This teenager set out to disrupt the stagnant-for-decades travel space of India with his business ideas. Today, he is a growing entrepreneur, who has created something incredibly innovative to serve travellers around the world.
As Ronak Gupta, a 19-year-old engineering student from IIT Delhi, sat in his room contemplating his itinerary for the next day, he saw a nagging gap in the market and in consumer lives. Finally in France for his semester exchange programme from college, he couldn’t wait to explore Europe. However, the travel planning process was not as easy or smooth as he expected. Coordinating different modes, while keeping price and duration into consideration, was a brain racking experience for him. He would open multiple tabs for flight, train, bus schedules, and prices. Direct options were often not available and he would look for alternate routes to the destination.
The experience made him realize that the problem assumes complex proportions back in India. The system here is much more complicated and is fraught with offline activity, delays, etc. He began researching the travel space and the usage of technology in the industry. He found that there is no intelligent mechanism or platform where a person can know how to reach any location. This highly hinders connectivity into remote locations of India, no small fraction of the country. Each trip takes hours of planning; the less tech-savvy or extremely busy people end up choosing travel agents who do this manual work for them.
How the Work Began
Once back from Europe, he set about exploring what he could do to solve this issue. That’s what engineers are for, isn’t it? Still in his third year of college, he started conceptualizing a technology that would skim through the hundreds of options available, apply intelligent algorithms to these and present the best routes to reach any destination. And not just to cities, but also villages, localities and small towns. Very soon after envisaging this, he approached his friend and hostel-mate Abhishek Aggarwal with the business ideas. He proposed that they together create a tangible platform out of the vision. And just like that, the bug of entrepreneurship had bitten them.
They would attend classes during the day and burn the midnight oil in order to build a product that would re-imagine travel planning and add value in the lives of millions. Over many pizzas and cups of coffees, the website slowly began to take shape.
Their next months are a testament to how the ecosystem around you extends its support when you work hard. They began to meticulously develop a business plan for the start-up, which went on to win many national B-plan competitions, including Intuit’s SBIB competition, where they were declared winners amongst 500 small businesses across different sectors in the country. Their senior and fledgling entrepreneur himself, Nikunj Jain, provided a ton of guidance.
Nikunj also introduced them to the snapdeal.com founders, Rohit Bansal and Kunal Behl, who went on to provide seed funding to the business ideas in March 2015.
The Vision of Door to Door
Once the route-planner was up and running, they realized that making multiple bookings on a mobile is even more painful and time-consuming. Booking an entire multimodal journey in one shot, that too on a mobile, was a visionary idea. This means that you could book your travel from Bandra West, Mumbai to Shimla, which has no direct connectivity, in one go; they present ready-to-book combos of flights, trains, buses and cabs for the journey.
With mobile users crossing 1 billion in India, they could see the idea appealing to a huge volume of consumers. They launched the door-to-door travel booking Routofy app in January 2016, which is already serving a large user base of travellers. The positive feedback and reviews have been a great encouragement to their efforts and they are working on introducing new features. Routofy can be explored here.
Ronak Gupta, the co-founder and CEO of Routofy, speaks of the journey travelled by his initial business ideas, “Barely out of college, we were both reaching out for something huge. Seeing that the success rate of start-ups is lower than 10%, it’s a dream come true to see Routofy doing so well. We closed bookings worth more than INR 1.5 million last month in April. It is my responsibility as an entrepreneur to filter the exhaustive list of choices, apply intelligence to it and present an assortment that I feel is most relevant to my customers’ needs. And that is the philosophy behind our work – to make travel as seamless and convenient as possible for people.”
The startup tied up with Uber recently on Mother’s Day, wherein an on-demand was run on the latter’s app. Ten selected winners received an all-expenses paid trip to visit their moms on this special occasion.
This is another example of what they stand for, to reduce the physical & emotional distances between people and bring them closer.
Necessity is the mother of invention and that’s exactly how things fell into place in this case. Each day of our lives is filled with new experiences and each of these everyday occurrences are eye-opening in their own way. The problems that we come across and the gaps that are waiting to be filled are actually opportunities, opportunities for us to make a difference in the lives of people.
Check out Routofy here.
– Palak Bhatia, Routofy Team