When the world’s your classroom: Indore-based Field Tripers helps students learn by travelNeha Jain
Whether it is to witness how the UN operates, or pick up a batting trick or two from cricket-crazy Australia, Field Tripers helps students learn by giving them a practical experience.
At a Glance
Startup: Field Tripers
Founders: Hitesh Gautam and Nakul Wagde
Year it was founded: 2014
Where it is based: Indore
Sector: Educational Travel
The problem it solves: Avoid uni-dimensional learning by providing experiential learning
Funding raised: Bootstrapped
On a Monday morning, have you ever wished you could quit your job and start a YouTube channel to show off your baking skills? Or how about becoming a travel blogger while on a holiday exploring the beautiful Sunderbans? Many of us wish to marry our interests with career choices to create a job that doesn’t feel like a job anymore. But, unlike Hitesh Gautam and Nakul Wagde, not many of us follow through on that desire.
The duo, both in their early thirties, decided to quit their jobs at Asian Paints, and start something that bridged their love for travelling with their passion for starting something in the education space. Field Tripers was the result. Started in 2014, Field Tripers is a travel company working in the space of education. An experiential learning platform, it creates and designs programmes that help enable students to learn through exploration, curiosity and active participation.
Learning through living
Indore-based Field Tripers organises various exchange programmes and trips to explore science and technology, cultural learnings and sports expeditions, both internationally and within India.
Research done by the founders exposed a huge expectation-versus-delivery gap in the market as far as educational programmes were concerned.
Besides, there is the general one-size-fits-all approach that lacks customisation according to individual needs.
“We believe that programmes that require traveling to a distant place enable students to become more curious, active and dynamic. While, education in recent times has changed by leaps and bounds, with Field Tripers educational travel will become an important part of the modern education system,” says Hitesh.
An alumnus of IIT Delhi and IIM Lucknow, Hitesh has over seven years of corporate experience in the fields of marketing, sales and channel management. Nakul holds an MBA and has over four years of corporate experience in sales and marketing. The duo strongly believes that ‘travel changes lives,’ and are avid travellers themselves.
That elusive first client
But love for travelling and a keen interest in education will only get you so far. With no real experience in running a business in either sectors, the two had their work cut out for them.
“It was very challenging in the initial years, as every school wants to know the kind of work we have done in the past. One of the biggest barriers in this industry is getting your first client, especially when you are not from the education industry. So, the idea was to make our product and pitch unique. Everybody were looking for references, but with our USP of customised learning outcomes, people started taking notice and we grew through word-of-mouth,” Hitesh recounts.
After landing its first client in mid-2015, the startup has not looked back. “We now have over 10 schools, two colleges in Indore and Bhopal who are working with us,” says Hitesh.
It customises learning experiences as per the needs of the schools. “We keep ourselves updated on the contemporary needs of parents and the kind of experiences they are seeking out for their kids. Besides, our regular interaction with activity coordinators and teachers helps us stay abreast of the trends of the industry. This knowledge comes in handy while designing our programmes,” Hitesh explains.
Field Tripers has three offerings: Edu Tripers, Globe Tripers and Camp Tripers. Through Edu Tripers, it engages the students in international competitions and programmes, which provide opportunities to schools to participate in competitions that are held at the international level. Some of the flagship international competitions include Albert Schweitzer's Leadership for Life (ASLFL) International Youth Conference, Cambridge Science Festival (CSF), and London International Youth Science Forum (LIYSF).
The Globe Tripers programme, on the other hand, is aimed at enriching students’ knowledge of places and works of art they’ve learned about in the classroom. It helps gain a deeper understanding of history, culture and customs through travel.
Camp Tripers involves engaging students on campouts and providing them an opportunity to get close to nature. It uses nature and adventure as a tool to bring fun and lifelong learning to them.
Some of the trips include space learning in NASA and Euro Space School, cricket at Gary Kirsten Cricket academy, culture lessons in Indonesia, adventure in Australia, printing and handicrafts workshops in Jodhpur, a visit to the Film City in Mumbai and even live dubbing experience, among others.
Most programmes are conducted when schools are on a break, as students get more time to engage, unless a particular event/competition is held during the academic year. Its target audience is students from Class VI to XII. The duration for such events is anywhere between four and 10 days.
Start small, go big
Field Tripers’ core team comprises seven people. For events and tour logistics, it partners with various organisations and freelance managers for execution of its programmes. For every 10 students, one teacher from the school and one tour manager from Field Tripers accompany the group.
The startup has tie-ups with various airlines, Visa agents, insurance companies, and hosting companies/experience centres. Its business model works on a commission basis, with partnered companies and schools.
“For domestic tours, we directly deal with the transportation companies, while for international tours, we partner with the local tour company out there. For specific things like visit to the United Nations, European Parliament in Brussels, or laboratories, we help the schools through the procedure of contacting the organisation,” explains Hitesh.
For international and domestic trips the cost varies according to the destination, ranging from Rs 50,000 to Rs 2,50,000 on an average, borne by the parents.
After earmarking Rs 5 lakh for its initial operations, Hitesh says the startup has been profitable from the beginning. In its first year of operations, it made a revenue of Rs 40 lakh, working with 200 students.
“For the year 2017-18, we have made a revenue of Rs 1.5 crore with a presence in two cities of Indore and Bhopal. We have so far serviced over 750 students,” says Hitesh.
The business of educational travel
Educational travel is the second biggest travel group in India. According to a media report, student travel is projected to be a $320 billion industry by 2020. Some of the startups working in the space of experiential learning are Purple Squirrel, Riipen and Intersective.
Talking about what differentiates them from others, Hitesh says, “Apart from selling our existing products, our doing official/exclusive tie-ups with international organisers give us an edge over competition. The latest product that we are developing is a career exploratory programme with a few prominent colleges in Indore.”
The firm is also building a strong database of students and parents, which it would be leveraging in the future for its B2C programmes. Bootstrapped so far, it is actively seeking investors to expand in other cities.