India has emerged as the fastest growing base for start-ups worldwide, and has secured a place among the top five largest start-up communities in the world; the travel industry comprises a major part of it.
Travel start-ups in India have undoubtedly steered the industry forward with their innovative approach and contemporarily tailored solutions. The tourism sector has vouched for investments worth billions of dollars in the recent past and is expected to attract USD 132.9 billion by 2025. Moreover, according to the India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), the contribution of travel and tourism industry to GDP is expected to grow by 7.2 pc per annum during 2015–25.
While MakeMyTrip, Cleartrip, Zomato, Digivalet, DetoursIndia, TravelKhana, StayZilla and Ola, among many others, have already established themselves in the market, the Indian travel start-up ecosystem doesn’t seem to limit itself to only these. Be it technology, health, e-commerce, fund raising, consultancy or any other industry, a myriad of start-ups are spurting in the country, making it one of the fastest expanding bases for startups in the world, and travel is evidently one of the main areas it is serving.
One such newbie in the travel industry, which launched operations in February, is India Assist – a mobile application, with the motto, ‘travel stress free’, to provide a helping hand to travellers who may need assistance at the time of any distress while visiting the country.
“When I was in the US, people were generally very excited about visiting India, but, they had a concern if the place is safe and if someone would practice some kind of forgery. So, we planned to come up with something that the tourists can rely upon,” says Harish Khatri, Founder, India Assist.
“If any tourist needs assistance, they can simply press a button in our app and they will be connected to our call centre. In case of absence of internet connectivity, assistance can also be provided via a call at our toll free number. And, if required, we also send ground assistants where they can see each other on screens. We are providing help on Forex and visa as well through this app, which will be open to customers for service by April this year,” he further informs.
Over the last ten years, India has caught the sight of numerous emerging travel start-ups with OYO, TripHobo, Tripoto, Guiddoo, Tripshelf, Hive Travel Media Solutions, OyeSeva, Nafex, The Trip Works and YuMiGo, to name a few, and some of them have even managed to create a fairly good user base in no time.
“I used Travel Triangle for two of my outbound trips. From listing the attractions to creating itineraries, booking hotels and tours, the platform is helpful and easy to use,” says Ritik Sharma, a student from New Delhi.
Co-founded by Sankalp Agarwal, Sanchit Garg and Prabhat Gupta, Travel Triangle is another travel start-up founded in 2012, with a personalised approach. Within five years, the establishment today has a team of more than 300 people and a network of over 650 agents across the globe, which are serving one million travellers.
Paving a path To support these entrepreneurs, both the government and private organisations are coming forward to lend a helping hand. Last year, the government initiated a campaign – Startup India – aimed at promoting financing for start-ups to boost entrepreneurship and encourage start-ups with job creation. Also, the government is focussing on restricting role of states in policy domain and to get rid of license raj and hindrances like land permissions, foreign investment proposals and environmental clearances. Besides this, to endorse the campaign, the first magazine for startups in India, The Co-Founder, was also launched in 2016.
Furthermore, the government is now working to replace the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) in order to empower administrative departments to approve FDI proposals.
Not just government backing, but other initiatives like ‘10,000 STARTUPS’, by NASSCOM (National Association of Software and Services Companies), offer warehouse facilities, connections, industry partnership programmes, assist young entrepreneurs in India by bringing all the stakeholders together and by bridging the knowledge gap that exists within the start-up ecosystem.
“Such initiatives don’t just throw light on the long road to success, but, also help nurture and provide support and access to possibilities that help establish the product and brand value in the market. It makes sense to fund mainly those projects that have viable revenue model without burning too much cash. This kind of funding will keep morale high for investors as well as entrepreneurs,” says Moqierish Tak, Co-founder, India Assist.
Not to mention, as a part of its mandate to further enhance India’s digital drive in the travel and tourism industry, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) has launched its maiden initiative aimed at travel start-ups -Travel Tech Launchpad – with an objective to encourage entrepreneurship and technology innovation in the field of travel and hospitality.
While many have already established themselves in the market, others are kick starting new ventures to further diversify the start-up ecosystem and there seems to be no lack of support.
Indian travel start-ups
Co-founded by Chitra Gurnani and Abhishek Daga in 2009, this Bangalore-based start-up focuses on activity-based excursions rather than just flat sightseeing. The adventure travel company brings an experience for thrill lovers with best handpicked local exposures to offer a completely offbeat action, ranging from ecological exploration to activity-based tourism, corporate tours to honeymoon trips with adventurous activities and wildlife getaways.
The Pune-based company, co-founded by Praveen Kumar, Saket Newaskar and Karthik Ramachandra, intends to make travel sharable and personally tailored. This trip-planning platform enables users to plan itineraries from over 14,000 cities across the world and also assist in exploring attractions, booking hotels, transportation and tours.
We Are Holidays
Co-founded by Deepak, Harkirat, Mohit and Prashant in 2011, this online platform provides a place to research, plan, book and share holidays with local and international destination experts, from across the globe.
Ixigo is a travel-based search engine, cutting across many dimensions of travel, including cabs, buses, trains, flights, hostels, hotels and home stays, to assist travellers in planning their journey efficiently. Started in 2007 by Aloke Bajpai and Rajnish Kumar, iXiGO has won several awards and was included in the ‘Top 10 Hottest Start-ups to Watch Out For’ in its initial operational year itself by Business Today.
SeekSherpa is India’s first mobile marketplace that connects travellers and locals to travel together, where locals are the ‘sherpas’ to travellers and guide them in doing some of the coolest activities in the city they are visiting. On the other hand, the travellers help locals to find employment by sharing their knowledge depending upon their dispositions.