Must See India, Founders, Vikas Rana, Karan Nahata, Sanjay Goel

21st May 2009
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In a large country like India where there is so much to see and much to do, planning a trip to anyplace can become a cumbersome activity. It is then that one realizes the scale and scope of Vikas Rana’s start-up in the online travel planning business ‘Must See India’ (www.mustseeindia.com), co-founded by Sanjay Goel and Karan Nahata.

A free service for users, the founders hit upon the idea with the realization of the complexity of travel planning and sharing due to lack of proper information and appropriate tools.

 

Elaborates Vikas, a graduate from IIT Delhi and founder of MSI, “Ours is a two pronged focus. First is on information where we want to provide complete and reliable information on all tourist destinations in India, helping people to know where to go, when is the best time, what to see etc. The other equally important bit is planning and sharing which helps travelers in trip planning and booking, sharing photos and experiences.”


The fact that the online travel space in India has grown significantly and there are multiple sites providing different types of service is not a deterrent for them as Sanjay, also a graduate of IIT and an ex employee at Tribal Fusion explains “Our USP is providing comprehensive information. Though there is a lot of data available, not all of it maybe relevant to a user. Our portal integrates the service of multiple providers, giving end to end solution to travelers and reducing the time spent on travel planning.” 


For a company having launched in July 2008 with a seed capital of Rs. 5 lakhs, the targeted break even in late 2009 is an achievement matched only with the statistics of the 2 lakh visitors a month to their website which Karan says is a “doubling of their user base every 3 months.


Understanding the complexity of the travel space alongwith the scope it brings has been a conscious effort by the team. Says Vikas “Online travel is one field that has seen countless startups fail. Being techies it was convenient for us to work on cool features rather than the information. But stats prove that cool planning tools are not what a user needs, it is reliable and relevant information.”

They admit that the same realization also helped them to look at the bigger picture and keep going back to the vision they started with to avoid the urge to do too many things at a time. “We took time to realize that products need to be built on what people need and not always on the perception of coolness.”


The corrective measures taken by them have worked and in the short time since their launch, they are already in the top 1000 sites in India informs the team adding that speed is what differentiates them from competitors.


“Travel should be about fun; not logistics and unending planning. We want to put back the fun in travel and hence envision to create a platform where travelers can come together, share their experiences, help each other” enthuses Karan adding that their future plans include new features to help realize their target of a million visitors per month by the end of 2010.


Such optimism and excitement definitely comes from a lot of conviction. “Conviction that we are doing something special. It is what drives us everyday apart from the encouraging comments from our users.” says Sanjay.


So what about the challenges they faced?


“With lack of external funding and steep home loans to pay, the pressure to deliver was tremendous. Our personal lives took a hit in this duration but we can hardly complain – we chose this life” says Vikas quickly adding they they wouldn’t even have it any other way.


“I had been working with Trilogy for over five years, and honestly was enjoying it too, but the feeling of ‘I am destined for something bigger’ led me to experiment quite a bit including developing a fully functional GPS tracking device for my car. A chance discussion with Sanjay and Karan led to the first prototype of the MSI website up and running within a few weeks.”


What lies ahead for the team is more strategic partnerships with companies aligned with the MSI vision and the simultaneous growth of their portfolio to meet the demands of the growing user base.


They leave with the following thought for future entrepreneurs “If you want to start up, be prepared for a tough life. Believe in your dream and stay focused. You’ll get there.”

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