Travellers are a nice bunch of people. And so ISB Hyderabad graduates Anirudh Gupta and Michael Lyngdoh decided to bring explorers bitten by wanderlust on one platform. Tripoto came into existence, as an Internet based Travel Start-up, and reads today like a success story.

Based out of Delhi, Anirudh and Michael are on a mission to build an interactive crowd-sourced itineraries based platform for travelers across the globe, to bring them together on the path less taken with the help of maps, pictures and travel stories. The fact that all these itineraries are by real travelers and not custom-made by some tour-company, makes all the difference. With a huge following of more than 200,000 people on Facebook, this is a start-up you have to watch out for.

THE CITIZEN caught up with Anirudh Gupta (co-founder, Tripoto) to discover more about the world’s fastest growing travel start-up.

Q: We have companies that offer standardized Holiday and Tour packages with one-fits-all itinerary for their customers. When did you realize that travel shouldn’t be limited to visiting so-called tourism hubs revolving around essential sightseeing and important landmarks?

Anirudh: I spent my childhood in Jammu & Kashmir. When I was in class 8th, I went on a trip to Agra. It wasn’t really hard to realize how commercialized and vast the tourism sector is. Back then, information was hard to find. It was always obvious to me that this is a better path. With the advent of internet and ease in sharing of information, it became easier to propagate this idea. It was the right time to start Tripoto in 2013 when Internet based tourism industry was at the verge of exploding anyway.

Who is your target audience? How much share of your audience comes from India and abroad?

Currently, 80% of our audience comes from India, but eventually we would like to target all travelers. We want to become a global platform. Our target group right now is the age group of 18-35 years old people who are slightly aware about travel. We receive nearly 1.4 million unique sessions per month on web and mobile combined.

Is there a mechanism in place that verifies the authenticity of itineraries shared by a traveler?

We have a basic approval mechanism where we scan through everything that is uploaded on Tripoto. But scanning too deeply is counter-productive in case of user-generated content. That is how it works around the world. Even Tripadvisor works on that logic. We rely on our users to upload the content. Number of people who put wrong information is very low. But since Tripoto is about user-experience, if a user says that their experience on a particular place or trip wasn’t nice, we can’t say otherwise.

What amount of funds have you raised so far? How do you plan to use your funds in the next six months?
In November 2014, we raised our first round of funding of $400,000 from Outbox Ventures. We raised our second round of funding led by IDG Ventures in February 2015 of an undisclosed amount. We are soon going to raise another round of funding in the coming months. Our plan is to use funds on –

(a) Building solid technology- Technology plays a big role in how information shared on our platform gets more effective for our users.

(b) Increasing the reach- we will put efforts in increasing both- our online and offline reach.

(c) Global expansion- we have parked certain amount of funds that would be used to expand outside India.

For a start-up, building a great team goes a long way in its success. Attracting great talent is, I believe, one of the biggest hurdles that start-ups face. How do you make sure that you are not compromising on the quality of your team in times where people are attracted towards big names and fat-paychecks? Tell us about your hiring strategy.

You really need to have good people around. We don’t compromise on quality. Even if it takes time and the process is expensive, we make sure that we get the right people on board. I think this is very important. We try to get people who really want to work here. Of course, the ability also counts, but if someone really likes to do something, then that also makes a huge difference. Having said that, it is still hard to acquire good talent in a start-up.

Due to low entry-barriers, we may see a lot of new ventures exploding in the Indian Internet based Travel Start-up community pouncing upon you to get their share of pie. Do you perceive it as a threat to Tripoto? Who are your real competitors? We also have a New York based start-up called ‘Vayable’ in a similar domain. How do you plan to compete with them?

Vayable is older than Tripoto and a slightly different model too. You can book local tours on Vayable, but currently, Tripoto is into sharing of information. We are not into any kind of booking services.

Also, I don’t think there’s a low-entry barrier. Building a community is very hard. To get a billion people sharing content and participating actively isn’t an easy job. It is easier to build a transaction site like Expedia or Makemytrip. If someone wants to create a Facebook/twitter now, it is going to be really hard. And scaling up such a community is even tougher.

In the long term, we want to be Tripadvisor 2.0. We are doing something which is very new. In the current landscape, there are various Companies in India trying similar things on different models. You have Triphobo that is doing something in crowd-sourced itinerary, HolidayIQ is also building a community but everyone probably has slightly different models. In short to medium term, you can call them our competitors, but in long term, we will see which of these companies scales up. We hope it is us and our model is successful.

Tell us about your business model. How do you generate revenues? Is it largely based on advertisement?

Our Business model right now is very similar to that of Tripadvisor. We are relying on the three already established models-

(a) Advertising

(b) Affiliate model- we have already integrated with websites like Expedia.

(c) Lead generation- we haven’t activated it right now.

Currently, revenue is not our focus, but building a great community and product is. As we develop our product, maybe we can figure out new business models as well.

What are your views on the start-up culture in India? What hurdles (legal, raising funds etc) you faced while starting out? Has anything changed on ground level since the new Government took charge?

I don’t know if it is related to the new government taking charge, but efficiency is increasing a lot. Capital is more easily available right now than it was 2 or 3 years back. Appetite of investors and entrepreneurs has gone up too. So, the number of innovative models that come out of India will increase. Lots of companies are trying to do things that have a global impact. Indians are not shy to build global companies or the companies that are really global in quality even if they are serving Indian customers. So, yes, the things have definitely improved a lot. And I think we will see a lot of big companies coming out of India in the near future.

That being said, there exist quite a few hurdles for the start-ups-

(a) Talent acquisition- Great talent is locked up in big companies. Appetite to take risks is quite low.

(b) Logistics- You don’t have silicon valley type logistics. I think Bangalore has better logistics as compared to Delhi. There are difficulties in running a small office firm. The way internet and electricity goes down- these thinks really impact your productivity.

Flipkart recently announced moving to an App-only format for mobile users by shutting down its mobile site in a year’s time. How much traffic do you receive through your App? Are mobile based apps the new way forward?

We receive a lot of traffic from our App. 60-65% of our traffic is mobile based. But we still want a web presence because our nature of business is different. Lot of people publish their content on Tripoto using our web product. Travel research and the business around it is slightly complex. It is not a one-step transaction. So, we are going to carry forward our growth on web too and we are not going to get into an App-only strategy. I think it is upon each business to decide their course of future or whatever works best for them.

On a slightly personal note, what’s on the top of your bucket list as far as travelling is concerned?

(Chuckles!) Japan is definitely on my list. Africa is another place that is in my bucket-list. Also, North-East India is on priority too. These are the three places that are currently on my mind.

We hope Tripoto goes on to disrupt global travel industry, and change the way we experience travel even as he builds a community of wanderers.