He calls himself a backpacker with a passion for traveling. However, he is not your typical traveler who gives up on technology and society and venture out to admire the nature. He used technology for the betterment of other travelers. During his travels, he observed that there the support system for independent travelers is hopelessly obsolete, even more so given that we live in the world where technology is disrupting a new sector every day. This is what led him to launch his latest startup, Ithaka.
His vision was to create a seamlessly connected travel ecosystem that you can access through a simple, intuitive chat interface. Over time, this transforms into an intelligent system. He has masters in chemistry from IIT, Bombay, and has worked across several verticals. Being an entrepreneur, he always had the vigor to develop innovative solutions. Ithaka has already helped over 600 travelers so far.
Please provide a brief overview of your product/ service.
If you are planning a trip, isn’t the best person to talk to your friend who recently went there? Ithaka is that super helpful friend, on your Android/ iPhone! Just ping us on our app, and plan out your entire trip while chatting with us. We do NOT sell package tours, we just help you travel better independently (We are currently live for Thailand, and want to expand through SE Asia next)
What inspired you to build the above product/ service?
I am a backpacker, and I genuinely believe that the world will be a much better place if everyone traveled a just a little bit. If you look around, you see a ton of people talking about travel, but hardly anyone does. This is because it is so damn hard for the first time. There are a million websites trying to inspire you to travel, but very few actually helping you do that.
We wanted to make it easy, and we’re making it as easy as just typing ‘hello’ into a chat window
What is your life mantra?
You shouldn’t take yourself too seriously. 99% of what you do with your life doesn’t matter to anybody, anywhere. I want to try and make sure the 1% does.
What was the most challenging part of your journey till now?
Building the core team. The first thing you realise when you size up your long-term vision is that there is no way you can do it alone. You need a bunch of supremely passionate people who are way more talented than you.
Luckily, we now have a team that lives our vision of a connected travel ecosystem. It took time, but we got there
How did you overcome those challenges?
Intelligent persistence. We just try to talk to a lot of people, leverage our network, learn from them, ask for help and keep moving forward. Somehow just works.
Share some details about the investments that you have been able to fetch for the business till now.
We are bootstrapped until now, and raising our first round at the moment. But people have invested in us in non-monetary terms:
1) Hostel/ hotel/ small business owners across Thailand who believe in the idea and give us tons of free publicity and unwavering support.
2) Our team that has taken a significant pay cut for the period that we are bootstrapped.
How do you protect yourself from the problem of Brain Drain?
All of us at Ithaka have given up fast track corporate careers to build this. We’ve already brain drained them away from their previous jobs, I don’t think that will happen again.
We only bring in people we believe will take the company forward, so they have tons of responsibility and a chunk of the long-term vision that inspires them. Who’s going to give that up?
According to you, what are the three qualities an individual must have to achieve success?
- Principles. (Not morals, principles. They are very different.)
Which online tools/ services/ apps do you use the most and would like to recommend as well?
- Team communication – Slack
- Version Control – Github
Share any one habit which you think makes you more productive.
Telling people what I am doing. Every day, I tell Rahul, my co-founder, the most important thing I’m doing for the day. I ask him the same question. Makes us both focus on that and gets things done.
Share any one habit which you wish to change in yourself.
Late nights. Invariably, I start reading (blogs/ books/ articles) past midnight, and end up sleeping late. Now that I’ve told you openly, I will have to break this habit before we talk next!
Answer in less than 50 words
• One tip to success:
Find one thing you can spend the rest of your life doing (in my case, travel), and build your entire life around it.
• One mistake you believe every individual must avoid:
Sunk cost fallacy. If something’s not gonna work, ctrl + alt + del and start afresh.
• One most important lesson that you have learnt till now:
Perseverance with iteration always works out. Refer to the Quantum Tunnelling Effect
What are your plans for next 3 years?
We want to take Ithaka truly global. By the end of 3 years, we want to be delivering a superb travel experience across Asia, EU and South America.
If you get a chance to start your career again what would you do differently this time?
I’ll quote Alexander Supertramp from ‘Into the Wild’ here: “Careers are a 20th-century invention, and I’m not sure I want one.”
But if I had to go back a couple of years, I’d skip the entire IIT placements charade and start building stuff right from college.
What are your top three getaway destinations?
1) The Himalayas
2) Chiang Mai, Thailand
3) Sihanoukville, Cambodia
Share a quote that inspires you the most.
“If you don’t change your direction, you will end up where you are going.”