Today, 95 percent of consumers browse the internet to make a travel purchase driven by the advantage of ease of booking and comparative pricing. However, majority of the consumers are inclined towards online ticket booking as compared to tour packages and hotels. According to Octane Research, 36 percent of consumers make unplanned trips if offered a discount.
The ever-changing holiday needs of Indian travelers are now forcing the travel operators to switch to the offerings of personalised holidays (an independent travel plan designed and arranged for a single customer). Chennai-based PickYourTrail is also carving a niche for itself in this space and intends to become one-stop shop for personalised vacations.
Founded in 2014 by Hari Ganapathy and Srinath Shankar, PickYourTrail allows travellers to either customise their own trip or choose the normal packages of OTA (one time travel agent) like Make My Trip or Yatra. They aim to build a platform where people can personalise their holidays and travel at their own pace.
The trip is completely personalised without package or affiliation to any particular hotel or supplier ‑- vendor agnostic. There is flexibility in terms of pick and choose model for clients, real-time pricing ‑ current time lags for customisation are anywhere between 12 and 48 hours,” says Hari.
The journey from friendship to co-founders
Both Hari and Srinath have been friends since college. Hari is an alumnus of IIM-B and Srinath is an alumnus of NMIS Mumbai. They served in MNCs in multiple roles like Britannia, Reckitt Benckiser, EnCore Capital, and Western Union.
The duo started off as an experience marketplace allowing travelers to search for fun travel activities and get connected to the tour operators. Though the idea was well-received in initial ground work, the product did not take off. A few conversations with consumers, the duo discovered that experience market lacked hook to book flights and hotels.
They also found that the packaged tours were uninspiring and restrictive, as the normal travel agents had no incentive to build interesting itineraries. Post their failed attempt, they started a landing page which helped them gain more than 1,000 sign ups within the first few days. PickYourTrail was bootstrapped with a seed capital of less than Rs 2 lakh.
Targeting independent traveller
Aimed at new-age independent travellers, PickYourTrail’s VEHO platform creates an itinerary that matches the traveller’s vacation profile, letting users customise it online.
After 18 months of the launch, they introduced their first tool ‑ PLATO (Planning Tool), which helps generate itineraries real time. Simultaneously, they also launched an Android app ‑ Travel Genie, a combination of travel guide, vouchers and real-time mobile concierge. Launched during TechSparks 2014, Travel Genie also provides offline access to all vouchers and other trip related details. Recently, PickYourTrail has also launched a travel itinerary bot.
Our USP is a combination of our team and technology. The team brings in deep understanding of the traveller psychology and that would help us stay ahead of the market in terms of products and features. Our Matching Algorithm combined with the lowest online pricing ensures that customers get the best value from the vacation,” says Hari.
PickYourTrail currently has a team of 27 people. In the last two years, they have crafted trails for more than 1,500 travellers from 14 countries. According to Hari, 56 percent of the revenue comes from repeat or referral business.
The startup has a planning and concierge fee ranging from Rs 1,000 to 5,000 per person depending on the destination and duration. PickYourTrail plans to make VEHO available for 15 markets by end of this year and also launch a mobile version of VEHO. In terms of revenue, they plan to hit $25 million annual run rate by the end of 2018.
The overseas travel industry for leisure is growing at a CAGR of 40 percent year-on-year. Currently, the leisure travel market in India is about $80 billion and is set to grow to $150 billion by 2024.
According to VCCEdge report, venture capital (VC) and private equity (PE) funds invested $115.69 million across 13 deals in the travel segment in 2014. As per a report, hotels and packages transactions rose 14.4 percent year-on-year, but revenues of the segment grew just 2.8 percent owing to increased discounts.
Biggies such as MakeMytrip, Cleartrip and Yatra witnessed an significant growth in the past few years, with MakeMyTrip enjoying 40 percent market share in the hotels and packages.