“Turn left or right? Where’s the museum again? Five days in London and we haven’t seen the Victoria Park. Argh! This is the most unorganized trip of my life.” Is this generally how you spend your days when out on a trip that was meant for you to unwind? Did the boring research on Google deter you from making an itinerary? Or was it just some other lazy excuse that ruined your once in a lifetime trip to London/Paris/New York etc.
Tarun Madan, an avid traveller, while planning a trip to Thailand last year, realized that finding what to do during a trip, especially to destinations in Asia and Africa, was quite time consuming, and required extensive site searches, reading offline guides and asking acquaintances who had been there earlier. He spoke to other travellers, and came to the understanding that trip planning was a tedious experience for most, with a huge scope for simplification. As part of an Entrepreneurship course at the University of Texas at Austin, he validated the idea of an automated trip planner, and thus Holidayen was born.
Holidayen is a trip planning application that helps travellers create and plan trips in seconds. Holidayen provides personalized recommendations on what to do during a trip – places to visit, cultural and historical attractions of interest, activities and tours. It also creates an automatic, fully customizable daily itinerary which users can carry on their Smartphones and also share with friends.
Once a user enters the destination and duration of the trip, Holidayen generates the best recommendations from a curated database which has inputs from real travellers. The user can further personalize based on his personal interests, for example whether he would like to spend more time visiting museums and landmarks, or shopping or is looking for kid-friendly places. Their in-built smart algorithms generate recommendations based on the user’s desires, and also create a daily itinerary which is fully customizable.
“Most of the other products need moderate to heavy manual intervention to create trips and itineraries, while Holidayen provides fully automatic yet personalized plans with a facility to create a trip in less than 30 seconds. It is also one of the early entrants in mobile travel planning.” added Tarun.
While Holidayen is still in its early days, it has got a very encouraging feedback from initial users. In the highly competitive travel market, it is very important to create a compelling product which provides a good user experience. They implemented the vital suggestions and comments received during their beta phase, and since the public launch, the growth and product usage have been up to the mark with their expectations.
Underestimating the impact of the macro-environment on a startup is one mistake they made at their initial stage. However, they were quick to learn and did not allow the external factors to affect their schedule and intended product vision. Tarun learned to attract and keep required product development skills within the team to minimize such risks.
Within the product development lifecycle, the entire iterative process of understanding user requirements from a number of users, analysing them, identifying the important features, implementing them and getting further feedback from users is a very hard process to rigorously follow and master, yet they are improving and still continuing to improve their product as they attract more users.
It was important to attract and retain essential skills within the team, doing that on a shoestring budget without affecting the quality has probably been their biggest hurdle so far.
With a live product, Holidayen is in the market to attract more and more users. They plan to use this traction to attract funding, which will in turn fund marketing to drive revenue streams. They also strive to continually fine tune the user experience, and team building will focus on obtaining professional skills related to marketing and user experience. Besides this, they receive a commission on the booking of hotels and activities through their site. Also, they have launched destination-specific trip planning apps through which they aim to monetize.
Holidayen is expanding rapidly and aims to offer trip plans for 100 destinations by the end of the year. It is also making efforts to widen the gamut of recommendations to include other aspects such as events and restaurants to help travellers have memorable, hassle-free trips.
“I take constant inspiration from my parents who followed and instilled the values of hard work and integrity, which are two essential qualities for entrepreneurship. Network and maintain a close relationship with other entrepreneurs who have been through this before. As a first-time bootstrapping entrepreneur working with limited resources, networking with other entrepreneurs has given me great insights on product development and growing the startup.” is Tarun’s parting advice to our future entrepreneurs.