Airports, Airlines, Aviation

Travel startups in India

It’s no secret I have an India affinity. I studied in Hyderabad as part of my Thunderbird MBA at the Indian School of Business (ISB). I also worked in Mumbai after graduating at a Bollywood startup. Even my name has a Sanskrit origin (Chandra means moon). But no, I am not Indian (although I have to admit, when I was living in India finally I felt at home since because could pronounce my  name correctly 🙂 ).

Finally, my name makes sense!
Finally, my name makes sense!

I ultimately decided to come back to the US to grow tripchi; though not for seriously considering setting up shop in India. Ultimately, I decided that the best test market for the tripchiproduct would be the US, so it made sense for me to be closer to my consumer, partners, potential investors, travel industry colleagues, and team.

That said, there are a lot of great travel companies in India seriously making a go at it, and the industry is picking up. In this blog, I’m going to highlight some of the newer entrants to the Indian travel market, which is increasingly focused on adventure and experiential travel, and is also highly fragmented.

I actually went to grad school at ISB with the co-founder of Thrillophia, Chitra Gurnani. Founded in 2009, Thrillophia is the biggest activity travel curator in India. Over the last few years they’ve served 40,454 travelers with 1432 options across India. They specialize in experiences, team outings, and experiential tours. You can read more about them on YourStory, here (which, by the by, is an Indian Startup News outlet that has excellent coverage).

During my time in India and ISB, I also corresponded with Viswesh Gowrisankaran, the current VP of Technology at My IndiEye Travel Companions. His company is actually incubated by ISB, under the Wadhwani Centre for Entrepreneurship Development, since April 2010, and successfully raised angel capital as well. My IndiEye is developing mobile products in the tourism industry to make the experience of tourists in India much more meaningful.  Products are distributed both online on the web and the mobile, and also offline. IndieEye’s first product was for the Golconda Fort, and won an international award for the most innovative mobile initiative in tourism.

According to “The Next Big What,” the Indian travel industry is very fragmented with many vendors of various sizes offering unique experiences–but their services are hyper-local and typically limited to an area, city or community. In fact, “73% of share of the overall travel Industry in India, which is expected to reach $23 billion by the end of 2013, lies with non digital service providers.”

Other larger Indian travel agencies, such as and Cleartrip also have launched travel experiences and things to do (although I haven’t seen this from MakeMyTrip yet); while Yatra has branched into packaged experiences (check out their weekend getaways section). And of course RedBus is disrupting the way traditional bus bookings are made *a colleague from my Thunderbird MBA program is now a Product Manager over there, and things are getting interesting now that the company has been acquired).

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t space for more upstarts.

This “The Next Big What” article features several Indian travel apps, and urges would-be travel to incorporate the philosophy of “better to travel well than arrive.” Take Trip38 for example. It’s a travel planning app that actually starts planning your travel after you’ve planned your travel. If you’re not scratching your head by now, ponder this — during the “experiencing” phase of your trip (i.e. when you’re on your trip), the Trip38 app will serve up real-time info on directions, offers etc. that are relevant to your trip plans. It’s actually kinda like tripchi – serving up location aware and high-relevance content just-in-time.

ISB Campus
Indian School of Business, Hyderabad Campus. Courtesy of

Some other cool travel initiatives I stumbled upon through my ISB connections:

  • WOW club (Women On Wanderlust) is an interesting proposition targeted at women travelers. The woman traveler phenomenon is the inspiration behind Women on Wanderlust (WOW), an exclusive travel club for women that organizes all-women trips the world over. It is the perfect solution for women who want to travel, but do not like the idea of traveling alone. WOW has several hundred members and schedules many interesting holidays every year. The WOW goal is to increase the number of destinations offered, as well as increase the travel services offered.
  • The Wander Girls is a startup that organizes women only trips in India and around the world. they also organize women only events, and offer custom trip planning and tour packages.
  • Adventures Overland is a pioneer in self drive expeditions in India, specializing in organizing epic expeditions all over India and abroad.
  • Spirante a passion project which endeavor to change the way travel happens, by combining the passion for travel with a social inclusion model. To start with, the company is organizing the Himalayan Art Photo Project in Utatrakhand to revive the state’s tourism, which suffered after the recent floods.
  • Mygola has helped over 2 million travelers plan amazing trips. Travelers can plan completely personalized trips in just 15 minutes. On Mygola, travelers can find the world’s largest collection of itineraries from the savviest travelers. Using patent-pending technology, travelers can customize it to their heart’s content and then book it with ease. The platform covers more than 20,000 destinations worldwide and has won numerous awards and recognitions, including being nominated twice for the Top Innovator at PhoCusWright’s Travel Innovation Summit.
  • Have Feet, Must Travel specializes in highly personalized hand-crafted holidays according to your preferences, personality & budget. The company does not offer pre-packaged itineraries and in fact it is highly unlikely that any 2 clients will have the same itinerary for the same destination. The underlying belief is that every traveler is special with a unique set of preferences which is why every holiday is customized based on the client’s requests and budget.
  • Great Wide Open is the outcome of sheer passion of doing what you love for a living. Born of the fantasy, turned reality, of a mountain lover and a woodsy wanderer who initially thought of creating a trekking outfit, GWO has evolved into a platform for connecting adventurers and operators, allowing the opportunity for experiential travel seekers to explore the wonders bestowed on this region. Check out this snapshot from their website below for a preview of their style:

Indian Travel Startup

These are just a few of the great travel startups in India, and are thus really just the tip of the iceberg; we’re not done seeing what Indian innovators can bring to disrupt the travel industry as we know it.

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