It is a classic start-up story- two childhood buddies who graduate from the Indian Institute of Technology and turn their backs on corporate careers to launch a venture of their own.
However, unlike many start-ups that struggle to take-off in the initial days of their journey, TravelTriangle, an online travel services company launched by Sankalp Agrawal and Sanchit Garg is clocking revenues of Rs 1.2 crore in just seven months.
Both first generation entrepreneurs who quit plush postings at Adobe and Yahoo in the middle of 2010, Agrawal and Garg took nearly a year to fine-tune their concept before launching their venture last year.
They started out in a garage in Noida seven months ago with a business model that links customers with travel agents who offer the best deals. These are value-added deals customised to specific needs of the traveller.
Each request by a customer goes to at least three travel agents with operations in the area that is the client’s destination. The agents compete among themselves to provide the best experience and price to the vacationer.
“There is no perfect time to start your own business. If you have a great idea, you should just take the plunge,” said Agrawal, 26, who earned his degree in computer science from IIT Kharagpur in 2008. Co-founder Garg graduated from IIT Bombay.
Soon they roped in a third friend from school, Prabhat Gupta, who graduated from IIT Guwahati the same year, as a core development member. The idea came about on a trip to Leh some two years ago when Agrawal found that two other friends booked similar packages as theirs but from different travel agents. One of them booked with the local travel agent in Leh and got the best deal, whereas his group shelled out much more for the same package.
Their pride was hurt, but the friends soon realised it also offered a business opportunity to set up a platform to book customised travel packages at competitive prices.
“Traveltriangle is not a travel agency”, says Agrawal. The services are free for travellers who also get quotes from multiple agents.The start-up now has tie-ups with 150 travel agents in India and overseas, including Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and Egypt.
“For us there couldn’t have been a better time to take control of our lives as we are young and have no hang-ups or pressures. We haven’t even started paying our insurance EMIs,” said Agrawal. The only hitch was convincing parents about their own belief. “They took time as they thought we were too young to start up but soon understood our intent and supported us.”
“We are seeing entrepreneurs emerge with a more diverse set of backgrounds – professionals, undergrad students, people who are not from traditional business families,” said Mohit Bhatnagar, managing director at Sequoia Capital. Agrawal is in talks with multiple venture capital and angel firms to raise first round of funding, evaluating offers from investors in the US and India.
“I am sure funding will not be a cakewalk for us, but that does not stop us from trying our ideas,” he said. Agrawal has ensured that he works with a lean team (they are just a 12-member operation) and is very picky with spending and new hires after a “lot of wrong hiring and firing.” The 12-person team already includes senior managers from Spicejet, with “attractive and innovative compensation plans” devised to recruit and keep the best employees.