Two wanderers turn entrepreneurs to launch Broken Compass, a travel company
Thanks to Google Maps, we are no longer too reliant on the good old compass to find our way, though the device is still a very important must-have for travelers. Perhaps even Avani Patel and Manjari Verma have relied upon it too many times, albeit the broken variety. And if you are thinking why are we discussing compass here, well that is because this story is about Broken Compass. Simply put, Broken Compass is a startup that provides a wide range of traveling solutions -- customized, tailor-made holidays, group trips, thematic trips and trips for special occasions. They can also plan exclusive trips for enthusiasts who wish to goto off-beat or unheard off locations.
Both founders have travel in their blood. Manjari Verma started exploring the country because of her Army background and eventually gave up her advertising career to do “something way more fun, but just as hectic.” While co-founder Avani Patel has also been travelling since childhood – mostly with her family. Somewhere along the way, Avani picked up a penchant for adventure and did a variety of things -- marine biologist, an open-water scuba diver, a mountaineer, an avid photographer – before starting up with Manjari.
Converting passion into profession was however tough. Avani’s past experience at an adventure tourism company came in handy, but that was not enough to be able to run a full fledged company. So the duo followed the usual route of reading, talking to people in the industry and learnt on the job as they moved along. Since starting in July 2009, with a nominal investment of just Rs 10,000 Broken Compass has grown well. “We have done well not just financially, but on all other fronts, like business development, management, marketing etc. Our turnover was Rs 1.7 crore in 2012,” says Manjari proudly.
As a traveler you can opt for group trips (photography, adventure, wildlife); go on luxury holidays to undiscovered places; or even choose Broken Compass for special occasions like honeymoon or bachelor holidays. Since starting, the startup has done an average of 80 fully customized trips, and around 5- 8 group trips per year.
So how are they different from other travel operators in the market? “Our clients get to experience a fully customized option as per their travel personality and budget. An experimental holiday - completely tailor made to your liking. We don’t bind you in the usual everyday sightseeing tours. We give suggestions and options instead for the client to choose from; by doing this we encourage the client to explore themselves, thus making them have a holistic experience of the holiday. Based on their budget, we incorporate authentic, cultural experiences with local guides. So it doesn’t matter if you are on a budget or you are a luxury traveler, we ensure that somewhere thorough our holiday you get to see more than what you had expected,” explains Avani.And if the testimonials on the site are anything to go by, then Broken Compass does seem to have taken off well. Customer acquisition says Manjari has been mostly by word of mouth: “the more people taking about their experiences with us, more clients contact us.” Social media, digital marketing and PR have been some of the other tools they have used to reach out to new clients. In the first two years says Manjari, they were lucky because they were approached by couple of travel publications for write ups which got them a fair bit of exposure. They are happy with their slow and steady pace of growth and unanimously point to word of mouth as their best tool for marketing so far.
Broken Compass have built their offerings by gauging market trends and through research. Because they are able to do a great deal of customization, Avani says there is no specific competition they have in the Indian market. However on the cost front, online portals who offer cheap bulk deals to customers directly, comes closest to them. “We are often faced with questions from clients, comparing us to the websites and justifying our costs then becomes difficult,” says Avani.
The startup has a small team of 5 who handle operations, sales and office administration. Their social media and PR work is outsourced and Manjari says that even for hiring their staff they have relied on social media. “Everyone who works in our office is a travel enthusiast- that’s our first requirement,” she says.
From doing 2-3 group trips a year to 5-8 group trips and an average of 80 customised trips, the founders are happy with the growth. Next year they plan to launch signature, thematic group trips, under various categories, both internationally and domestically. Also on cards is a new luxury section which will cater to only high end clients / top segment of society. “With so many planned projects in the next 5 years, we see ourselves as a leading tailor-made holiday planning company, with more established roots in the industry,” says Avani.