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So, you want a wedding right out of Pinterest? All it will take is coordinating with a hundred different vendors to manage all the aspects of your D-Day. Or you want to relax and get away for that dream vacation? You’ll need one for sure, to get over the stress of all the planning, from speaking to travel agents for hours, managing all those bookmarked travel articles, or hiring vehicles across each leg of your journey.
Or you could just use a website or an app, which does all of these for you, with a single click.
Here are five startups founded by women that help manage your travel schedules, plan events and take care of the nitty-gritties while you sit back and relax.
Surabhi Challani, Ticktalk Events
When Surabhi Challani and Apurva Ladole were studying engineering, they participated in several college fests, and had to manage decoration and other logistics. That’s when they realised that event management was their forte. After graduation, Surabhi decided to not opt for college placements, but work as a freelancer for event management firms. Initially, her parents were not in favour of this. But after she managed the organisation of her sister’s wedding all by herself, from decorations to catering to travel, they understood that she had made the right decision. After getting sufficient experience in the sector and managing multiple events in Pune, she and Apurva decided to start Tick Talk Events in 2018.
Pune-based Tick Talk organises birthday parties, weddings (including destination weddings), anniversary parties and even corporate events. They have customised themes and packages based on the age group. “We want to make your special moments more magical,” says Surabhi.
As they have just started up, hiring is a challenge. “We can’t provide a permanent salary to anyone, as there’s no permanent source of income.” They hire freelances, train them and work with them for an event. What makes Tick Talk Events stand out is that they don’t force anyone to take up all their services. According to their requirement, they customise the package, as they understand that clients would already have some services in place. “If I don’t like a particular theme or service we’ve provided, and even if the client is fine with it, I still put in personal effort and spend to make it perfect,” says Surabhi.
Her take on competition is that it’s good as it helps you grow. “Instead of comparing yourself with other businesses, you need to compare month-on-month growth within your own company. That’s competition,” says Surabhi. She says the startup ecosystem in India is more encouraging now. “More people are starting something of their own. Once we used to be apprehensive at the thought of starting up, but today there is a supportive ecosystem out there.”
Today, Tick Talk Events has around 70 clients. They get most of their business through word of mouth marketing. When Surabhi worked as a freelancer, she impressed her clients, because of which they contact her personally for events now. In the future, she plans to expand to other cities in Maharashtra and create an app for her business.
Basudha Shrivastav, ExpressEarth Digital Services
Basudha Shrivastav was born in Bihar and moved to Delhi to do her graduation. In her own words, city life gave her wings and provided a path to achieve her dreams. In 2009, she started her career in IT. While working at Ericsson, she met her schoolmate Himanshu Narula. Both were interested in starting a venture in the field of travel and so they left their jobs, took the plunge into entrepreneurship (and marriage too!). ExpressEarth Digital Services Pvt Ltd was born in 2015 in Gurgaon.
ExpressEarth provides both B2C and B2E services. In the B2C market, they work under the brand name ExpressEarth as an online travel agency for all travel needs, including flight, hotel accommodation, car, visa, forex and insurance. In the B2E space, they work under the brand name Empfly, and provide a SaaS-based tool to manage the travel and expenses of a company. “We have created this tool keeping in mind the different sectors and processes in an industry. Hence, this is a robust tool that can fit into a company of any size and nature."
While starting up, they faced several challenges. From getting acceptance from family members, to executing their business plan and getting market acceptance and funding. “When I look back, I see that whenever one door closed, another one would open. I’m happy that certain things didn’t happen, else I would not have known what I know today,” she says.
The Startup India programme and NASSCOM 10,000 Startups played a vital role in the growth of their startup. They had the opportunity to network with the right people, showcase their products on various platforms and grab market attention.
According to her, competition is healthy. “It keeps you on your toes to be active and innovative as much as possible.” She adds that India is actively participating to build a strong startup ecosystem, and there’s a lot of hope for startups now. “All thanks to central and state government initiatives, incubators, investors and VCs, and infrastructure support. There’s still a huge scope to reframe old and orthodox laws and legal practices,” she says.
She is excited about the technology transformation in India and is looking forward to exploring predictive analysis, augmented reality, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.
Today, Express Earth has branches in Gurgaon and Ghaziabad with 14 corporate clients and more than 10,000 retail customers. They have also earned several recognitions including ‘Most Innovative Travel Management Company’ by India Travel Award North, featured as one of the most successful startups in NASSCOM 10k programme, and several more.
The founder couple are working to make the product accessible to the global market and by all types of enterprises. “Spinning in the right direction and with domain knowledge, I feel that we will certainly make our country proud one day. We are prepared for both today and tomorrow,” says Basudha.
Priyanshi Choubey, Instacar
Priyanshi is from Dewas, a small town near Indore, Madhya Pradesh. After graduating with an MBA degree from Indore University and working in a service-based startup, she took to entrepreneurship. “I hadn’t planned on starting up. But I always wanted to be happy in whatever I did, and so decided to work for myself, instead of working for someone else” she says.
After reading a report by Bain & Company, she realised that the car rental industry is a $2 billion industry, but only 4 percent of it was online. The rest 96 percent of the market is offline and largely unorganised. In 2016, along with ex-classmate Ishan Vyas, she decided to start Instacar, a premium vacation car rental service with a core focus on safety, reliability, and high quality. “We began to discuss about the various problems India is facing, and travellign was the biggest pain point. Now, we’re at the forefront of taking the car rental market online and organising it,” says Priyanshi.
When they started up, customer acquisition was a major challenge. Now they have cracked that problem and the cost has come down to zero. At Instacar, Priyanshi handles operations and customer success, but her heart lies in product design. Her take on competition is that it exists in every industry, one cannot deny it. “It requires effort to build a company, but a little more effort if the competition is bigger.”
She feels the startup ecosystem in India is coming up with really innovative products and services using technology these days, making life simpler. “I’m excited about AI, as it has reduced our customer support efforts, enabling us to match the right customers with the right drivers, which we had to do manually before we implemented technology,” she says.
Based in Bengaluru, Instacar is a Startup India recognised company with a clientele of over 15,000 currently. Priyanshi was chosen among the top 200 women entrepreneurs in India by NITI Aayog, and was also a gold winner at the IIT Delhi WEE programme for entrepreneurship. She is currently pursuing an executive marketing management programme from IIM Kozhikode, and her goal for Instacar is that it becomes the number one car rental service in Bangalore, and expands geographically.
Her advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is if you want to start something, start now, “Start ab your start up.”
Shaheen Madraswala, Leamigo
Shaheen Madraswala had been involved in her family’s construction business for over 15 years. Whenever she travelled, she always felt that she missed the real essence of the place. “We often visit tourist attractions. We rarely experience a place like a local. Realising that the experiences which were indelible memories always involved interactions with local people, was my eureka moment,” she says. It was these people, according to her, that made all the difference, that brought a place to life. She wanted more people to experience this. When she met Nazeeb Ahmad, who was similarly enthusiastic about travel, was a hardcore product/tech guy and had an edge over business acumen, that fast-tracked her dreams and gave them the confidence to start Leamigo Pvt Ltd in late 2017.
With people becoming more tech-savvy, today there are a number of online options to book flights, hotels, homestays, budget hotels, etc. Once flights and accommodation are sorted, the next important concern is what to do, what not to cover and which offbeat spots to visit. Here's where Mumbai-based Leamigo comes in. They make it easy for travellers to meet locals and experience local activities conducted by locals. “We’re not only aiming for happy travellers but also providing locals with opportunities to experience the flavours of the world through the people who come to visit their city,” says Shaheen. They let their clients book experiences which are designed by their network of locals, whom they refer to as Amigos. They have successfully created a network of approximately 1,000+ amigos across more than 125 global cities, who handpick and customise experiences and unique activities for travellers.
Shaheen says their growth has been a roller coaster ride, where they’ve pivoted their business twice, to a B2B model from a B2C model, and also brought on board top online travel agencies. 80 percent of their bookings come from the B2B segment and 20 percent from B2C. The biggest challenge on the B2C front was educating customers, since the Indian market is still not mature when it comes to activities and experiences. She says, “It’s tough to convert customers, and we are still trying to figure this out via product enhancement, Google ads optimisations and SEO.” On the B2B front, their biggest challenge is to meet the right stakeholder and get the right connect. “There are still a number of opportunities in the travel tech domain to be tapped and a huge market to crack in the activities and personalised travel sector,” she adds.
Talking about competition, Shaheen says that they have none in the Indian market, but tough ones in Europe, Hong Kong and the US. “These are billion-dollar companies and we are trying to create our own space and co-exist. In the meantime, it’s a positive sign for the right market and ultimately for market growth. We are looking forward to being India's top activity provider in the next 2-3 years.”
She feels the technology landscape has transformed in a great way in the last decade, and bets on it. She’s excited about content-based AI and user acquisition behaviour. “We collect all the important data points of our users/customers from basic data to feedback data. We hope to build an engine to reduce the acquisition cost,” she says.
Since starting up, Leamigo has grown exponentially. With over 2,000 clients, they are now handling 600 bookings per month. Says Shaheen, “I love being a multi-faceted entrepreneur who drives her team to achieve efficiency.” She lives by the mantra - "The world is still uncharted. Explore.”
Rani Pathak, Shobha Creations
Rani Pathak worked with American International Group (AIG) as a risk engineer for four years, before she realised she wanted to start something of her own. She used to work part-time organising small family events around Bangalore. “What I dreamt of doing was very different from my career, but I knew I was passionate about it, and that’s all that mattered,” she says.
So in 2018, she left her cushy job and started Shobha Creations, an event management company that caters to corporate events, weddings, naming ceremonies birthdays, theme parties, product launches and trade shows. “We provide our clients with creative themes and lasting experiences,” says Rani.
Initially, getting clients was a challenge as people preferred established event planners. Also, Rani was single-handedly managing the business. Over time she overcame these troubles. She says it’s important to understand the market and the value of your idea before starting up any business. “You need to identify what makes you stand out in the market.” She adds that unlike earlier, now technology and social media are great avenues to promote and grow your business.
The best part of her workday is creative brainstorming before an event. “It’s so fulfilling when the event goes well, and the smile on my clients’ faces – that’s all I need to make my day.” In the last one year, she has worked with more than 30 clients. She is trying to implement new-age technologies into her business, to improve customer satisfaction. “I want to establish myself as a unique and creative event planner,” she says.
Facebook SheLeadsTech for their businesses
SheLeadsTech is a programme by Facebook to support women entrepreneurs in India by providing access to community, tools, resources, mentorship, and more. As part of the programme, they are able to meet other budding entrepreneurs and get access to programmes like FbStart, monthly Ask me Anything (AMA) sessions, and so on. Basudha says the platform helped her network, set up a community circle and connect with mentors and resources.
"The free tools and credits helped us in our technology advancement and reach," says Basudha.
Priyanshi feels that connecting to other women entrepreneurs helps them clear their doubts. Rani loves the training sessions which helped her develop her network and improved her ability to present her startup better to others.
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