Sanjay Aneja & Neeraj Vashi, Founders, Nivalink, Mumbai
Fixing getaways that rejuvenate
Move over brochures, packages, and itineraries. The tour planner personally visits the place and shows you never before seen pictures and locations for a weekend trip. Sanjay Aneja and Neeraj Vashi, founders of Nivalink, started the business by planning weekend retreats around Mumbai in 2000. Today, the trust and goodwill of their clients have expanded their business across India. Sanjay tells YourStory that he hasn’t stopped travelling for the search of new places and services.
I never planned to be an entrepreneur. I was in Merchant Navy for eight years, travelling around the world. During this period, I was exposed to the latest developments in clubs in Europe, US and Australia such as bowling alleys and fun zones.
Back in 2000, Indian clubs, malls, and multiplexes started introducing these activities and I saw it as an opportunity to become an advisor to such clubs. I quit my job as I didn’t want to be a sailor throughout my life and became a marketing consultant for the clubs.
During one of these projects, I met Neeraj Vashi, who was a financial consultant, and we became friends. After a year, Neeraj got married and went for honeymoon. He realised there was no personalised service. Most of the travel agents showed the same data posted on the websites of hotels and airlines and didn’t go beyond packages and deals.
We felt the need for an interactive travel website supported by personalised service offline. Neeraj had a website called Nivalink and initially we just posted a few pictures of resorts and farmhouses around Mumbai, such as Alibaug, Karnala, etc. That’s how we started.
We decided not to go for the same kind of deals and packages as others or undercut the prices offered by other travel portals since we didn’t have the financial muscle to engage in a price war with the giants of travels and tourism. Instead, we just targeted the weekend getaway travellers of Mumbai --mostly corporate teams who planned to go on a weekend trip on Friday after achieving their sales targets. Typically, a company’s HR department, which normally takes care of bookings couldn’t handle the last-minute tour plans. That’s where we chipped in. At times, we personally took these corporate guys to show them the place, resort, hotel, which they wouldn’t have found on the Net.
The word of mouth publicity helped and soon we were flooded with queries for weekend trips. After some time, these corporate guys also started using our services for individual and personnel purposes.
The turning point came in 2003, when we spread our operations to 15 states. That was also the time we started getting inbound travel queries. We helped organise the trip of a wildlife photographer from the UK who was on a two-month tour of India. Satisfied with our services, he posted our link to a forum of wildlife photographers in the UK. That got us a lot of visibility. Today, inbound travel constitutes almost 30% of our topline.
What drives me on is my love for travelling. I love to explore new places myself before I can recommend the same to me clients. It also has to do with my upbringing, which reflects in the way we do our business – keeping things transparent and honest.