Here the story of how it all started (please excuse my writing skills) :
March 2007 :
A spoilt brat forced to do a Btec in Computing and business applications,chilling by the Ganga Riverside in Rishikesh with 5 days remaining to submit the final year project on how to build an e-commerce business and market it.
Being a backpacker myself and hanging out with a few more, all of a sudden I realized that there was officially no Travel company in India focusing to the "Backpacker" segment and thus came about the name "IndianBackpacker.com"
In the pic : The exact place in Rishikesh (Goa Beach) where it all started from.
The Idea motivated me to start as I was always passionate about Backpacking and India. My first aim was to make sure that any foreign Backpacker who landed in India to backpack did not get cheated.
With very little money (Rs 9960 from my previous employers Provident fund) and no support I launched the very first version of the site in 2007 with just a basic flash file playing My travel photos and 4 articles that I managed to write guiding foreign Backpackers on Budget Travel, safety and Use of illegal drugs
Within a month I realized that this site could maybe be a little more than just information and I wrote to an Irish company www.hostelworlds.com to become their affiliate and integrate a Hostel booking widget so that Backpackers heading off to India could also book through the site.
By this time it was already early september 2007 with the first version of the website all done and uploaded with the Booking engine integrated.
We never really got anyone to book with us for almost another 2 months when all of a sudden we got our very first booking from an Australian Female who not only booked for a few nights but booked hostels all across India for more than 30 days (our very first sale commission of 40$)
By this time I had also enrolled in for a full time MBA so the site was still more of a passion than a business.
June 2008 :
By this time the site had got a little more popular on search engine (thanks to very less or no competition in the sector) and people had started to write in to me to get personal advice on Backpacking through India.
Thats when I asked one of my old college buddies Manu Mehta (an amazing designer who was with me in my Btec as well as MBA ) to join in and help me build a better website and add more info on the site.
He agreed and we launched our second version of the website with a whole lot of new stuff starting from Articles on Destinations (written by locals of every place) to a new section for Tips & Advice for Backpackers with not only a hostel booking engine but also a Bus booking integration and an affiliate program for flights to India.
The response was so amazing that I had started skipping my MBA classes to work more and more towards helping more and more backpackers enjoy their Backpacking trip to India.
By this time I was still unaware of the fact that I was headed towards the awesome path of being an Entrepreneur.
Being in college doing a MBA and working side by side on an amazing passion project was all easy and motivating. The actual fight started when college got over in 2009 and it was time to take a decision of taking up a job or trying to change the passion project into a business.
I chose to go for a Job.
But not to make money, it was to better understand the people I wanted to sell my business concept to.
I started working at a Call centre in Gurgaon,WNS with Travelocity.com as our client. I took calls, worked weird hours and found very little time to give into "Indian Backpacker" but somehow still managed to answer all the queries I got.
By Dec 2009 I had figured out what a customer is ready to pay for and how bigger travel companies make their money. (as making money of flights/hotel commissions was very less for companies to survive and grow)
And Thus I put in my papers in Dec 2009 to take up "The Indian Backpacker" full time.
I had saved a little money from working at this job and wanted to grow more with the concept and planned yet another website update this time we planned to introduce our online "Backpacking gear Store" too but sadly that did not work very well and we had to shut it down.
The only good thing was rather than being an affiliate we had managed get white labels done for bookings and a better design with lot more content.
This year is when something amazing happend, I came across a business plan submission to get funded on a Reality Business show "The Pitch" and life was never the same.
Randomly submitted my business model and the concept details on the website for Pitch and was happy to get selected amongst the top 50 ideas who would get a chance to get selected amongst the top 10 business ideas with a chance for getting a fun of 5 crores.
Auditions for The PITCH and meeting one of the most awesome person ever,Alok Kejriwal as one of Judges.
I did get selected in the Top 10 business ideas but never won the entire show or the funding, however what I did win was Motivation and Confidence worth much more than the funding offered.
In the Pic : A bunch of the most fantastic people I have ever come across - Contestants from THE PITCH
Knowing the fact that the idea had potential, the next hurdle was to form the right team to brain storm on ideas and work towards making Indian Backpacker a success. As easy as it sounds, it was the toughest challenge that I EVER faced.
Finding the right team or rather even a team member was the biggest problem as my earlier Partner/helping friend Manu Mehta had to quit due to some personal problems.
Jan 2011 - The Year of struggle
This was one of the most tough years to work alone, motivate myself to continue and at the same time be happy and make sure I try to grow the company from where it is.
The only good thing that came out of this year was the development our new Backpacker focused product called "Backpacker Training Program" wherein we had started training first time Backpackers in a small session on things like what to eat,how to be safe in India,precautions of drugs along with a special bargaining session for them at local markets to make sure they are all ready for India.
Almost at the verge of quitting I met Arjun Guleria in Dec 2011 through a common friend who was interested in starting up and before I knew I had a partner at the Indian Backpacker to bring in a new year of higher growths and great motivation.
March 2012 -
With Arjun motivated and taking up the challenges head on, we decided to come up with yet another version of our website (our current website) which now would not only focus on getting in bookings for Backpackers but also to build a community of Backpackers by introducing a forum,creating user profiles as well as enhancing the destinations with more and more tips for Backpacking in India.
Nov 2012 -
The no of queries had grown with the launch of our new version and we came across Archit, one of the partners at the firm to whom we had outsourced our Adventure activities. Archit just seemed perfect to join our core team at The Indian Backpacker.
The Indian Backpacker Team - Akshay Chhugani, Archit Rakheja and Arjun Guleria
Current situation -
To know more Please do visit www.indianbackpacker.com
akshay... your story gives me goosebumps. it shows how a dream, a hobby, a passion, an idea.... when truly pursued can become something so wonderful...! to me, you are a case study - for you have created huge value in the travel space of india.
and you are so so humble!!! i feel so proud when i tell people that you are a rodinhooder :)
there is so much youngsters can learn from you. thank you for sharing your story with us!
Wow Thank u soo much Asha, I dont know if I am humble or not but you surely are very kind with your words :) .....thank you for motivating me to write it all down
As Asha rightly said, its a Case Study, that kinda exemplifies the saying, "Survival of the Fittest"..
All the very Best!!
Thank us so much Vijay, its always motivating to hear such a thing :)
Thanks Sarang, I am glad you liked it :)
Bro, this one is a sure shot script for a successful book / movie on entrepreneurship !!
hoping to bump into you someday !!
keep backpacking . . . keep wandering.
Haha Thanks man....I do plan to write a book hopefully soon :) ....would love to catch up some time soon.
Amazing story, very well written. The best part is when it says:
"And Thus I put in my papers in Dec 2009 to take up "The Indian Backpacker" full time.", followed by an apt and amazing logo (I really like the font & color).
It exactly portrays you as the backpacker ready to start a new journey. Good luck for a bright future ahead.
Thanks Rahul, it surely was a turning point in my life to make that awesome decision :)
I have known Akshay since the days of Pitch!
His passion for entrepreneurship is visible when we meet him!
Also, one thing he hasnt mentioned here is, his love for CSR!
For one of the Rotaract Events we were conducting, he willingly gave a cheque, because he associated himself with the cause, without even asking for any returns or any specific brand mentions!
Kudos to you man!
All the very best in everything you do!
Hey thanks a lot buddy :) ....alwaz motivating to hear such a thing....Cheers !!