The journey, it is said, makes the destination worthwhile. But it is the people who make that journey worthwhile, believe the founders of WanderOn, a start-up whose efforts to revolutionise the Indian travel industry have given it the identity of a unique travel community that passionate enthusiasts, particularly the youth, relate with.
It was in 2018 that five engineering graduates from the National Institute of Technology, Kurukshetra, who had organised college festivals and made trips to offbeat destinations together, decided to join hands for WanderOn.
“Travelling holds varying significance in everyone’s life,” says Chirag Jain, co-founder and head of operations at WanderOn. For some, it is a way of pampering themselves, for some others, it is a way of rediscovering themselves. Then there are those who travel to gain new experiences, he explains.
“We live in a fast-paced world where real connections are rare to happen. So when people travel as a community, they are in their rawest form and the kind of connections that form there are truly exceptional and can sometimes be life-changing,” adds Govind Gaur, also the co-founder and chief executive officer of the company.
What sets WanderOn apart from others in the business? Gaur points to the three pillars the company banks on: unique destination, non-conventional experience and last, but not the least, like-minded people who are passionate about travel.
Turning Challenges Into Opportunities
Just when things seemed to pick pace, Covid-19 struck. With hospitality and tourism as its core business, WanderOn was staring at a challenge that appeared overwhelming. But, the wave of revenge tourism that followed the lockdowns infused fresh energy into the tourism industry.
“Covid was a difficult time that took everyone by surprise. Our first thought was that all the pre-booked trips were gone for the next two to three months,” recalls Jain.
The company started offering trips at heavily discounted rates for the post-Covid phase when it expected people to resume travelling. A lot of people signed up—over 1,000 vouchers were purchased—to give the company a revenue of over Rs 60 lakh that helped it navigate the Covid-19 crisis. The money not only helped them support the employees but also the on-ground vendors.
The pandemic changed the way the world looks at professional work, making work from home the new normal. When tourism resumed, WanderOn’s “workcation” offer became an instant hit.
The company onboarded more than 500 properties, including hostels, hotels, villas and apartments, and convinced the owners to standardise their properties and equip them with full power back-up, food and other facilities that travellers might need. So, “workcationers” can continue uninterrupted with their work and holiday plans.
Economics of Travel
Bootstrapped from the beginning, WanderOn counts its customers as its biggest investors. “If you are able to raise money from your customers, you will be able to raise money from any investor,” says Gaur.
“As for valuation, we are almost closing at Rs 35 crore for the financial year 2022-2023 and doing an industry standard of 4x multiple on the revenue we are valued somewhere around Rs 130-150 crore,” says Gaur.
The “immense community love” that Jain speaks of reflects in the bookings. “We are at 90% of our pre-Covid level in terms of occupancy and demand generation,” Gaur beams. “We are seeing a surge in revenge tourism in both domestic as well as international routes. From day 1 till date, we have served more than 50,000 happy customers. We have a strong community presence on social media with over 300,000 people following us on Instagram and Facebook,” he adds.
The company aims to reach Rs 100 crore revenue this year. It plans to expand to more international destinations like Europe, South America, Australia and New Zealand.
The Thrill Called WanderOn
WanderOn was created as a platform for like-minded people, with passion for travelling, to come together. It offers a variety of destinations for its customers to choose from. The company has a mix of properties, including hostels, hotels, villas, etc. All its itineraries have interesting activities which give people a chance to try something new and experience new cultures. With its emphasis on people, WanderOn also adds the much-needed social factor to travel.
“We are at 90% of our pre-Covid level in terms of occupancy and demand generation. We are seeing a surge in revenge tourism in both domestic as well as international routes," Govind Gaur, co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO), WanderOn.