Travspire Tnooz TLabs
 

Travspire wants to inspire travellers to experience handpicked activities

Even when the travel industry is trying to go online, be digitally accessible, trying to offer all services online, taking advantage of SoLoMo features, we have a startup that goes back to basics.

India-based Travspire is into the business of providing offbeat travel experiences to travellers, with a mix of online and offline channels.

As the company name suggests (travel and inspire), the company personally experiences/tests each of the activity/tour and adds it to their inventory in the hope that users will be moved enough to select a product.

Travspire Tnooz TLabs

Travspire isn’t a marketplace (for any tour guide to add their inventory) unlike many emerging startups in this space. Rather, the startup handpicks offbeat activities, puts it to a test, adds to its inventory and executes it with their chosen partners on the ground.

Travspire has three co-founders: Arjun Bhat, Ami Naik, and Satya Tammareddy. Currently, Arjun and Satya are working full-time.

Travspire Founders - Ami Naik, Arjun Bhat, Satya Tammareddy

Left to right - Ami Naik, Arjun Bhat, Satya Tammareddy

The company is self funded, with some funding from the Wharton Innovation Fund.

Satya Tammareddy tells Tnooz why the founding team started Travspire,

All three founders have a deep connection with India. We came together because we’ve tried to travel in India at different points, but have found it really difficult to do so in a way that feels truly authentic and off the traditional tourist track. We wanted to provide this opportunity for others – so started investigating the market last summer and launched Travspire.com in February this year.

Travspire believes the Indian activities market to be around $3 billion, out of the overall India travel market of $22 billion.

The company generates revenue from booking of experiences, either through a commission or markup on the activity cost. They are also looking at adopting a consultant model in their target destinations as a way of sourcing experiences so that it becomes easy to scale and increase profitability.

Travspire Tnooz TLabs 2

Q&A with Satya below.

Describe what your start-up does, what problem it solves and for whom?

Travspire allows travellers to discover and book very local and offbeat travel experiences in India. We curate these experiences and personally try and test each and every one of them. These experiences appeal to the discerning traveller, particularly international travellers who want to get a flavour of locals and Indians who would like to do more offbeat track activities.

Why should people or companies use your startup?

We believe our experiences are,

  • Very unique and localised compared to competitors products
  • Personally curated and tried and tested by us
  • Readily bookable online

We believe this combination makes Travspire very appealing for anybody who is planning to explore the real India.

Other than going viral and receiving mountains of positive PR, what is the strategy for raising awareness and getting customers/users?

We have ramped up our social media strategy, with an active Facebook page where we share,

  • Our experiences as we add them
  • Photos sent by our customers. Picking a best photo among these every week and announcing under our ‘Photo of the week’ section, this also acts as travel inspiration for our followers
  • Travel quotes – This has raised awareness of our brand and has increased user engagement, particularly given users love to “share” travel related photos

Additionally, we have launched a blog which features interesting content twice a week, including posts from the founders, guest contributors as well as interviews of interesting people. So far, this has driven a lot of unique visitors to our website and has helped us gain some users.

Finally, we have engaged with India’s top travel bloggers to try our experiences in Kerala, so exposure to their massive follower base will raise awareness of Travspire in the travel community and potentially enlist customers.

Unlike other emerging startups in this similar space, why Travspire isn’t a marketplace for any tour operator / travel guide to list their itinerary?

Our whole business model is focused on curation – we have a very high standard for experiences to make our list, and for this to happen, we try and test every one of these experiences.

We select the vendors we work with based on their offering, attention to detail and customer service.

Making Travspire a marketplace for any tour operator to list their itinerary would mean we would lose control over this, which is essentially the crux of our offering.

Competition?

We believe our competitors are companies such as GetYourGuideViatorTushkyHighOnTravel and Poshvine. However, we believe three features differentiate us from them:

  1. We have personally curated experiences that are off the beaten track and very local, whereas Viator or GetYourGuide offer traditional tours
  2. At Travspire, we source all activities ourselves, we are not a market place like Poshvine is
  3. We personally verify the quality of each experience by trying and testing it
  4. Our booking process is very simple, right from discovery of the experience to checkout, whereas companies such as HighOnTravel and Travel Triangle are more of a planning service which do not allow you to book an experience on the spot.

How did your initial idea evolve? Were there changes/any pivots along the way? What other options have you considered for the business if the original vision fails?

As mentioned above, our idea evolved from a personal pain point – we found it really difficult to travel in India in a way that is really authentic and off the traditional tourist track.

We initially toyed with the idea of curating boutique hotels, but found the space quite crowded and difficult for small players to enter. So we veered away from that into the “tours and activities” segment – in fact, a few of our experiences to date include a stay at a great boutique hotel – for instance, our heritage getaway to Fontainhas, Goa features a stay at a beautiful heritage hotel.

If the original vision fails, we can always shift our idea to where demand lies – for instance, we are seeing a greater demand for “weekend getaways” so we are introducing this product to our offering. We are constantly assessing what’s working and adjusting our approach accordingly.

Where do you see yourselves in 3 years time, what specific challenges do you hope to have overcome?

We see ourselves as a leader in India for local and offbeat travel experiences, possibly with a footprint in other countries in the region such as Sri Lanka and Indonesia.

Challenges that we may face, but which we hope to overcome are:

  • Ensuring the highest quality of experiences when we scale
  • Integrating a seamless backend system for inventory, which will be increasingly difficult with scale

What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that requires another startup to help it out?

While the travel, tourism and hospitality industry is continuing to grow and evolve in India, there is a large gap in terms of providing travellers with itineraries that are not just typical “tick-the-box” type tours.

We believe there is a long way to go in India for experiential travel – if you have a friend in a particular location, you will have easy access to this, but for the traveller who does not know a local in a destination, this will be difficult. This is the gap we hope to bridge with Travspire.

Tnooz view

Offbeat travel in India is still at nascent stage. But, they are on the rise, travellers are looking for new and different travel experiences. The affordable price (compared to a Rs 60,000/USD 1200 for 5-day international holiday) of offbeat getaways also fuel the growth of this segment.

In the hotel sector, we have numerous portals that lists hotels in Tier 1 cities, and very few sites like Stayzilla focus on hotels in Tier 2 and Tier 3 places.

On that line, for tours and activities in India (and elsewhere in Asia) there are not many Stayzilla-equivalent sites that lists non-tourist places and activities. There are startups like Triip.me (TLabs here), Indiescapes (TLabs here), TushkyHighOnTravel and Poshvine in Asia that are emerging to address this space.

I met Travspire founders and had a lengthy discussion about the company, the market, local and global competitors, changing consumers need. The founders are very focused on carefully selecting offbeat activities and creating a customer-wow-experience even that means slow scaling of inventory. The founders’ focus is a positive sign for Travspire. Each of them have travelled significantly.

The main challenges that we see in this model is scalability. Since the model depends on partners for executing the activity on the ground, it is going to be challenging when the company scales out of India. Maintaing the same quality experience irrespective of the destination in Asia is going to be challenging. But, at the same time, it is not something that cannot be addressed.

On the global landscape, we have already seen acquisition happening in this segment with GetYourGuide acquiring Berlin-based Gidsy in April this year.

With numerous startups emerging in this sector, the acquisition possibility in near future is high.

NB: TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.

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Karthick Prabu

About the Writer :: Karthick Prabu

Karthick was general manager for Tnooz in Asia until September 2014.

 

Comments

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  1. Sandeep

    Good to see more & more offbeat travel & activity aggregators in Indian space. Its bound to grow, though currently its very small market. One should pivot around some key products though to differentiate. Best Wishes !!!

     
 
 

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