How to Start a Travel Company with $10 - A Bootstrap Case Study
Gap in the Market
Sometimes there is just a gap in the market. And that’s what Saugat Adhikari and Pradeep Guragain saw. In 2015 there were great information gaps in Nepal’s travel industry. Notwithstanding the Gorkha Earthquake in April of that year, the travel industry in Nepal had been stagnant for quite some time. Existing agencies were using the same format they had been using to attract clients since the 1990s. Even the newer agencies were copying the tried and tested format. Or should we say, tired and tested format.
Recognising travellers were hungry for information, particularly the internet savvy generation, these two friends started blogging about a particularly trekking region. Deciding to invest their last $10 on a domain name, they started writing about the Kanchenjung Trek, a popular trek for visitors to Nepal. It was that or perhaps join the 630,000 youth who leave Nepal every year to work overseas. Life was that challenging. But sure enough emails trickled in from readers desperate to find out more. Converting those readers into clients, the pair operated treks for 10 different groups in the first six months. Using that money, they registered a travel and trekking company, and Magical Nepal was born.
In general it takes a number of years for a new company to really grow. But Magical Nepal had phenomenal growth in 2017 and 2018. Take the fact that in 2016 and 2017 they sent the highest number of trekkers to the Manaslu Region. Promoting remote regions of Nepal was the key. The old, established travel agencies continued to promote the well-trodden trails. Trekkers were thirsty for something new and different. Adhikari and Guragain ‘s experience as travellers in their own country alerted them to the pitfalls and challenges of travel in rugged areas. Determined to give others a better experience, the goal was, and still is, to provide clients with the opportunity to discuss their needs and expectations. And implement them. They had found their niche market. With 150 groups going to high altitude treks in mainly Kanchenjunga and Manaslu, Magical Nepal was onto something.
State of Play Today
Today Magical Nepal annually takes around 200 groups for their trip of a lifetime. Employing local guides they can assure guests of local area expertise. Currently they employ 25 staff as Sherpas, guides, tech team and operational manager, in addition to have taken a new business partner. Adhikari and Guragain have also opened two hotels in Kathmandu and are looking at a third.
Success Story or Good Luck?
We posed the question – is Magical Nepal’s success good luck or is there more to it. “With 97% of our clients finding us from the Internet you can see for yourself that having a good website really works”. The use of PPC, SEO and videos attract clients who are now well-versed in scrolling through the internet. In addition, they work towards energizing local communities they trek through by giving back. Something clients also appreciate.
Now, and in the future, the priority is to become the number one source of information for anyone travelling to Nepal. Their website does not just offer trekking deals but offers an overview of the country and blogs on how to travel alone and safely, and recommendations on the how, where, when and why of Nepal. In addition, the company wants to expand vertically into other travel sections and locations. Such as Everest Helicopter tour
Open for new partners, investments and innovative ideas, Magical Nepal could be just the opportunity you are looking for too.