We are publishing an interview of Mr. Gavin DCosta, Co-Founder and Director, Trip Navigator – This Mumbai based startup is revolutionising the corporate travel & events industry by simplifying the planning process, creating value & enhancing experience of consumers.
Please tell us about the founders
Trip Navigator was founded in Nov 2011 by Abhishek Gupta, Litesh Jethani & Myself as a private limited company. In the early years post formation, we operated like any other travel company managing FIT (Free Independent Traveler), MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Events), GIT (Group Inclusive Tour), etc. but over the years we realized that our strength & interest lay basically in the MICE business, and decided to focus on this area of business.
We currently specialize in Corporate Travel & Event solutions, providing exceptional services while continuing to innovate and bring newer solutions and offerings to the world of MICE. All three of our Co-Founders and Directors come from varied backgrounds like Banking, FMCG, Media, etc. This varied experience has helped us bring us a wide variety of insight on industry best practices from our earlier roles.
Abhishek’s dynamic, detail-oriented personality and deep subject knowledge ensures enriched customer satisfaction, and business efficiency and effectiveness. He is a Post Graduate in Business Management and has worked for almost 10 years across diverse industries. Litesh’s on-ground event management expertise helps ensure flawless planning and execution, to the delight of every client. With over 10 years in the media industry and a Masters’ Degree in Brand Management, Litesh is extremely passionate about brand building and business enhancement.
My love for traveling combined with overall operational and leadership expertise has helped strengthen Trip Navigator’s Operational processes, in-house teams and culture of innovation. I am a Post Graduate in Business Management (Marketing) and have worked with various Multinational Banks for almost 13 years prior to starting this venture.
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?
The corporate travel & events industry in India is a highly fragmented one, consisting of small players with mostly offline operations. It also lacks providers offering end to end Travel & event planning services, making it extremely challenging to plan a corporate event.
Although the MICE industry in India has several opportunities and customers, a lack of organization in this sector leads to significant expenses in terms of time and money when it comes to planning corporate travel or events. The offline operations of distributed service providers also makes it challenging for customers, or corporate organizations, to benefit from deals and special pricing during off-season travel.
While the Indian travel industry does contain multiple mature online travel service providers, they mostly operate in the space for individual travel, and offer no assistance to organization looking to organize a MICE event. In addition, online travel portals can only offer information on flights and hotel bookings. To book further services like team building activities and other forms of event-related requirements, corporate customers still need to contact multiple, standalone vendors and compare quotes – an extremely time consuming and complex process.
We have clearly seen the impact of online businesses across other industries and the way it creates immense values for the buyers & sellers. We at Trip Navigator have created a very similar online portal for MICE services which provide:
- The entire gamut of MICE solutions on a single platform
- Endless product choices for easy comparison
- User-friendly interface for effortless search of various products, services and effective planning of MICE initiatives
- Exclusive client Review module for specific to MICE solutions to enable clients to make prudent choices. OTC MICE packages providing destination knowledge before the start of the planning stage
- Ready reckoner allowing clients to nearly self-manage the event
- Access to a large pool of corporate buyers for our partners
- The best deals and special rates as well as exclusive loyalty program to reward clients’ increased spends
We understand that the MICE industry currently lacks technological advancement and hence we spend a lot of our resources in innovating and bringing newer ideas, thus giving our clients better experiences when they travel with us. Our vision is to revolutionize the Corporate Travel & Events industry by simplifying the planning process, creating value and enhancing experience through easy-to-use technology platforms.
What is the uniqueness about your Startup?
We have now reached our 6th year of operations and have constantly managed to grow our business year on year. Our success is clearly a function of our constant endeavor to provide exceptional services and our hunger for innovation. In our 6 years of operations, in addition to growing the business, we have managed to create two unique technology platforms which now give us a competitive advantage in the industry.
Tripnavigator.in – This is a One of its kind Web application providing options for Hotels, Merchandise, Team building activities, Event Solutions, Artist options & Customized MICE packages, thus empowering a client with multiple choices and the ability to fulfill his requirements by himself at his workstation, in an instant. The special deals section of the website helps partners sell effectively during slack periods, thus enabling the client to benefit from such deals.
Our mobile application has been developed to be effectively used for optimizing on-ground coordination, communication and management of event logistics and delegates. Through this mobile app, a client will now have all event details like travel documents, Itineraries, photo galleries, notifications, SOS assistance features, and more useful services on their smartphones.
Our BIG Vision is to become the pioneers in MICE travel through technological advancement revolutionizing the MICE industry.
What corporate organizations looking to plan events need is a professional, reliable, and single source of information that can offer a gamut of choices and quotes from multiple vendors instantly. A user-friendly approach for searching and planning all aspects of a corporate event end-to-end is the primary goal of Trip Navigator. Unlike most other players in the MICE industry, Trip Navigator’s unique portal empowers the customers by offering them information instantly, as well as by giving them an opportunity to compare costs from multiple vendors, all at one single place.
Event organizers using Trip Navigator can browse through our handcrafted domestic and international MICE packages, which can then be further customized based on their requirements and budget. Whether it is finding the right venue for their corporate event, or booking additional services at the location, Trip Navigator’s portal makes it happen at the click of a mouse.
At the same time, Trip Navigator also offers a reliable platform for vendors to register and showcase their offerings, making it easier for customers to learn about them, and pick their services. In addition, the portal lets vendors offer special deals and competitive pricing for their services, even during non-peak seasons.
What is the revenue model? Explain your thought process.
We are currently in the business of Corporate Travel and Events. The business generally constitutes travel and event arrangement of large groups. Since we now also run an online platform (MICE marketplace), our sources of revenue are multifold.
A cost+ /management fee model is normally considered for most of the events we manage. In addition, our online platform also generates revenue for us in the form of increased Partner commissions, Partner Listing fees, B2B business services. Due to our strong online presence, we are also able to leverage SEO as our primary lead generation channel for new client acquisition and new business verticals (Inbound MICE & Destination weddings). Annual contracting with clients to secure long-term business is also what we can provide considering our web platforms overall dynamics and ability to provide endless solutions. Our ability to scale up is now infinite.
Who are the consumers that you are targeting? How is this going to affect them?
Our consumers are corporate organizations who want to plan and conduct offsite, meetings or events for their employees and/or customers. Any organization looking to plan an offsite meeting, incentive trip, conference or event, either within India or even at international locations, can leverage Trip Navigator’s services to assist them with end-to-end event management.
Trip Navigator’s portal offers a one-stop-shop solution to research and compare multiple locations and options to conduct an event, what kind of activities to include in the event, vendors who can offer add-on services to further customize the experience, and even view feedback from other customers on their experience with each service provider registered on the website. Furthermore, Trip Navigator offers an assurance of quality on registered vendors. Each vendor is personally verified and certified by the Trip Navigator team to offer only reliable and high quality services to the customers.
Ease at the planning phase, multiple options, special deals and much more on Tripnavigator.in along with a mobile application ensures effective on-ground event management and creates immense value for our customers.
What is the big picture of your startup? Will it lead to something bigger? If so, how?
As discussed above, we have been growing year on year steadily. We have now set up sales offices across the country and have started expanding into the destination wedding & Inbound MICE business. These initiatives will help us stay focused on the overall growth story, while diversifying our interests beyond corporate travel planning and management.
What is the success story of your startup in your own words?
Most startups need to sustain themselves at the initial stage. Maintaining a lean organizational structure, effectively managing available resources, and having the ability to manage client rejection helped us as we started out at Trip Navigator. In addition, we focused on always exceeding the clients’ expectations and never stopped innovating, which further helped our company grow from strength to strength.
Even during our most turbulent and trying times, instead of getting disheartened, we continued to learn from our experiences. This has helped us maintain the morale of the team, and helps us look at every challenge as an opportunity for self-growth and innovation. Being a close-knit team, we have been able to keep the work atmosphere refreshingly friendly, and constantly encourage every member of our team to share their thoughts and ideas on how to consistently provide high levels of satisfaction to each of our customers.
Client acceptance at the early stage and solid competition from the established players were our biggest challenges during the initial stage. While most startups are unable to move forward without proper funding, we never required funding at any stage. We started the company with an initial capital (brought in by the directors) and then grew it with the company’s funds. A very lean business model has helped us utilize our resources effectively towards the overall growth of the company.
Thanks Gavin. Best of luck!