted a name that sticks. So we were clear, that the name has to have an identity and not something like experiencewala. A marketplace, by nature has to have social elements integrated, to enable two way communications. Hence, we enabled tight integration with social sites on our site, so that it’s easy to PUSH content to social network. The PUSH, got modified to Tush and then to Tushky. Tushky is the name of our mascot which is a monkey, who loves to wander, explore places, explore activities and share them with everyone.

How big is your network?

We have built a strong network of 75+ suppliers, and have approximately 100+ experiences, out of which 40+ experiences are available for purchase on our site.

I will like to highlight that, we are the only firm in India to have Authentic Skydiving experience in India.

How do you source deals? 

Currently, it’s done purely in-house by a dedicated travel crazy team. We scour, devour and dig deep the google jungle to get clues, hints about hidden experiences, destinations, activities, anything. And then, aggregate them, if the experience meets our 5 point criteria. We practically play treasure hunt every day! We will be launching our micro-payment platform, via which anyone will be able to offer experiences to anyone and earn in process. We have recently concluded a successful closed – beta of the system and are pretty kicked about the possibilities.

How much capital was required to start?

Well, a lot of unquantifiable emotional capital was required to start. Real capital should not be an issue for an entrepreneur. We worked on build – learn – build  model, so we started small, with approx. 1 lakh.

What is your background?

By qualification, I am an aerospace engineer from IIT Bombay. I worked with an education firm for a year and a half as CTO, largely to handle their video conferencing and digital education plans. After implementing those plans successfully, I moved on to start Tushky. In middle, I also dabbled with an idea in open source technology space for few months, but it didn’t take off. I love technology, entrepreneurship and design. In fact, during IIT days, I along with couple of my juniors, had launched a digital design studio, to provide bespoke design solutions and we did pretty good.

How do you market the platform?

We engage heavily via social channels viz. Facebook, twitter, Foursquare, blogs etc. Targeted FB ads have helped too. We launched the 1st authentic skydiving experience in India, which got some good PR by national dailies. Consistent email campaigns in our user base and affiliate network. Presence of strong affiliate partners like Redbus has helped too.

How has the traction been since the time you launched? How many people buy deals on a daily basis?

We are growing consistently. Within a quarter of launch, we got 7500+ fans on facebook page, 20000+ registered subscribers, 3 main stream print media coverage, 100+ invoices generated, 10 corporate groups served and 100% growth m-o-m.

What is the technology behind the platform?

Initially, we dabbled with CMS platforms like Joomla, drupal etc but very soon realized that we need a custom setup. Thus, we created a bespoke PHP based CMS with a heavy focus on user experience and visual merchandise to generate credibility and ease of usage. Highly automated back-end operations ensures a lean team, while improving the turn-around times. Social features have been tightly integrated with the UI. We have invested heavily on our site, especially in setting up the logical business processes to ensure least turn-around time. The site is going through a significant overhaul currently, to adapt to our increasing product portfolio and to add a lot of interesting features.

What challenges did you face while setting this up?

One major challenge was that we were not from travel sector, which helped in a way, because we were able to see a need-gap; while on the other hand, it took us some time to educate ourselves with the tricks of the trade. Second challenge was to convince near and dear ones, what I am trying to do. They were apprehensive that, why am I becoming a travel agent. Rests of the challenges are part and parcel of an entrepreneur’s journey.

How big is the team as of now?

We have grown from 1 person team to a team size of 9, from July ’11 to November ’11. We have seen significant month on month growth and good quarter results. And we are hiring as well.

Are you going mobile anytime soon?

We designed the website, while keeping mobile browsing in mind. Hence, we employed single column layout and big buttons, considering the rise of touch phones and smartphone users being a significant target segment for us. The shop page has a single column design, which renders very well on mobile browsers. All the technology used behaves well on mobile browsers. We have started getting good traction from mobile devices, once it reaches the tipping point, we will initiate the development of a dedicated mobile site. I foresee that to be happening in January.

Tushky has regular meetups to interact and have a bit of fun. If anyone is interested in meeting team tushky, feel free to send a mail at talvinder@tushky.com, with meetup as the subject line. And more about them at http://www.tushky.com

- Jubin Mehta

Jubin Mehta

Jubin Mehta

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