How these three MBA professionals are building a global product from Pune

23rd Feb 2015
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In 2012, when Praveen Kumar from IIM Lucknow, Karthik Ramachandra from IIM Indore and Saket Newaskar from MDI Gurgaon thought of building a global product out of Pune (India), they planned everything perfectly but one. The name of their startup which aimed at simplifying the research and creation of the itinerary was ‘Joguru’, a shortened version of journey guru. Praveen says,

This sounded Indian while we wanted to be global in nature which was crucial for us to grow in scale.

This is when Joguru was rebranded to Triphobo (a name which came out of a survey floated among the users), an online platform for travelers and tourists, which was not focused on capturing the transactional value of a trip but leveraging on the time value of the journey. In simple terms, Triphobo offers itinerary of what all you can do in a city. Last year, the company raised Series A funding from Kalaari Capital to further boost its plans to scale quickly.

Apart from the funding, Triphobo is equally backed by a good number of existing itinerary and user base which is further fuelled by an outstanding growth rate of the company. While one may mistake the acquisition of global audience by Triphobo as a matter of chance, the company was actually working on it right from day one.

Praveen took us through the journey of Triphobo and how they have aligned themselves to emerge as a global brand from India.

(From L-to-R) Saket Newaskar , Karthik Ramachandra , Praveen Kumar
(From L-to-R) Saket Newaskar , Karthik Ramachandra , Praveen Kumar

The master strategy of going global from day one

Triphobo kept the global market as its target since the beginning of their operations. The company was keen on getting the global travelers’ knowledge base on their platform. Both their traffic and content were global in nature. The founders were aware that in their quest to go global they will miss out on the Indian tourists planning short trips abroad.

Praveen gives credits to the following attributes of Triphobo for achieving the scale till date:

  1. Strategic partnerships.
  2. Ability (which is a mix of technology and manual efforts) to scale content quickly.

His take on the less number of Indian companies achieving global scaling up, is very clear. He says,

Indian entrepreneurs have focused more on transactional businesses rather than strategy businesses. Only now, the market is opening up to the strategy businesses and understanding its importance in the long term.

What’s new at Triphobo

Praveen mentions that a lot of changes have been made at Triphobo since July 2014. Some of them are listed below:

  1. An iOS app called "Trip plans" was launched.
  2. Hotel recommendation and booking based on the context of the trip (selected by the user) is available.
  3. Users can also use other users’ itinerary and customize it according to their own requirements.
  4. Users can add a place (if it’s not available on the existing list) to the plan directly from Google.
  5. For users who want a plan within two minutes, a new feature that generates an automated trip plan (it mines thousands of trips for the user and curates the best possible fit) has been introduced.

The company boasts of over 400 top global destinations enabled for planning on its platform at the moment.

Numbers and growth

At the moment, Triphobo claims to have more than 200k monthly users and over 60,000 user generated trips on its platform. Praveen says,

This is one of the largest, if not ‘the largest’ repository for user-generated trip plans around the world.

The traffic on the company’s website and mobile app is witnessing a YoY growth of more than 600% where an average user spends around nine to 10 minutes on the website. This is a healthy number in the online travel industry.

Almost two-third of the visitors (users) of Triphobo are not based in India and 25-30% of the traffic comes through mobile right now.

Challenges of building a global product out of India

Triphobo is definitely not the first company from India which is targeting the global market and customers, but not many startups in the B2C space have successfully scaled up globally from India. InMobi, Freshdesk, MuSigma, and Indix among others have been serving to enterprises, which makes it an uneven comparison when (they) stood against a B2C company. Nevertheless, fundamental approach (of running a business, acquiring clients/customers, setting up teams) and challenges faced in the initial days have much in common.

When Praveen along with the other two co-founders of Triphobo were building the product, their major challenge was to bring the change in user behavior. Trip planning industry is at a nascent stage and people still go to travel agents. Praveen says,

Travelers are still not used to planning their itinerary of travel (apart from to-and-fro tickets) online. We faced the challenge of developing the product and experience which is easy to use at first. We also had to educate them (users) about the product.

It is for the same reason that Triphobo website’s UI allow users to play around, drag and drop, and is engagement and fun driven.

Hiring the right talent was another challenge faced by the Pune-based startup.

Desktop v/s mobile

Triphobo believes that mobile and desktop strategies are completely different. Praveen says,

While on desktop, most often users plan anywhere between one week to one month before the actual plan; people use the mobile product on the go (more real time). On the desktop, a user tends to play around with destinations and points of interests while they are planning which is missing on the mobile, as the decisions are taken on the spur of the moment.

Another interesting behavior of users on desktop is that they do not book their hotels while planning their trips on the desktop.

The trip of 2015

Triphobo understands the urgency to go mobile first and will be launching its Android application very soon (iOs app is present already) which will make way to increase the mobile traffic to almost 50% of the total traffic. The company plans to hit two million monthly users by the end of 2015.

Praveen says, “We are working on seamless integration of a booking with planning. The app and website will have new features and virality components.”

Triphobo is looking forward to strategic partnership with some globally recognized key names in the travel industry. They are also closing on a few business tie ups with some of the largest clients (offline) in India and abroad for referrals and recommendations on their platform.

With enough money in its pocket and an ambitious plan running in head, Praveen and his team is set to take on the global competition. Let the best team win!

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