It’s not unusual nowadays for techies to taper off into unique professions. Follow your heart, is what works. In case of Chitra Daga, SAP expert and one of the founders of Thrillophilia, the passion for outdoors did the trick. A bad experience on a weekend trip inspired Chitra and her comrades to launch an adventure sports portal which has grown leaps and bounds. Meet Ms. Daga.
Techgoss (TG): I guess we could start with an intro.
Chitra Daga (CD): I was born and brought up in Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan. I completed my schooling from Jaipur, went on to do my engineering from Dhirubhai Ambani Institute in Gujarat and MBA in Strategy and Leadership from Indian School of Business, Hyderabad. Passionate for outdoor travel, the entrepreneur inside sparked and I cofounded Thrillophilia with Abhishek Daga. Abhishek is also an adventure freak who has great passion for hiking, paragliding, climbing and water sports. He also has great expertise in digital marketing and we clubbed our passions and expertise to build Thrillophilia.
TG: Tell us about Thrillophilia, and how did it happen?
CD: I was working with SAP and Abhishek was working with Cisco when during one of our regular weekend trips with friends, we were just upset about the services we received on the trip with respect to adventure travel. Being entrepreneurial in nature we went back, thought about this problem, did the numbers, some market research and with little domain knowledge or no business background but with a lot of passion and energy we started to build India’s biggest web portal for adventure sports. Soon we realized doing adventure was very different from building an adventure travel portal and building a business around it. We did hundreds of start up mistakes but kept on learning and moving ahead.
TG: That’s a mighty unusual name, but I guess it means being crazy about thrills. How did you zero in on the name?
CD: Yes, it certainly is a crazy name and it means “Love with thrills”. Many names were being pondered & then one of our very close friends and a silent partner in company Vikram Arora came up with this name and we all just loved it.
TG: How did the team of Thrillophilia form, were you all known to each other before or did Thrill connect you?
CD: We were four friends who got together and started Thrillophilia. We used to go on lot of hikes together. As stated earlier we realized it’s a big gap where the traveller is not able to connect with a good service provider who is not easily available on internet. After this we soon started Thrillophilia with the concept of building the biggest activity and adventure travel portal of India. Among 4 of us two of them were silent partners who contributed in terms of finances but Abhishek and I took the lead. We started from a 1BHK where we hired our first employee Anchit for sales. Cash crunches, infrastructure problems, taxes, government registrations always pushed back but the passion to succeed kept us going.
TG: What are the opportunities in this field? What is the nature of your risks? I mean literally?
CD: Immense is the word. 20% of global tourism comprises of adventure travel. It is the fastest growing segment in travel. The global market is 142 B$ and the Indian share is 2B$. People prefer to have an activity based holiday rather than a usual sightseeing trip. And there is not one big name for activity travel in India. Luxury adventure travel market is also growing very fast where people want to stay at luxury accommodations but want to experience lot of adventure activities during the trip. We aspire to be India’s biggest activity travel provider. Since the market is big and growing fast very soon you will see lot of adventure portals popping up in activity travel. You might also see big players like MMT, Yatra or Travelocity jumping into it. The major challenge for any OTA will be to organize the sector and connect the service provider with technology which we are also trying to do.
Thrillophilia on CNN – IBN
TG: How do you handle the risk part?
CD: Risk is part and parcel of the entrepreneurial journey. Once you get addicted to entrepreneurship, you have a different outlook towards a lot of things. What seems as a very high risk to the world could be just one another calculated decision for you. Thrillophilia faces less threat from other companies as Thrillophilia has a hybrid model, a strong digital presence and a very strong outdoor delivery time, which effectively means higher margins, great product quality and not an easy model to replicate and execute. Regarding the risk element during tours we have a very strong outdoor team who first works with the vendors and does all quality checks, this is typically done when trips are carried by our partners in local regions. Also Thrillophilia invests hugely in getting the best equipments and using them on trips. Most of the equipments have been procured from Switzerland and are been used across Europe too. The outdoor team is also skilled in para-medics, first aid and lifeguarding.
TG: Tell us about one incident that Thrillophilia folk have filed away into memory
CD: For any start up the most exciting moment is when you get your first customer. For us it was an Indian customer travelling to Ladakh for a hiking tour. A lot of incidents did happen during the trip where this lady had health issues and we had to do hell lot of stuff to coordinate the remaining trip. There were some great learnings too but the adrenal rush for all of us was very high during her trip as we got our first customer so we were happy but series of issues kept on coming. Today Thrillophilia has a large happy customer base. We have been successful in delivering high on class service to our customers, which has eventually paid off by having more than 200 corporate institutions and more than 18000 delighted customers on board, who trust our services completely which all started from a single step.
TG: What is the future of Thrillophilia going to be?
CD: Thrillophilia aspires to be Asia’s biggest activity travel aggregator. The outdoor team is now exploring regions outside India like Bhutan, Nepal, Thailand, Sri Lanka and very soon we will be conducting trips across all these regions with local partners. Thrillophilia has very strong digital presence with roughly 100,000 monthly visitors, 28,000 Facebook Fans and 10,000 Twitter followers. All the business is generated through web marketing and that drives the Thrillophilia business. A look at our Growth Strategy Plan is to expand on all the segments of the business be it corporate outbound or high adventure activities and introduce new segments such as youth travel and activity weekend getaway options. The strategy is to scale up operations be it sales, outdoor, marketing, technical or digital. Thrillophilia plans to grow to a team of 100 people in next 3 years. The adventure India / activity model is the more scalable model and hence we would put high focus on the same.
Currently Thrillophilia generates all its business through digital marketing. Hence a lot more effort will be put towards building a stronger technology and digital team. An in-house technology team will be built to support the web platform which will mean hiring developers, content writers and designers and also building a bigger digital marketing team to market the product across on different web platforms. Other technology investments will include development of a booking engine or CMS. Later on we will also be setting up offices in few other countries typically US /UK.