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These two ISB grads are roughing it out in a start-up

Last updated on: April 08, 2014 19:08 IST

These two ISB grads are roughing it out in a start-up

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Meet Michael Lyngdoh and Anirudh Gupta who ditched the prospect of high-paying jobs to start up a cool new travel website.

Tripoto.com is a brand new social platform that allows travellers to share their stories and itineraries.

The start-up's founders, Michael Lyngdoh and Anirudh Gupta, discussed the idea first at the Indian School of Business (ISB) where they met.

Currently, Tripadvisor serves as the largest source of user generated travel reviews in the world.

Gupta and Lyngdoh hope for Tripoto to be a version 2.0 of Tripadvisor, going beyond just carrying reviews and aggregating user-generated travel content in the form of stories and itineraries by users.

Tripoto maps every destination mentioned in the story and offers pictures and content related to each of them.

What's more, the young start-up has also managed to get celebrity travellers to write for their site.

Featured on Tripoto are travelogues by actors Manoj Bajpayee and Ayushmann Khurrana and soccer player Baichung Bhutia (though Lyngdoh does not discuss how they managed the coup) :-)

But with several players such as Mygola, Joguru, Airbnb, Vayable, Tripline and Tripadvisor among others already in the space, not to mention thousands of travel blogs that have been mushrooming, is there really a need for yet another travel website?

Michael Lyngdoh believes there is.

He says:

'Every sector requires more start-ups'

  • Start-ups increase the pace of innovation in any industry and innovation is almost always good for everyone.
  • Unlike Tripadvisor, we are aggregating user-generated travel content in the form of travel stories and itineraries by users rather than just reviews.
  • User-generated travel content aggregation has value.
  • Travel is the most shared (topic) on social media (about 55 per cent of the content on Facebook is related to travel).
  • The content on Tripoto is practical and helps other travellers recreate the journey.
  • Itinerary creation is a pain point and we are building a collection of re-usable itineraries.
  • Unlike other itinerary planner sites, we are not building a travel planning software anytime in the near future and instead focussing on (just) user-generated travel stories and itineraries.

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Image: Michael Lyngdoh and Anirudh Gupta run Tripoto.com, a social platform that allows travellers to share their stories and itineraries
Photographs: Courtesy Tripoto.com

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'Travellers are not looking for just any holiday anymore'

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The way people travel has changed

  • People are looking for newer and more offbeat destinations to travel.
  • But the content available on these places is not great.
  • Discovery through Google is difficult as people do not know what to search for.
  • Inspiration and social discovery are the new factors that are influencing decisions.
  • Travellers are not looking for just any holiday anymore, they are increasingly becoming more aware and want to see images, content and detailed information before they take a decision.
  • Reviews by friends thus play a major role and that is where capturing user-generated content becomes important.

The risks Tripoto faces

  • The biggest risk we face is of not growing fast enough.
  • That is also the reason we are seeking funding... to grow at a fast pace.

Our pitch to investors

  • We are positioning ourselves as Tripadvisor 2.0 -- to become the largest source of user generated travel stories and itineraries in the world.
  • In another year we are looking to become the largest source of user generated travel stories in the world.
  • In three to five years, we are looking to work towards monetisation and profitability.

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Image: Travellers want most from their holidays today, says Michael Lyngdoh.
Photographs: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters
Tags: Tripoto

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'Take failure in your stride'

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Why we gave up prospect of a cushy job and opted for a start-ups

  • We like to travel and meet travellers.
  • We are also passionate about innovation in travel and in how the sharing economy is affecting travel.
  • It is better to do something if you want to rather than repent not doing it at an old age
  • Start-ups are not as risky as people make them out to be.
  • Even if you fail you just need to take it in your stride and move on.

And our typical day involves...

  • Endless work... basically we work as long as we can.
  • But we also do fun things and take breaks to keep ourselves focussed.
  • The typical day is different for everyone in the team.
  • For me, because I look after content and community, it involves talking to a lot of travellers.
  • For Anirudh it is looking after our website and online marketing.
  • Similarly all the other team members have their own specific roles.
  • We try to keep our work environment relaxed and cordial -- everyone knows what they are doing and it's a highly democratic setup.
  • There is dissent and there are heated discussions but the best ideas often come in the middle of disagreement.
  • Our team comes from different backgrounds. We have designers, engineers, writers, sociology graduates and this helps us come up with great ideas.

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Image: You cannot avoid failure all the time but you can take it in your stride.
Photographs: Dominic Ebenbichler/Reuters
Tags: 1

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'Be prepared for a tough ride'

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Five things you should know before you launch your start-up:

  • It's not going to be easy. So be prepared for a tough ride at the outset
  • Execution is the most important thing. Ideas are always in plenty
  • It's extremely important to find a good co-founder and build a good team
  • Take feedback often but don't get swayed easily. Believe in yourself
  • Rome wasn't built in a day. If you are building something good or innovative, it will take some time before it is accepted. Don't be in a hurry for success

What you need to be a successful entrepreneur:

  • A lot of drive and energy to just keep wading through difficult times
  • Not be bogged down by lows or get too carried away by highs
  • A strong intuition
  • A healthy doubt on your own intuition and the need to back your intuition with data
  • You need to know or learn how to sell. Everything eventually has to be sold, no matter how good it is.

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Image: Running a start-up is like losing weight. It isn't easy and will take time :-)
Photographs: Yiorgos Karahalis/Reuters
Tags: Rome

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'Don't dwell too much on what went wrong'

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Handy tips on getting your start-up better visibility:

  • PR -- A lot of people are interested in covering start-ups. Make full use of the opportunity.
  • Try and create good content that goes viral. It is the best branding for your start-up.
  • Talk to people and tell them about your start-up. But please don't be a bore and talk about it 24x7.
  • Balance your time between working and spreading the word about your start-up.

Three lessons we learnt about life as entrepreneurs:

  • Things change fast, people can get fired, companies can shut down, things can go wrong in a blink.
  • If you don't move fast someone else will do what you want to do.
  • Things operate very differently at scale than they do on a smaller level. The ability to understand scale is critical.

What failure taught me:

  • Don't care about what people will think or talk about your failure; it's none of their business.
  • Remember the lessons and move on; don't dwell too much on what went wrong.
  • Always work on things you like to do and work with people you like to work with people you like. Anything other than that is a recipe for failure.

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Image: Don't dwell on your failures for too long, Lyngdoh says.
Photographs: Arben Celi/Reuters
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'You are in completely uncharted territory'

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The best thing about being an entrepreneur is:

  • You don't know what could happen tomorrow.
  • You are in completely uncharted territory and no one except you know what is to be done.
  • There is no user manual or instructions that can be followed.

And the sacrifices you need to make:

  • The start-up expands to occupy all your mind space.
  • Your mind is always running with thoughts about your start-up.
  • All the sacrifices will directly or indirectly be related to that. Be prepared for them.

As told to Abhishek Mande Bhot


Image: When you're running a start-up, you are in uncharted territory.
Photographs: Vijay Mathur/Reuters

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