Manjunath Gowda, CEO of WildTrails
Manjunath Gowda, CEO of WildTrails

WildTrails is the only company with sightings info (with 4 years data) which is used to create predictive metric called sighting index and they are also the only company with an extensive network of experts trackers across most national parks and tiger reserves. Picking the right safari zone & having an expert tracker is 90% of getting great sightings!!

Manjunath Gowda, CEO of WildTrails
Manjunath Gowda, CEO of WildTrails

About the founders
There are two founders: Manjunath Gowda, CEO & Geeta Gouri, Director – Both are serial entrepreneurs.

  • Manju, a graduate of Oregon State from US, Masters in Computer science, a serial entrepreneur, did Bristol with a US company and it got acquired by HP in 2003. Started S7 Software in 2003, got acquired by Bluecoat from Valley in 2010 and started i7 networks, an AI company into device signature along with Geeta and then as both were hardcore Wildlifers, started WildTrails.
  • Geeta, a Comp Sc graduate, started in S7 software and then went onto her own company called GetLeads and then with Manju started i7 networks and then started WildTrails.

We are publishing an interview of Mr. Manjunath Gowda, CEO, WildTrails:

Q. What is the problem you are trying to solve? Can you share with us any insights that led you to believe that this is a big enough problem?
Today, booking a Wildlife Package goes back to Stone age where technology stops at a nice Website and everything is manual after that. We want to change that. We are automating the whole process of booking a Wildlife Package using technology and also of course bringing in the Platform Play by creating the ability to select a resort, safari gate, safari type, safari mode and even a naturalist type. Not just that, we also bringing in Sighting Data Analytics and Predictive analysis using AI/ML methods which allows a wild-lifer to select the right park where Sighting Index is very good. We calculate Tiger Sighting Index (TSI) which is extremely popular and people worldwide use that to book their Indian Wildlife Safari Package.

Q. Tell us about the Product / Solution. Explain how you went about the Product-Market Fit Process.
First of all we founders were ourselves the customers of our product and of course we tuned many features and offerings over the last 2.5 years by listening to our customers and we constantly tune it. We still feel that we have a long way to go before we say we have achieved the “product-market” fit.

Q. What is your USP?
We are the world’s first and only company to successfully bring sightings data analytics into planning Wildlife Holidays. We are also the pioneers in applying data mining & analytics, AI, Machine learning to increase your chances/probability of sightings and these data & data analytics, we are the only one has it and you can’t find it even on google. We are also the first and only one to bring platform play into booking wildlife packages, by creating the ability to select a resort, safari gate, safari type, safari mode and even a naturalist type.

Nagarhole Kabini captured by Aravind Srinivasan

Q. Please tell us about the investors (if any)
We just have angel investors:

  • Rao Remala was the first Indian Hire for Microsoft in the US, interviewed and hired by Bill Gates himself
  • Sharad Sharma is a well know face and name in Startup world in India
  • Kumar Rangarajan, famous for his company getting acquired by Facebook
  • Murali Venkatrao and Winnie Chou are top executives in Microsoft US
  • Vijay Rayapati, got his company recently acquired by US Company

Q. What were your assumptions when you entered the market, leanings that you have? Who in your mind is your ideal customer? Do you have at least one of them signed up?
In the last 2.5 years we have served more than 500 groups all across the world. First we thought only Sightings data was enough but people wanted actual trips and then we did pure platform play by brining customers and vendors together but again customers were not happy – they wanted full experience like how Swiggy does and then finally we had to own the whole experience to provide an end-to-end hassle-free experience which we are doing now.

Q. What has been your biggest failure as an entrepreneur and what did you learn from it??
When we started i7 networks where we were doing AI on mobile devices without putting an agent on it – we called agent-less BYOD solution (with using AI techniques without even knowing we were into AI space – then way back in 2012) and it created a lot of buzz and even FBI from US called me for a product demo but it failed because as a CEO and as a person close to the customers I should have listened to my inner voice on what we had to do but did a mistake by falling to what the internal team in the company said they will do and that was the ultimate learning. As a CEO one needs to do what he he/she passionately believes is right even if someone tries to influence you in a complete other direction as you have that intuition which others miss. Of course, listening to market changes your course but that is ok but listening to someone else and changing the course is not right, you are not doing justice to being a CEO.

Q. How are you pricing the Product? Explain your thought process.
Ans: Since ours in a B2C product and we sell packages, we make the sightings data & analytics as a enabler (& hence free) to book Safari Packages and where we make our dollars.

Q. How did you get your first customer?
We are extremely good in SEO marketing and once we started ranking high (1st page on Google), we got many leads and we converted them.

Q. Is there any interesting success story? If yes, please write about it. ?
Been a continuous learning and tuning the product. Once we for the Sighting Data done which Wildlifers wanted badly, everything else was sort of guided by the customers and in fact they have been our product managers!!

Q. What is the big picture of your startup? Is this Product leading to something bigger? If so, how?
We want to be the default Wildlife Package makers for India and we are getting there but our bigger vision is to be such a company for the Entire World. We have now stepped into Africa and we will slowly grow into other region as well. Also we bring some data analytics into play in each region for sure and it will be different from region to region but we will have a play in the data as well as package making for sure.

Q. Since inception, give us a sense of the value of business done by your venture? Please explain in details:
Ans: We get today around 100 app installs everyday and we get around 500 unique web visits. Overall as of today (May 2019) we have more than 60K app installs across iOS and Android; We have served more than 500 groups already and our revenue run rate is around 3 Crores an Year. But growing more than 100% year on year.

Q. What is the insight that you have about this market, which no one else has? Uniqueness about your Start-up.
Already explained in one of the previous questions. For Indian wildlife, knowledge of Sightings is the most critical part and we are the only one to get that sightings data and then apply data analytics/AI/ML to derive Sighting Index which helps a lot in predictive analysis and in turn increase the chances of seeing a particular animal/bird. For example chances of a random visitor in a random park and in a random zone, Tiger sighting in India is generally less than 5% but people who go through our data analytics has increased it to more than 90% and that’s the impact we are creating. People travel 1000s of miles and spend 1000s of dollars to see a Tiger in the Wild and they obviously understand the value of data analytics and Sighting Index.

How This Bengaluru Based Wildlife Startup is Helping Wildlife Enthusiasts in Planning Their Wildlife Adventures

Q. List all the names of the core Team Members, along with their Designated Roles.
Ans: Sure. They are:

  • Manjunath Gowda – CEO, Chief Strategist, CTO
  • Geeta Gouri – Marketing
  • Sonia Singh – Sales

Q. Who do You Perceive as Your Competition? How do you differentiate yourself with them?
Package makers like Cox & Kings, Thomas Cook etc and we differentiate per se as, we are the only one to bring sightings, predictive analysis as well as automation of personalization and custimization of safari packages as well as platform play into force

Q. What would be your goal to accomplish in the next six months?
Do to Africa what we did for India by the end of 2019

Q. What message do you want to convey to fellow entrepreneurs?
There is a buzz about start-ups and everyone wants to jump into it but entrepreneurship throws a lot of challenges while running the company and they are so tough, only if you are deeply passionate for the problem you are solving, that passion is the only thing that will carry you during your downtimes. Hence I say don’t pick issues to solve by the market size or by the latest trends or by the VC likability but by what you passionately want to see the problem being solved. Still better you be the person who is suffering because a solution to the problem you are solving doesn’t exist today.

Thanks Manjunath. Best wishes!