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The money trail

Manu Mehta and Akshay Chhugani have created a new travel niche with their exclusive services for Indian and foreign backpackers.

Manu Mehta (left) and Akshay Chhugani
Manu Mehta (left) and Akshay Chhugani

Manu Mehta and Akshay Chhugani have created a new travel niche with their exclusive services for Indian and foreign backpackers.

What prompted you to start The Indian Backpacker?
We were backpacking in Rishikesh in March 2007 when we met some foreign travellers. While interacting with them we realised there was no company to cater to the needs of backpackers. So, in August 2007, we set up our Website, indianbackpacker.com.

How much investment did you need to set it up?
We put in Rs 10,000 as hosting and domain charges. As we designed and developed the Website inhouse, it saved us costs.

What were the initial roadblocks?
Most Indian travellers prefer to stay in a proper accommodation, not camps. So it was an uphill task to promote the idea of staying at camp sites. Also, it was difficult to find people or companies to partner with us and provide services to cater to a niche market.

How has the response been?
We’ve had an overwhelming response. At first, we planned to focus only on Indian travellers, but the feedback we got from foreign backpackers boosted our confidence. Today, we get queries from all over the world. We’ve also had a wonderful response from service providers. Initially, we started with hostel bookings, but now we provide online bus bookings as well as travel insurance.

What is your USP?
Our USP is to ensure light baggage with a light pocket. So, we have tied up with youth hostels and budget hotels to provide accommodation in metros like Delhi for as low as Rs 220 a night. A backpacker has to pay only 10% of the initial booking amount.

What is the turnover that you are expecting? What are your plans for the future?
Our estimated turnover for 2010-11 is Rs 40 lakh. As for the future, we are working on special arrangements for backpackers who will be visiting the country during the Commonwealth games. We also plan to affiliate with the Indian Railways to provide tickets.