With the easing of lockdown rules and people around the world gear up for the vacation season, more travel companies are ramping up preparation for the expected spike in the travel index. The Indian travel industry is looking to claim a large chunk of this market as one of the most competitive in the world. This stems from the ingenuity of entrepreneurs who venture into the industry to establish tour and travel startups that are geared towards total customer satisfaction. However, very few startups have been able to capture the hearts of tourists in Northeast India like Prasurjya Talukdar and Prantika Sarma’s Oddessemania.
There are a few distinctive features to point out that separate Oddessemania from the rest. “The main difference between us and our competitor is that every tour/trek that we provide has been done by our team members and guides registered under us. So, we can ensure the quality of the trips and can let the clients have the best travel experiences ever. No third party is involved with Oddessemania. We make people explore the offbeat places which involve adventure and push them a little more to have that feeling of satisfaction. We teach them how to learn from nature and live a minimalist life while they are on a trip with us.”
The mantra at Oddessemania is simple; customer’s benefit is a priority. From safe and comfortable trips to cash returns during trips, the travel experts at Oddessemania live for one thing only – to align their objectives with those of their customers. According to Prasurjya, “Our main aim is to let everyone travel to their dream destination. We just want to let people know that you can earn and learn a lot from travel and the adventure industry. Nowadays, everybody is attracted to backpacking and moving around rather than normal tours.”
He also hopes to simplify travel for his customers through the many agendas of his startup. Prasurjya believes that many of the difficulties people encounter during their trip are the result of unfamiliarity with the destination they visit. To fix this, travellers are paired with locals that reside in that particular area to guide them to popular zones they would love to visit. For many travellers, being able to maintain a budget while travelling is almost impossible. This has caused people within the middle-class bracket to completely abstain from leisure travels and vacations.
Sharing how and why he ventured into tourism, Prasurjya says, “I’m from a middle-class family which made me make a keen observation on a few problems. We make a lot of plans but eventually drop the idea due to budget issues. While I was studying, I would go on backpacking adventures. And I realised travel can be cheap. That’s when I decided to do something for those youths and families looking for budget travel plans. Instead of fancy hotels, I make them stay at local homestays where tourists get a chance to know about each other’s cultures and traditions by sharing stories, trying local cuisines etc. This way we’re also promoting responsible tourism.”
The folks at Oddessemania have created a budget-friendly travel plan that applies to people from all walks of life. They aim to show that you don’t need deep pockets to have an enjoyable tourism experience.
As it is widely known, it takes many hands to produce success. Although many people are working behind the scenes to ensure this startup runs smoothly, Prasurjya highlights members of his core team that have put their hearts and time together to promote the travel company. These members include co-founder Prantika Sarma, businessman Ranjan Talukdar, business advisor Rajat Kumar Gogoi, trained rock climber and leader Nitish Deka, and marketing manager and content developer Dibyajyoti Das.
Talking about challenges, Prasurja reveals the biggest challenge was guidance and then the financial part. “When I started there was no one to guide me. I committed several mistakes but there was none to correct me. Getting support from the family was a huge deal. I left a well-paying job as an engineer to start something from scratch. Also, starting up something means it would require funds. I faced a lot of financial difficulties. But I never gave up on my dreams. I organised trips and treks with whatever little savings I had. To cut costs, I decided to learn website development and eventually built one. I got so good at it with practice that I earned good money by creating websites for my friends. I used the amount for the development of my company.”
Despite its speedy growth and competitiveness, the travel industry in India still leaves much to be desired. Prasurjya also points out some ways in which the Northeast travel industry can grow and be able to compete with others around the world. “The main thing we are lacking is correct information about different places. You see many governments and private websites out there providing tours and travel services but they never provide that much information about the trips and the places.
“For this reason, tourists need to search through various platforms like YouTube and others and may also need to contact many people for confirmation. Secondly, rather than promoting the same tour plans for Kaziranga, Majuli, Shillong, Cherrapunjee, and Tawang sightseeing, they should consider promoting rural tourism. The world should know about Kaziranga but they also need to know our other scenic, cultural and historical places like Sivasagar, Jorhat, Bongaigaon, Kokrajhar, Halflong etc. Guwahati is a pit stop for every traveller coming to different Northeastern states but they never know what Guwahati has to offer. There are so many waterfalls nearby the city. Few kilometres away from Guwahati, we have a river dolphin sightseeing spot and most numbers of river dolphins are found there but 90% of people don’t know about it. The place is struggling to survive and needs the government’s attention. The fact is that people from China, USA and other countries have come and made films and documentaries about the place but we natives are not aware of it at all. Similarly, Bongaigaon has fantastic trekking spots which can be further developed to promote adventure tourism. Dawki is a famous place in Meghalaya but only locals know there is a village where you will find more than 30-40 living root bridges and they even teach you how those bridges are built. At Sangti Valley in Arunachal Pradesh, there’re so many hidden treks that need government intervention for promotion.
The tourism industry must focus on rural and sustainable tourism. Also, only about 5% of tour agencies and operators are qualified enough to provide good services. I feel the government should encourage tourism training. One could become a mountaineer by pursuing training from recognised mountaineering institutes or choose to be a multilingual professional guide. Mountaineering and adventure activities are still not considered a sport in our country. I would want to see it happen someday,” he observed.
As a B2C company, their direct revenue comes from customer booking only. However recently they have added a new part wherein a client could book the guides instead of opting for travel plans and plan their tour. The last turnover was Rs 20 lakhs.
At Oddessemania, travellers are not just assured of quality service during their travels, the team goes the extra mile to back up their promise by providing an unforgettable travel experience for their customers. All that is left for this outstanding travel company is the next step. As Prasurjya says, “We are planning to open different institutions regarding guide training and other adventure clubs in Guwahati as well as in nearby villages where we can promote rural tourism as well.
“We are coming up with variations in our itineraries to make it more fun and appealing and adding more cultural tours, as well as promoting sustainability. We are also working on opening branches of Oddessemania and making bases in other Northeastern states and outside Northeast as well,” he adds.
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