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There is a breed of travelers, who hates the one size fits all travel packages. Those, who want to explore places at their own pace, rather than rushing through the hyped sites of a destination. For those who prefer their holidays to be planned with a personal touch over any auto-generated itinerary, there is Ithaka. This Mumbai based platform plans your trips just the way it fits you best with the assistance from experienced travelers.
Know more about Ithaka Startup Story, Founders, Business Model, Funding etc., in the article ahead.
Ithaka - Company Highlights
- Startup Name-Ithaka
- Founders-Rahul Singh & Mithilesh Said
- Sector-Travel Planning App
- Parent Organization-Traveljunkie Solutions
About Ithaka and How it Works
Ithaka was launched as an in-destination experience booking website. Today Ithaka is a chat-based travel planning app, that covers destinations from Thailand, Bali, Europe, UAE, Singapore, Malaysia and Turkey. The Ithaka app is available for both Android and iOS.
Our vision is to build a seamless ecosystem for travel. We want to take ownership of your travel experience from the first spark of inspiration, to the very last day of your trip, we want to stay involved, keep it personal and help you every step of the way.
Ithaka is a free travel planning platform focused on travelers who want to plan and execute their own trips and don’t want to book a pre-made package.
Ithaka is helping travelers through the 3 most important parts of trip planning:
a. Discovery - Through product features that mirror users’ behavior online (first shortlist by a visual stimulus, matching by preferences, etc)
b. Decision Making - Driven by influencers and a smart product which understands ‘good travel choices’ (anchors, time to catch transport, is the trip rushed, etc)
c. Trip Management - Beautiful, detailed itinerary which can be booked in part or full with a single click in-app with real-time costing
On Ithaka, you would connect over chat with a Travel Influencer who’s been there done that. You can seek validation around your ideas and find all the answers you seek or if you are someone who is too busy to plan the trip you could get your whole itinerary planned to the very minute details. The Influencer and the product help you structure the whole trip plan and gives you detailed information that will ensure a smooth travel experience.
Along with that, you can do all your bookings (flights, hotels, activities, visa, forex) through the app as well, ensuring you are sorted end to end.
We believe that travel is the best way to break down barriers between people. If we can help more people travel to newer places and experience them well, we would have played our part in moving the world towards a more unified, harmonious future, and that’s a vision worthy of anyone’s life’s work. There is a need for one product to be the anchor app of their trip. Ithaka is trying to do just that and define how the next generation of travel looks like.
Ithaka has pivoted twice-
Fro the experiences booking platform to chat based travel planning in 2015.
In 2018 the company pivoted from in-house travel experts to a community of Travel Influencers to help people plan trips. This shift allowed Ithaka to be more scalable.
Travel Market in India
According to UNWTO, the Indian outbound travel market is going to grow to 50 million travelers by 2020. Out of this, the leisure travel market is 30%. Ithaka is catering to the Indian Millennial travel audience which is around 5 million travelers by 2020. The average spends by an Indian traveler on an outbound trip is about $800. The rough market size Ithaka is dealing in is $4 billion right now.
Travel is going to change fundamentally in the next 5 years as a new batch of youngsters enter the job market and have the disposable income to go out and explore the world. Their needs and ambitions while traveling are going to be quite different than what we see now. The overall market will keep increasing. Many profitable businesses can emerge in the thriving travel market in India.
Founders of Ithaka and Team
Rahul Singh and Mithilesh Said are the founders of Ithaka.
Rahul Singh and Mithilesh Said - Founder, Ithaka
Rahul Singh is the CEO of Ithaka. He is an IIT Bombay, 2012 grad. He worked at Gulf Talent, a Dubai based market leader job portal for the Gulf region with over 1 million users a month. started off as an Analyst and worked across Product, Operations, Sales, Marketing before becoming the first Product Manager there. Rahul was CPO at Ithaka till March 2019. He took over as the CEO when Ameya Sahasrabudhe left Ithaka.
Mithilesh Said is the CTO of Ithaka. He is Mumbai University, 2014 graduate. He started off at a services company called Genii that got acquired by Practo. One of the best techies in the Mumbai circle, he is amazing at designing tech solutions and has built the Ithaka product from the ground up.
Ithaka’s current team size is 30.
Ithaka’s work culture is centered around freedom and ownership and a love for travel. The team is empowered to independently execute projects and drive impact led by strong direction from the founders. The best part is that the employees can work from anywhere they want, so a lot of folks sometimes travel and work.
As long as work gets done, everyone has the freedom to manage their personal lives. Everyone has to travel internationally once a year and there’s a specific trip fund budget for each person. We have done this so that people can be close to travel and feel the problem that they are solving
How was Ithaka Started
Ithaka was started by Rahul Singh and Ameya Sahasrabudhe. Rahul and Ameya were friends from IIT Bombay. Both of them loved traveling and the inspiration to startup Ithaka came from their own travels. They saw that there was a specific need for discovering things to do and booking it online, especially in South East Asia. To validate it, they did a pilot run in Bangkok to see if people are interested and it came back positive. So they went about creating the first prototype: a mobile website for booking things to do and launched it in the market. That is where they first got the inspiration for a chat-based travel planning model.
While trying to sell activities and in-destination experiences to travelers on the ground, the Ithaka team noticed that there are many people who keep asking for travel advice. This made the team come up with the idea of a chat-based travel planning app.
We added a chat widget to the website. Interestingly we also started seeing more bookings as we helped more travelers on the chat which convinced us that there is a big business to be made out of this.
Ithaka - Name and Logo
Ithaka’s name is inspired by an illustrated poem by Constantine P Cavafy. This poem talks about how the journey is rewarding and the destination doesn’t matter and that’s the core spirit of Ithaka as well - to drive experiential travel that impacts a traveler’s life.
Since the poem was about a sea voyage and that’s also related to travel, Ithaka’s logo is also made as a boat.
Ithaka - Revenue Model
Ithaka is free for travelers.
Ithaka earns revenue through Itinerary bookings that travelers do after they plan it with Influencers: these are bookings of experiences, hotels, flights, transport, etc. We have partnered with various operators to process these bookings and make commissions on them.
Soon Ithaka will be experimenting with a new monetization model where travelers will have the option to avail premium concierge services to make their bookings in the most optimized way for their route, budget and preferences.
Ithaka - Funding and Investors
Ithaka has raised 2 rounds of funding.
Ithaka is the only travel tech company funded by Thomas Cook India.
Thomas Cook sees us as a major strategic play in building for the millennial travelers of India. Post-funding we have gained a lot of insight into the travel space that we lacked before. We have also started giving forex and visa services which we couldn’t before. And of course, the capital infusion has accelerated our growth path.
Ithaka - User Acquisition
Ithaka was able to attract its initial set of customers organically, through social media. As said by Rahul, Ithaka spent zero money on getting its first customers. Ithaka spread awareness about its services in the Facebook groups where travelers were already discussing questions around their trips. Ithaka team also posted heavily on Quora to gain its first customers.
Content marketing, SEO and also word of mouth publicity has worked quite well for Ithaka.
If you have built a product that is truly valuable for the users, you grow organically. Our first 10,000 users came primarily from word of mouth of existing travelers.
Ithaka - Startup Challenges
The biggest challenge faced by Ithaka was while pivoting from in-house travel experts to the community of travel influencers for planning trips. It was a difficult phase for the company. However, the Ithaka team solved it by being lean and experimenting at a small scale. The company started with just 3 Travel Influencers which it got from the existing traveler base.
We first ensured that the traveler experience wasn’t suffering due to this shift from travel experts to travel influencers, and then we scaled it slowly while making the product better.
Ithaka - Competitors
For the Ithaka team, the plan is not to compete at all but to create the most connected travel eco-system ever built.
There are many apps for travel planning like Tripoto, Klook, Trip Planner and Travel Triangle which are competing with Ithaka. However, all these apps have their own USPs. Ithaka is even partnering with companies like Thomas Cook, Klook, etc. to bring the best of booking experiences to travelers on the app. For the Ithaka team, Airbnb has always been a source of inspiration.
What Ithaka primarily helps with is deciding what to do e.g. if a traveler is going to Europe, which cities will be the best for him. Where should he stay, what are things to do which he should not miss out on. There are no travel companies like Ithaka which help travelers make these crucial decisions and plan their trip properly.
Ithaka - Growth
The growth milestones achieved by Ithaka are-
- Helped over 50,000 travelers.
- The company has grown about 5 times in 2018-2019.
- The company is doing great in terms of customer relationship management. Its NPS(Net Promoter Score) is 70.
- Currently, Ithaka is live for 14 destinations across the world.