Startup Spotlight: Thrillophilia : Jump Into The Land of Adventure Sports & Innovative Corporate Outbounds
Bored by the usual corporate outing of movie + bowling combo? Need activities to do apart from the usual trekking, fishing etc? Need a master list of kickass adventure sports around Bangalore and other parts of India? Want to just get on less explored lands and engage in very unique team building activities and games? You don’t have to worry anymore, all these can be found in a single place and it’s called “Thrillophilia”. We met the founders of Thrillophilia – Abhishek Daga and Chitra Gurnani Daga – a married (did we say it was on Feb 14) couple from IIT Varanasi and ISB Hyderabad respectively. We spoke to them on their idea conception stage in 2008, the execution part in 2009 and the current “we-are-growing-exponentially” part.
That’s evident from their growing Facebook fan base (of 27,000+ and counting). Interview discussion with Abhishek and Chitra below:
What Thrillophilia is into and what problem are you trying to solve?
We have two business models. One – Indian adventure, where we provide adventure sports across the country.When we were travelling a lot three years earlier, we realized that there are fantastic vendors in India, but they were not actually marketing their stuff well. When travelers search for adventure online, all they see is tour agent websites and they typically get connected to some random tour or adventure operator who is not the best one. We saw an opportunity to connect the travelers who are searching for adventure with those who are providing adventure, that’s how Thrillophilia was born.
Other model is – Offbeat corporate team outbound where we take corporates out for team outing in groups of 100 / 200 / 300. Why we call it offbeat is – we have an element of adventure in it. In the team outing, we also train them. Lot of our games is physically strenuous, high on adventure, high on thrill. The outbound activities for new joiners, senior management that exists in corporates – we add adventure flavor to it.
Do you also include a regular package like “1 day package to a theme park” in your list of offerings?
No, that would dilute what we are doing as core. That will fall under the normal package category, we focus only on adventure.
What does Thrillophilia signify?
Philia – love, so its love with thrill.
How old is Thrillophilia?
The concept, discussion and brainstorming among usstarted in 2008. In September 2009 when we got incorporated, we started selling our product online. We started with only adventure model, and then we got into the team outbound model a little late. Since the company is based out of Bangalore, we started getting more corporate bookings. Bangalore is a huge corporate club, we saw huge gap in the market and there is no professional service in this market.
When did you conceive this idea, during your ISB / IIT days or at work?
We discussed this idea in 2008, which was before our ISB and after IIT days, when we were working. During Thrillophilia days (post 2009), I joined ISB Hyderabad; almost for every 15 days I used to travel to Bangalore.
What were your family members’ reactions when you said you want to quit 9 to 5 job and start your own venture?
Still negative Both of us were in well settled jobs – SAP, CISCO. They were like – what is adventure sports, what’s the market in India, no one is talking about this. Both of us have no business background. But, both families supported us a lot, financially and morally. We thought the expense would be X, and we had a buffer amount of upto 2X, but the expense shot up to 5X. After finishing ISB, I had to take the critical decision of joining Thrillophilia fulltime or join a hefty package job. That was again a turning point to convince our parents.
We are still open for funding. We are working with a company in Bangalore for our 2nd round. First round funding was done last year –from angel investors in US.
Why did you choose monkey as your brand ambassador?
Its Chimp we do lot of rope activities, we could relate this thrill experience to a Chimp. We call him “Thrill Chimp”
How many customers you have served so far?
More than 13,500 customers. And counting!
From your Alexa rankings, we see huge traffic from Pakistan, UK and US. Do you have international customers as well?
We do serve lot of international travelers from US, Europe. But not from Pakistan yet It could be due to our blog posts that typically go viral on net. We have lot of posts like – 100 places to see before you die, 50 best Himalayan treks – these posts would have got shared.
What’s your revenue model?
80% of revenue comes from corporates and 20% from adventure model. Pricing is mostly based on value of the adventure engagement. When we are delivering a very offbeat program with a trained consultant, there are value based pricing. Our outbound team does lot of R&D on different team building games, the games that are really new, they discover games that nobody else is doing, and these activities come with a premium. There are companies that have fixed budget say 600 INR per person, we cannot ignore them. We will see what we can do forthem;we customize our program that fits in the corporate budget.
Did you get any setback / challenge in the initial months/years? Ever thought that you will go back to regular jobs?
Initially, we had tough time forming a team. We train people in digital front – SEO, SCM – it was a trend in 2009 – but they learnt everything from us and joined other companies like Intel, Microsoft. Even in the sales team, it happened. They come, get trained and they leave. Our product is not simple, they have to understand everything pertaining to a destination, our corporate customers are typically HRs in a group (5 to 7 members). They meet our sales person who is just one. We trained our sales team to handle all scenarios, and they would just leave after few months. Attrition was a major problem in first year but wehave overcome it very beautifully. In the last 1 year, not even 1 person have left the company.
Did anyone in the start say that this model is not going to work?
Almost everybody said it’s not going to work. They said that we can do regular honeymoon tours etc, but adventure in India is not going to work. In the initial years – when our cost was high, attrition was high, rent was high, many suggested us to shutdown operation. We also didn’t have any travel domain experience, none of us from startup background in family, no great finances, no travel knowledge, all negative factors. But, persistence helped us.We were passionate about adventure and we realized the potential.
Why do you think customers will come to Thrillophilia than not call the suppliers directly or book from other websites? What value Thrillophilia adds to customers?
We have tied up with the best vendors in the country. We lose 50% of our business just because of competitive pricing. Since we have the best vendors, it comes up with price. Quality has a price. We can compromise on few things, but not on quality. It’s fine to lose bookings than have 1 accident happen to our customers.
The other reason why customers book with us is our offbeat outbound activity. If they really want to book the resort, they can do it. But in that case 10 people will play cricket, other 10 will play chess, it won’t be a real outbound team bonding activity. But, we have facilitators who help the team do activities as a team!
Any unforeseen incidents happened so far?
13,500 customers served happily. No accidents, not even a bruise. Touchwood. The thumb rule is – it’s always double linked. When we do a setup, there will never be a single link, it’s always double linked everywhere. Even when you do some adventure activity, you will have two links in your body so that even if 1 link has a problem the other will take care.
Proud moments at Thrillophilia?
- One was when we were featured in CNN-IBN for 5 minutes. Theyhad 500 entries and finally they featured 12 companies.
- Young World Rising is a book by a US author. When he saw how we were using social media in 2009, he approached us and he got very interested in us. He flew from US, took our interviews and he had published about Thrillophilia in his book that has story of 10 startups. After this we got great visibility internationally, we were approached by lot of people internationally.
- And, finally our proud moment comes when we serve our customers. After outbound events, we get wonderful emails from our customers and this pumps us with energy to move on. Once we get our corporate customers in, they are alwaysin, all their future outbound programsare done by Thrillophilia.
Any more startups products coming up in future?
We are segregating the current brand into two. Very soon we will have another website coming up (www.thrillmyteam.com) that will be dedicated for corporate outbound, and Thrillophilia will focus only on adventure sports. Two business models, hence we have two websites.
What’s your advice for budding entrepreneurs?
Never give up. Persistence is the key. There will be hundreds of obstacles and it will bombard you, but you need to keep going. If something doesn’t work, tweak the product, change the marketing model, and don’t put the shutters down. We had a period where we didn’t do any sales for 50 days. But we sailed with confidence, we didn’t lose our senses, and now we are where we are. Never give up, have enough positivity.
If you are strong on a particular field, pursue your interest in that field. Say you have good knowledge in networking, then do something in networking, see how you can make things simpler in networking and that will work fantastic for you, you will be much faster and be more successful.
Author: Karthick Prabu