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3 engineers from Sikkim help create travel diaries, aim to grow tourism

Ayesha Roy
23rd Aug 2018
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TravelShelf partners with brands and travel buffs to give enthusiasts a glimpse of travel destinations.

Travel – experience – click a picture – post on Instagram – post on Twitter – poke friends on Facebook to make them jealous. For most of us, that sums up most of our leisure travels. Another activity many add to this list is making a physical album to relive memories.

Romil Tiwari, Rajat Bhardwaj, and Aditya Arya took this last activity and turned it digital with TravelShelf.

The digital platform allows users to store travel experiences, pictures, and even information in one place. “They can choose to show this to any other traveller (typically through an Instagram or Facebook post), share a link with their family or friends, or even keep the information private,” Romil says.

TravelShelf Co-founders Romil Tiwari, Rajat Bhardwaj, and Aditya Arya.

The three computer science engineers from NIT Sikkim had previously developed two apps – Kakshya and Companion. While the former channelled donations for NGOs, the latter offered information about Sikkim to travellers. It also sent alerts on roadblocks, landslides, and accidents. Companion could not be monetised, but TravelShelf answered that concern.

Building the platform 

TravelShelf has created a community of travel influencers who promote brands on social media platforms such as Instagram. Those planning their next holiday, or even travel enthusiasts, can visit the website for photo albums on each destination, and add their own.

The company has tied up with 10 brands. The trio also designs campaigns for brands; at times, influencers also design brand campaigns. TravelShelf offers real-time reports for brands to see the performance of a campaign. “We have campaign packages for brands based on the outreach of influencers who work on campaigns. The revenue is shared between them and us. We have a 70 percent gross margin,” Romil says.

Most influencers are selected through an algorithm, and for a user to be an influencer, s/he should have at least 500 organic followers on Instagram, quality engagement with their posts, and must have participated in previous campaigns.

The three co-founders, who had no funds, took up various jobs to gather the resources needed to start TravelShelf. The bootstrapped startup was launched in December 2017. For a revenue model, it works with influencers on social media to market travel-related products and brands.

“We reached out to famous and regular travellers through ‘Digital Nomads’ on Instagram, and shaped the platform according to their needs,” Romil says.

The TravelShelf platform

Numbers and growth 

The team claims to have worked with GrowFit, Bragpacker, and goStops and reached over three lakh followers on Instagram, of which 600 are travel influencers. If an influencer has 15,000–20,000 followers and 6-7 percent engagement on each post, s/he gets paid Rs 2,500-3,000 per campaign. 

In May, TravelShelf started a subscription model for brands. The base pricing is Rs 3,000 for three months, which will get travel brands access to 10 influencers. If they want to target more influencers, they can target two more influencers for Rs 500. Six months into the business, TravelShelf claims to have generated Rs 30,000 in revenue. This August, it claims it will generate Rs 50,000 in revenue and is aiming at Rs 2 lakh per month starting January 2019. 

How secure is an influencer’s data?

The company claims it uses state-of-the-art technology to encrypt data and phone numbers, email IDs, and passwords, and protect all network communications. “We use the bucket storage of Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) cloud server to store pictures,” says Romil, and adds that unless an influencer wants to make a picture public, it is not visible to anyone. 

Romil says his company counts Pixo and Influencer.com as competition in the $20 million global influencer market. Over the next two months, the platform aims to be fully automated and will need low manpower to oversee the operations. It currently takes a week to design a campaign for a brand. With automation, Romil claims, the platform can generate 10 campaigns a week.  

TravelShelf offers a win-win for all – brands get to showcase their products, influencers get paid for their travels, and three young engineers from Sikkim get to realise their dream of showcasing their state as a travellers’ haven. 

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