Startups are a roller coaster. Everyday comes with a new set of challenges and motivations. When we started Pickyourtrail on Jan 1st, 2014 – we dreamt that we would one day get to a place where folks could come to our website, discover things to do, build an international vacation itinerary of their taste and book it – completely online. The experience of having to browse 38 sites or waiting for a travel agent to revert was alien to the times and tech capabilities we were in. E-comm was booming, I had personally seen mobile advertising grow at a scorching pace and we were convinced that online was no more a channel but the path to growth.
Having crafted 1000+ international vacation trails in excel and backend tools, In April 2016 we rolled out VEHO – our MVP. (What is an MVP?) We didn’t want to risk the brand Pickyourtrail and hence spun off with a sub-brand. VEHO was built on the learning from our customers and we rolled it out with just 8 markets. Nothing fancy – the design was functional. it was a conscious call even though an international vacation was an emotional experience. In Oct 2016, on the back of early success of VEHO we decided to take the next leap of faith and build a fully blown consumer product. In 9 months VEHO helped us double revenues with zero addition to the team – we hit nitro-boost mode.
On March 30th – a full 6 months later we launched the product. We opened to rave reviews. 1000+ leads in less 10 days. Zero $ spent. Love from travellers, customers, early adopters and tech enthusiasts. And on the night of 6th April something unexpected happened.
The Eureka Moment
Close to midnight, we got a payment email from the product. Given I don’t have context of every client, I assumed it was another new conversion. I walked into office on the 7th – and I see that the sales team is buzzing. They are trying to understand whose client it was. With VEHO we have had clients who have just chatted over the product and booked the vacation. While it was surely an improvement from physical walk-ins – it still needed *travel advisor inputs*. With Vikas, it was different.
At 10:48pm on 6th April Vikas visited Pickyourtrail. At 11:53 he booked his vacation. To put things in context – when was the last time you purchased an emotional product worth Rs. 300,000 in less than a 60 minutes. And was that done online?
In about 60 minutes, he had actually booked his vacation. It was a first, it was the dream come true moment. The product was making money when we were asleep.
The joy was just not the fact that we had an automated booking – but the fact that the product was working – it was intuitive, easy to use and Vikas had actually gone ahead built an itinerary, changed hotels and even changed the insurance category. The feeling had barely sunk in when we got another automated booking on Sunday evening. This time it was to Bali. And we had another today – to Europe.
Such phases in a startup is what define its purpose. These high phases put in perspective the awesomeness of the team, the unending passion that everyone brings into work day in and day out, amplifies the unsaid trust you have on your co-founder and most of all gives folks who have cheered from the sidelines a reason to celebrate. Its one of those phases where the problem is quite clear and you have control over the direction of the company. The challenge is now just to get more folks to try the product and build on it. And that’s what keeps us awake at night. We live to fight another day, with more energy than before, with more conviction than ever.