Akshay Chhugani and Manu Mehta, Founders,The Indian Backpacker Pvt Ltd.
They remark, "The Indian Backpacker is a company started in 2007 with the social aim to promote backpacking throughout the country and across the globe. Backpacking through India has always interested people from all over the world, but some very basic questions like - where to go, how to get there and where do we stay, have always been a concern. This website not only tells you about the hotspots but will also help you get there. All this is not just for foreigners but for Indians as well. So as an Indian backpacker you can research, book and start getting packed for a great backpacking experience."
They had a certain amount of business sense working behind their venture, after all who does not love to see new places, they said, "The scope for any travel business is infinite. Everyone needs a break, everyone need to let loose the traveler inside so what better way than to explore and that too without spending big bucks. We get roughly 30-40 queries per day regarding backpacking through emails and an average of 50-100 hits per day. The website contains information not only on Indian destinations but also provides online booking services for air ticketing, bus services, hostels/hotels and travel insurance."
The tourism business has many players but the backpacker is a whole new deal with a definite future; the duo explains why "We have only an online presence as the market is niche. The concept of Backpacking in India is yet very new and unexplored. We do not have any tie-ups with any airlines/hostels/state Bus boards but have affiliations with the consolidators in each field. Our business focuses mainly on information that is usually not known about India and Indian backpacking destinations. We get our articles from the locals of every place so that the information is the best, and also exclusive and accurate."
"Now that we have gained visibility in the ever growing World Wide Web we plan to focus more on promoting our services. Like every business our main aim is customer satisfaction. We are always open to feedback to help the customer better every time. Further are working on ways to introduce new offers and deals especially for Indian festivals like the Pushkar Mela."
Most MBA's usually go for the corporate jobs, but the twosome decided to stray from the beaten path. They say "9-5 jobs are monotonous and take the fun out of the work, so even if you get your dream job at the very first go; it tends to bring down the compassion and energy to a lower level after a certain point of time. Being an entrepreneur is in itself an adventure, with new unknown challenges that have not been conquered yet. Backpacking in India is a relatively new concept that we are trying to introduce and the challenges are yet unknown."
They told Yourstory about the innate difficulties that each entrepreneur faces. Finances proved to be a thorn in their side for a while but they pulled through. "The biggest challenge faced till date was of Capital investment. We put in meager savings from our previous jobs and decided to take the plunge. So initially we started with only hostel bookings as that was all we could afford, but as time went on by we joined hands with Raas Travels which helped us add more facilities for making backpacking a little easier. The biggest mistake that set us back was Search Engine Optimization under no proper guidance. Our low budget led us to take the cheaper way out so with some help from Google articles we started SEO without guidance that resulted in a low ranking which could have been avoided" said the duo.
With previous savings that summed up to an estimated Rs.10,000 they began their steady climb into the hearts and minds of travelers. They said "As we only have an online presence therefore we do not require a huge staff for it, though we have 2 professional photographers for creating the photo tours on our website and 6 freelance writers to write articles. We plan to open a branch of the same in Hyderabad. We get roughly 30-40 queries per day regarding backpacking through emails and an average of 50-100 hits per day. This serves as a booster dose for us to keep working harder and harder."
We asked them if they had garnered any recognition, and the duo expounded on why their venture has not made any waves as of yet, saying "Unfortunately not yet, as the concept of backpacking is fairly new to India and Indians, but we have our fingers crossed."
The two have never contemplated giving up the challenge before them, they explained "No, never as the whole idea was to take up a challenge and prove to everyone that being an entrepreneur in India is the most upcoming thing even with all the hurdles it has."
They are motivated because of - "The passion and focus for backpacking. We know there are thousands and lacs of people like us, waiting to explore new destinations in India."
"Our vision is not only for 2010 but for the years ahead to see backpacking grow. Backpacking is not just a trend but it is a lifestyle for a certain segment. With Indian backpacker we would like to encourage this segment and a lot more people to travel through India to places unexplored or remote to the weekend traveler. In the near future we hope to see a positive response to this lifestyle traveling and integrate even more facilities on the website to make it a one stop traveler's guide."
"We aim at making budget travel within India the most popular thing, thereby attracting not only foreign backpackers but also a whole generation of young backpackers who can explore India as they never thought of it."
The duo explains their concept on how to gain success for the budding entrepreneur saying "First and foremost - never give up. Self motivation is the best kind of motivation to keep you going towards your goals. Be very clear about your goal and don't EVER feel low if anybody jibes at you for your work. Even if you don't get results in a year, do not give up, be patient and have the guts to take risks in life!!" Yourstory wishes Akshay Chhugani and Manu Mehta all the success they deserve and will definitely look them up next time we take a holiday off the beaten track...