I met David Urmann at a recently concluded start-up meet in Delhi and found him and his entrepreneurial journey in India quite exciting. David is the founder of a very interesting Social Travel start up in India called Touristlink .
A Small brief about David Urmann
After finishing his PhD, he shifted course and moved to India in 2006 where he founded GoTripIndia. He started working on Touristlink in 2011. It’s an exciting project and a completely new direction for them. One of the reasons he choose to pursue the Touristlink idea is his love for traveling and the feeling that traditional travel sites don’t fill a lot of the important gaps an avid traveler needs.
David tell us about yourself and your Entrepreneurial journey so far ? When and how did you land in India ?
I first landed in India in 2006. At the time I was in graduate school and had 3 employees in the United States. I thought if I shifted to India I could hire a larger staff at the same cost and grow the operations faster. We spent the first year outsourcing for clients I had back in the US before we shifted to developing our own portfolio of mini-travel websites along with some larger projects such as Travelaffiliatepro.com and Hotelkhoj,com. All these projects were SEO driven and they did quite well up until the Google Panda update in 2011 after which we decided to shift our strategy to Touristlink and focus on adding value for our users.
I first came up with the idea about 2 years ago when I went on a trek to Everest base camp. I only had a few days for planning and I arrived in Nepal without having any arrangements for porters or a guide. I wish that I could have reviewed at least some of the available guides on the internet see what others had to say about them and gotten a sense of their personality before arriving in Nepal.
We built Touristlink to bring travelers together with local travel providers. Travelers benefit in that they can find services they would not normally find online such as; local guides, equipment rentals, boutique hotels and travel agencies. Businesses benefit in that they can develop stronger relationships with existing customers and find new customers.
Tell us the story of how it started and the challenges you have faced in India so far?
I have had a very positive experience working in India over the last 6 years. Of course one finds some unique challenges with the infrastructure but from a business perspective it’s a great place and full of opportunity. We started selling deals on Touristlink last June and India not only has the largest group sizes it also has the lowest cost when it comes to customer acquisition. The startup scene has evolved and progressed tremendously during the past few years to the point where you don’t need to go to Silicon Valley to get funding or even find great advisers.
Who are the Founders and their backgrounds?
I have been working with my co-founder Jayesh Bagde for the last 6 years. He has a background in marketing and manages most of the day-to-day operations as well as the sales team. Deepak Gupta, our CTO, has been working with for almost as long. He worked previous for a big tech company in Pune before coming back to Nagpur to run our technical operations.
How is Touristlink.com so different when there are already websites selling travel products and services?
Touristlink is similar in some ways to other marketplaces that already exist but several factors differentiate us. First, we are a full-fledged social network. This means that travelers can add their own pictures, make customized lists of places they want to visit, create their own tour guides and more. Second, we are destination oriented so travelers can simply search for a destination and then see who is around to help. Third, our service is completely free service for members and businesses. Finally, it takes a certain amount of traffic to make a marketplace work. Our founding team has a strong background in SEO and the ability to bring this traffic.
What technology platform is your site built on? Is it in-house?
Our platform is built in PHP. The social application and CMS were all built in-house. I don’t think a site like this can ever be considered built it’s a continuous work in progress as we try to listen to feedback from our members and improve.
What initiatives are you planning in the next 2-3 years?
We need to perfect the options we already have and make them in some cases easier to use. Beyond that we would like to have a simple trip board so you can share where you are going and see who else will be at the same place. We can do a better job understanding the travel needs of each of our members and then contextually displaying deals from locals. Finally, we would like a more mobile friendly version of our site.
Which locations is it available ?
We are pretty globally with members from almost every country. We have a small team of 3 people in Santiago, Chile as part of StartupChile and have developed versions of the site in Portuguese and Spanish.
What is your Marketing/Promotional approach?
We drive traffic to our website via 3 avenues. First, via ppc campaigns directly to deals offered by local companies we have partnerships with. Second,via content marketing and third, via social tools that enable members to share travel content and experiences.
Did you raise any funding? If you want to raise funds do you want to be contacted by Investors ?
We raised $40,000 in equity free funding from StartupChile. We are interested in contacting investors and raising additional capital.
What is the overall plan going forward?
We are working with a number of local hotels and transfer companies in India and reselling packages. We had $34,000 in revenue in October 2012. We will look to increase the number of local companies we are working with and rapidly increase our revenue and hopefully hit break-even by sometime early next year. We want to make the site even more user friendly and help people find the best trips and local connections. If anyone has any feedback or questions I would be happy to answer them personally.
If you liked this interview and have comments for us orDavid put it in the comments section below.