Ever tried and failed to plan a six-day international trip to London, Paris or Singapore taking into account distances between places, the availability of restaurants and activities while including the events going on during the season of your travel? The TripAdvisors of the world have been a good help with information of various places to visit, stay or eat, but crafting an itinerary to suit you isn’t still that evolved. There seem to have been proliferations of trip planning tools in recent months, but most still lack personalisation features.
In this world of big data, travel still lacks the tech to match tastes of individuals and bump recommendations to suit them. One of the reasons for this seems to be the cost involved in one single trip you take. Travel is all about the quality and experience, and that’s very difficult to be commoditized.
PickYourTrail is one of the present travel planner tools, but it differentiates itself with its aim to provide a highly personalised travel planning experience. Their request form speaks about the level of personalisation they intend to offer. Blending their own expertise gained over years along with their network of travelers globally, Hari and Srinath started PickYourTrail – a personalized travel planner tool for travelers to have a crafted traveling experience.
Why did they start?
Both Hari Ganapathy and Srinath Sankar have been friends since undergraduate school (almost 11 years now) with the same passion – hunger to travel across the world. Following the usual normal path, they both got admitted to management schools; Hari got into IIM Bangalore and Srinath graduated from NMIS Mumbai. After their management studies, they served in various roles in MNCs like Britannia, Reckitt Benckiser, EnCore Capital, and Western Union, along with their weekend traveling experiences. They weren’t into startups back then.
Hari’s last job at InMobi was probably the game changer. During the same time, both of them were backpacking in Amsterdam, and an incident made both believe that they should be the ones to make Indians relish the travel experience, and not be left as tourists.
People lack travel experience and that made us realize that people are missing the true culture. The overall procedure is very fragmented. Group tours are not for the modern world. At Amsterdam, we saw people in tours rushing from one place to another without experiencing many things. When you pay so much for a tour, you should get time to breath and experience something different but one doesn't get this in tours and packages
He further adds, 'People used to keep asking us for itenaries each time they started to travel which made it clear that they start this venture to help people with the whole travel itenraries. Pre planned group tours don't really give you the true real experience and its something more and more people want to enjoy.'
Passionately sharing his determination with PickYourTrail, 'We started this out of passion and not the desire to start something. We love to travel and have been doing this for past few years and will keep doing this. Our goal is to make Indians experience the local culture of places they visit and not make them ordinary tourists. Lets learn to travel and not visit places.'
They have been bootstrapped till date. 'We wanted to validate this model first. Raising money is definately there in the pipeline soon' shares Srinath.
Travel is an experience offering, and very difficult to be commoditized. Probably that's one of the reasons why there aren’t many tech giants into this market. Technology could probably help with recommendations and suggestion engines, but what makes travel unique experience is human expertize.
‘Travel isn’t about going to places in flights but about enjoying the rich heritage and local culture you visit. You need to be a traveler and not a tourist’ shares Hari, further adds, ‘Vacations are driven by experiences and personalized.’
At PickYourTrail, the team is focused entirely only on the traveler’s experience rather than the other things associated with the travel industry.
There are several challenges in travel industry for startups to create a brand for themselves. Price being one of the critical differentiator and decision-maker for most of the audience.
From a customer’s view, Internet pricing drives the decision. But then many end up having unsatisfactory experiences owing to inappropriate information. There is a greater need to educate people about various aspects of traveling.
For customers, Internet pricing drives. But customer education and awareness needs to be focused. Booking.com shows you prices without including the taxes and other extra costs that often misguide tourists.
PickYourTrail in Numbers
Travel is a nightmare when one sees the costs accompanied with it. But then, you don't fly internationally, for majority of the people it's a one lifetime experience- you don't want to mess with that.
With the offerings of PickYourTrail, travelers get personalized itineraries for absolutely no extra charges. This is what makes even simpler for travelers. The team charges 2% upfront for making a personalized itinerary that later is adjusted in the total costs for the travel.
‘We charge 2% upfront because we want only those eager travelers to request us for itineraries. We have to invest a lot of time in making personalized recommendations for every traveler and it's a huge time investment for us. But we don't want to charge our travelers as we believe travel costs are itself a huge burden onto them already’ shares Hari about the free-itinerary model.
They mostly make their revenues from upfront commissions from hotels/resorts and other affiliate partners. They have been following a vendor neutrality policy with giving an option to users to choose rather than forcing users to travel by chosen vendors.
With an average ticket size of nearly a lac, PickYourTrail's revenues have been growing month on month for the past 5 months. From a team of two, they have expanded to a team of 6 people in less than 2 months. Thought the commissions in the travel industry come with scale, the team is currently focussed on building a loyal consumer base through unique itineraries and friendly support.
Today, the team has put together close to 500 itineraries for various destinations from US, Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia to Australia.
The team has launched a ‘travel genie’ app that is personalized for every user making it easy to have all things at one place. Their customers traveling across the globe are using it. The app would be soon launched for everyone after this alpha testing.
The team is also working towards automating the creation of itineraries, making it a drag and drop interface, which helps travelers make their plans with ease. This would be released by the end of this year assures Hari.
Giving insights about the changing trends in traveler’s philosophy, he adds ‘Today’s travellers want to travel the world in just one way – their own style.’ They'll want to put together their own unique travel experiences, tap into inspiration from other travellers and then share their own personal plans with friends. This is how the team believes travel will evolve soon.
Personalized travel is a great space to operate in and with initiatives like Makemytrip's Innovation fund, we are sure travel industry is undergoing great innovations.
Please have a look at their website here.