How B2B travel startup TravClan hit Rs 100 Cr in sales in just 14 months of starting up
Bespoke travel preferences and tailor-made experiences have shaped the tours and travel industry in the past decade. In tune with the changing trends and the customer behavior, the industry too has evolved, with technology percolating down from ideation to execution of the trips.
While on the consumer’s side, tech-driven changes have inevitably made their presence felt, the same cannot be said for the B2B space within the travel industry. Service providers like travel agents and suppliers still heavily rely on offline practices, a trend that has presented itself as a unique opportunity to disruptive startups aiming to organise and standardise this segment.
Delhi-based B2B startup TravClan – the name, representative of the “community of travel professionals” – is working on these very lines. Incepted in October 2018 by three seasoned professionals, Chirag Agrawal, Ashish Thapliyal, and Arun Bagaria, the platform is a marketplace for travel agents and suppliers to buy-sell travel products, like holiday packages, hotels, activities, transfers etc.
“Our financial and marketing solutions allow small and medium travel business owners to grow their businesses,” says the founding team, “and help us earn our revenue in a sustainable manner by partnering with our users.”
The end goal, as they explain, is not to act as an intermediary like most other B2B platforms. It is to empower each stakeholder across the value chain and, in the process, build an online community of travel professionals, facilitating transactions in the cheapest, fastest, and easiest way using technology.
The founders’ story
The biggest advantages for team TravClan are the strong background of its founders and the varied experiences that they bring to the table.
The founding team of TravClan.
Ashish, who serves as the Co-Founder and CTO, is a seasoned tech leader and growth hacker. With more than 20 years of experience in the industry, he has a successful track record when it comes to building tech startups – he was the founding member and ex-CTO of Cars24 and FabFurnish.
Interestingly, it was at Cars24 that Ashish’s path collided with Arun’s, an IIM-Bangalore graduate who was leading new product development for the used car marketplace at the time. Besides Cars24, Arun has also worked in business and product roles at TravelTriangle and Tripfactory.
The relationship between Arun and Chirag, the third member of the founding team (also an IIT-Roorkee and IIM-Ahmedabad graduate with experience as a business leader at TravelTriangle and Oyo Rooms), however, goes back a long way. They met in Mumbai through a common friend, and have been friends for the last eight years. They also worked together at TravelTriangle.
Between the three of them, the founders have not only worked with several travel companies but also, as they put best, have personally felt the challenges a travel agent faces in finding reliable service providers; a realisation that prompted them to bridge the gap and provide wider access of reliable suppliers to travel agents.
More than a marketplace
The functioning of the B2B startup goes beyond that of a mere marketplace. On TravClan, travel agents share their requirements, and in turn, the team matches them to the right supplier after looking at more than 25 variables.
Suppliers, on the other hand, provide real-time quotes on the requirement shared by travel agents and “we provide an escrow mechanism for the two parties to close the transaction”, explains the founding trio.
“The buyer pays us and we pay to the seller on completion of the trip. This ensures the money is protected,” they say, explaining how this is beneficial to the suppliers as well, since they don’t need to bother about collection of payments.
With this tech-based fintech and marketing solution in place, the startup, targeting small and medium-sized business in the travel sector across Tier II and III cities in India and Southeast Asia, has been able to achieve 30 percent month-on-month growth without spending on marketing or giving any discounts.
"We have crossed Rs 100 crore in annual sales run rate within 14 months of starting up, owing to rapid partner on-boarding and super-high repeat on the platform," the founders explain.
TravClan today, also boasts 7,000+ travel agents and suppliers on the platform with completely organic growth.
“The largest suppliers for Singapore, Thailand, and Dubai are now working with TravClan,” claims the team, adding, “Our revenue has been growing in line with the overall business, and has grown 50x since January. We are already near contribution margin positive.”
Cultivating ‘culture’ and hiring right talent
A disruptive idea is just one half of the success story; the remaining depends on execution, that too continuous execution. For this, having the right minds come together as a team is of utmost importance.
The men behind TravClan, now a team of around 45 tech and non-tech professionals, swear by this.
“Our users love us and we have seen great retention and repeat from both buyers and sellers on the platform,” they tell us. “However, to continue to build the largest global travel company we need to constantly attract top talent.”
Another aspect the founders are particularly mindful about is building the right culture and creating the right environment for teams to grow.
“We have relentlessly focused on building for the long term and our culture is the biggest aspect of it,” they say.
Culture, a disruptive proposition, and a well-capitalised business – combined together, the TravClan founders appear to have cracked the perfect recipe to take on the B2B travel market.
Little surprise then that a little over a year after inception, the startup has already garnered interest from VCs and investors, as it looks to expand its footprint across newer geographies.
“We are confident that we can continue to grow at a rapid pace of 10x every year and reach 5-7 percent of market share in India within the next couple of years,” the founders say. “We plan to launch operations in Southeast Asia and Middle East in 2020.”
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)