Pickyourtrail – Now Vacation Planning is a Breeze, with the Company's DIY Itinerary Building Platform

Till now what most of the travelers have been doing while booking international trips is to either book a pre-made package where one gets to see what the travel agents want to show, or go unplanned and explore things locally. However, there are drawbacks in both these ways. In pre-made packages, one has to rush through all or selected important tourist spots irrespective of one’s interest and do not get much time to experience and feel the destination. Again, going without a plan to a new destination can turn out to be a perfect disaster without proper knowledge and guidance. But thankfully now, there is a third way too, to plan your international trip. Pickyourtrail, a Chennai based travel startup is here to plan trips which are specially customized as per your interest, travel duration, etc. With these customized trips, one can explore a place at his own pace, while Pickyourtrail takes care of all the nuisances like hotel booking, activity booking and more.

Startup Name Pickyourtrail
Headquarter Chennai
Founders Hari Ganapathy & Srinath Shankar
Sector Travel and Tourism
Founded 2014
Website PickYourTrail.com
Parent Organization Travel Troops Global Pvt Ltd

About Pickyourtrail
Outbound Travel Market
Pickyourtrail Founders and team
How was Pickyourtrail Started
Pickyourtrail - Name, Tagline and Logo
Pickyourtrail - Launching Startup
Pickyourtrail - Revenue Model
Pickyourtrail - Funding and Investors
Pickyourtrail - User Acquisition
Pickyourtrail - Startup Challenges
Pickyourtrail - Competitors
Pickyourtrail - Growth
Pickyourtrail - Awards
Pickyourtrail - Future Plans

About Pickyourtrail

Pickyourtrail helps travelers take the pain out of vacation planning. The platform uses deep-tech to let travelers create, customize and book international vacations in a jiffy. Pickyourtrail’s proprietary comfort score considers more than 40 factors like duration, travel time, ratings, etc to build personalized itineraries that travelers can further customize  & book. After the trip is booked, travelers can use Pickyourtrail’s app to keep track of bookings and get real-time information on flight and weather updates, restaurant recommendations and on-trip chat support.

Some USPs of Pickyourtrail are-

•    Trips are 100% customizable
•    All-round support is provided to the traveler during the trip
•    The travelers get to choose from unlimited traveling options based on one’s own  requirements
•    Tips are tailored in a pocket-friendly manner.

Our goal is to become one of the top travel brands globally when it comes to vacations. Given that we have the piping/infrastructure in place in terms of automated bookings, independent modules there are a lot of opportunities for us to tap into newer businesses.

Outbound Travel Market

As per various reports, the total outbound travel market is about $40Bn by 2020. As per a recent WTO Report, India will account for 50 million outbound tourists by 2020. Again, as per a report by a leading OTA in India, the total outbound “online” market is $3.3B.  If you take in the global vacation market, that is a much larger number.

“We strongly believe that this is neither a winner takes it all market nor a shrinking pie; there is a large headroom for growth for us” Hari says explaining the outbound travel market.

Relevant Read: Top 10 New Trends in Business Travel You Should Be Preparing For In 2019

Pickyourtrail Founders and Team

Hari Ganapathy and Srinath Shankar are the founders of Pickyourtrail. Hari and Shankar are friends since college days. Both the founders are passionate travelers and it is their love for travel that motivated them to start Pickyourtrail.

Hari Ganapathy is an alumnus of IIM Bangalore. Prior to founding Pickyourtrail, Hari worked with prestigious companies like  Cognizant  Technology Solution, Macquarie Bank, Britannia Industries Limited, Reckitt Benckiser and InMobi.

Srinath Shankar is the calm that every org needs. His ability to break down the everyday chaos into digestible smaller units is priceless. Srinath enjoys both math and aeroplane modeling! He is the brain behind the routing, pricing and personalization algorithm at Pickyourtrail. He holds a Bachelors in Mathematics and an MBA from NMIMS Bombay. His ability to talk across subjects right from Sitcoms, bikes, wartime books, plane building to complex algorithms make him a great person to hang out with!

Team PickyourTrail

How was Pickyourtrail Started

Pickyourtrail began as an attempt to break how vacations are currently been planned and booked by travelers. The seed to all this began in August 2012 when co-founders - Hari & Srinath went on a Europe trip.

Ardent travelers themselves, the duo had put in more than 2 months to fully craft their vacation. This included planning end-end, bookings, and visa processing. It was during their trip they stumbled upon fellow travelers who were all on packaged tours. Interacting with them, Hari & Srinath understood they were literally rushed between destinations and their urge to discover new experiences wasn't fulfilled. The travelers, on the other hand, were amazed to see the flexibility Hari and Srinath had in their itinerary and that piqued their interest.

Once back home, the duo was bombarded with pings asking for details on how they went about planning the entire trip. These interactions slowly multiplied and this lead to an idea that changed their career roadmaps forever!

Pickyourtrail was a name that embodied choice and travel.

“In fact we got early customers calling it Pickmytrail and luckily we got that domain as well :)” Hari says.

Initially, Pickyourtrail’s tagline was, Stop Touring, Start Travelling, this was easily relatable to the new age travelers who didn't want to be tourists. That was also in sync with the company’s early goals of getting more folks to travel at their own pace and style. The company’s current tagline is ‘Unwrap the World’.

“As we matured and built a brand, we now have moved to Unwrap the World. We believe this helps us position the brand globally and has a lot more emotional layers than the earlier one”

Pickyourtrail’s first logo was aimed around a play on infinite options that were possible if we traveled.

Pickyourtrail's first logo

The current logo was re-built with the need that the old logo could not easily fit into various shapes and color backgrounds. Pickyourtrail wanted to move to a logo which could scale across collaterals and use cases. The new logo symbolizes a flag and P and a baggage tag as well. The ideation behind this was - a flag is generally used to symbolize a group of people united by a cause or value system.

Pickyourtrail's current logo

Pickyourtrail - Launching Startup

Pickyourtrail was  launched initially as an activity market place - the positioning was - “when was the last time you did something for the first time?” While there was a lot of traffic on the product, the traffic to conversion was quite low. Interacting with the customers, the team realized the biggest problem was no hook to book. With hotels and flights, pricing and availability were strong hooks. With an activity, there was no real hook. In this process, they realized that planning an end to end vacation was a huge hassle.
This time around the team decided to just build a minimum viable product for end-to-end travel planning, and had a simple landing page. This got Pickyourtrail almost 10000 sign-ups in the first few weeks and there was no looking back!

Pickyourtrail's initial landing page which attracted 10000+ signups within a few weeks

Looking at the great interest that people showed towards end to end travel planning, Pickyourtrail launched VEHO in 2016 –this was its first attempt at building a product where travelers can create, customize, and book vacations online.

“We were quite skeptical about market response and hence launched it under a new name VEHO. We scaled Bali on the back of VEHO and then brought it back under the mother brand in 2017”

Pickyourtrail - Revenue Model

Pickyourtrail earns revenue from affiliate commissions or partner commissions that come in from the partners with whom the bookings are done.

Pickyourtrail - Funding and Investors

Pickyourtrail raised series A funding worth $3 Million in February 2019.

Funding Date Funding Stage Funding Amount Investors
February 2019 Series A $3 Million Kumar Vembu and Shyam Sekhar and joined by Rajagopal Subramanian and Girish Mathrubootham

Pickyourtrail - User Acquisition

Pickyourtrail acquired its first set of customers from referrals and word of mouth.
"When a product or service solves long-standing pain points of customers, it accrues good karma. I still remember how our first landing page (personalized vacations, crafted by travelers) was a huge hit! We got 1000 sign-ups within a week. Our emails kept buzzing. And we actually had to start charging folks to start sending itineraries cos there was so much demand"Hari recalls

Speaking about Pickyourtail's approach to customers Hari says,"I think like most good products or services, there is always a latent demand and we seem to have hit that wall with our clear positioning. The challenge has been to continue the same amount of quality even as we scale. Every customer whom we brought on board was not a transaction but a longer LTV(Lifetime Value) view. That view has helped us build trust and build the ever-increasing repeat and referral cohort!"

Pickyourtrail also used social media extensively to reach out to customers

The first step was to ensure that we had enough followers on the Facebook page. This was around 2013 and facebook still let you bulk invite friends to like pages. We ensured that every single friend of ours helped us gain more followers by inviting folks”.Pickyourtrail  concentrated on posting original travel content that was inspirational. This helped the company gain a lot of engagement on the page without having to actually spend.

In between, Pickyourtrail also dabbled some ideas in Twitter where it would automatically be alerted for any tweet with vacation/itinerary. The team would jump in and answer those questions and plug Pickyourtrail.

The next hack that worked for Pickyourtrail was sending interesting offers to its subscriber base. Over the first 6 months, the company managed to get up to 5000 email user base and that short tactical campaign helped them garner more monies.

Hari shared another interesting technique that the Pickyourtrail team employed to get customers on board "At one point we went into competitor Facebook pages and pulled out numbers of folks who were requesting for an itinerary and called them. You would be surprised that almost 8/10 folks were unhappy with the competitor cos nobody would have responded. So we tweaked our strategy a bit and started calling folks only after a couple of days :)"

The Pickyourtrail team also used groups in FB wisely.

Rather than  promoting itself, the Pickyourtrail team used its travel knowledge to answer questions in those groups and at the same time spoke about Pickyourtrail.

Besides, answering on Quora also worked for the company. Pickyourtrail answered about everything under the sun with respect to outbound vacations which helped it attract more customers.

Currently, Pickyourtrail is actively running campaigns (paid/organic) to grow its customer base and deliver happiness.

If we had to reflect on the initial strategy - it was around building good content and distributing it. Be it FB, Twitter, Quora. And this when combined with some tactical strategies like Twitter lead alerts, or FB groups it worked quite well. Once we had a flow of customers our execution capabilities ensured that the cycle of repeat and referral kicked in as well.

Relevant Read: Plan a Tailor-Made Trip with Taxidio

Pickyourtrail - Startup Challenges

Hiring and scaling the tech team was one of the main challenges Pickyourtrail faced early on. Another issue that existed was that many supply partners did not have an online presence, making things tough for the Pickyourtrail team.

As Hari explains, “Once the tech hiring happened, we realized that a lot of supply partnerships was still offline. This meant that customers still had to wait to get their customized quotes. We weren't happy that the CX was poor because of industry constraints.  For a large part of our supply, we took huge risks and had static pricing. While there could have been potential losses, thanks to our learning algorithms we could revisit these static prices periodically to ensure we minimize exposure. Our focus on “speed as a habit” has helped us come up with quite a few of these hacks and put customer experience at the forefront of all our efforts”

Pickyourtrail - Competitors

While Pickyourtrail claims that it has no competition in terms of tech or business model, from a customer’s point of view, competition comes right from Thomas Cook, Cox and Kings, MakeMyTrip to even self-bookers.

What differentiates the Pickyourtrail from its competitors is broadly two things:
a) Itineraries that are executable - There are the host of tech companies trying to solve the trip planning problem. Given they don't take responsibility for the end experience, the itinerary is not necessarily well thought out. At Pickyourtrail, thanks to the combination of routing, personalization and pricing algorithms – the company is able to own the entire end to end consumer experience and ensure that each and every itinerary is bookable!

b) Touch + Tech Model - A vacation is an emotional purchase and needs consultative selling given that the average ticket size is around 2.5lakhs. Pickyourtrail uses tech to manage critical components like routing, pricing, etc. Parts of the vacation that need high emotional quotient like choosing cities or visa, we bring in a human touch to ensure the overall experience is seamless. This unique approach has also helped Pickyourtrail win recognition from Google and BCG.

We are extremely cautious as we try and balance the scale and standardisation game. We cannot ever put our customer happiness on the back burner. In fact, one of the key levers for our growth is unprecedented leaps in customer delight.

Pickyourtrail - Growth

●    Revenue grew ~100% over the 5 months
●    Number of travelers who picked their trail has grown by ~115% in the last 5 months
●    Peak concurrent traveler stood at 100 people in a day
●    Over 300,000 personalized itineraries have been created in the first half of the year and the company is on track to hit 1M itineraries goal on the platform by end of this year!
●    NPS score of 72 is a testimony of the unrelenting focus on customer happiness.

Relevant Read: ScoutMyTrip: Planning Amazing Road Trips

Pickyourtrail - Awards

Pickyourtrail has been recognized for its efforts and services. Some rewards and recognition, that the startup has in its kitty are-

  • Awarded the ‘Startup of the Year’ at the Tiecon Awards in October 2018.
  • Won the ‘Most Innovative Travel Startup’ award at the Travel Tech Launchpad Summit organized by FICCI in March 2018.
  • The Google-BCG Travel Trends Report June 2017, called Pickyourtrail the benchmark in the industry for its comprehensive customer experience.
  • In October 2016, Pickyourtrail was recognized as the Aussie Specialist, mate!
  • In May 2016, Pickyourtrail got into the Top 10 travel innovators at the Phocuswright Asia-Pacific Travel Innovation Summit.

Pickyourtrail - Future Plans

For the next 2-3 years, the Pickyourtrail team will be broadly concentrating on

  • Acquiring more customers on the digital medium, and try and build its own digital acquisition channel.
  • Capturing the digital-first audience of tier 2 and tier 3 towns and become their first choice.
  • Beefing up the tech team and overall tech capabilities, to ensure that its product innovation efforts continue to be one of the best in the industry.
  • There is also a larger focus on taking the product global. End of the day there is a European going to the US or an Australian going to Bali and the product is suitable even for them, and the Pickyourtrail team wants to tap this huge global customer base.
At our very heart, we want to create happiness and not sell packages. We aspire Pickyourtrail to be the go to platform for do it yourself vacations and unite like minded travelers.
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About Chayanika Goswami

Chayanika is an MBA in Finance and a trained Digital Marketer. SEO and content writing are her hobbies turned profession. She is a rover. In her free time, she loves traveling and cracking jokes.