Trekking is one of the best adventures which adventure-seekers love to experience. However, some people are afraid to put their step forward for the adventure. They fear for their safety. That is why Trekmunk is a company started by group effort between three individuals who wanted to make trekking a safe and enjoyable experience.
Trekmunk is a story of three guys who decided to join the cult of overcoming fear and following their passion and most importantly, their dreams. The goal was simple at the beginning, to create a platform where people can trek in Himalayas with like minded people keeping in mind the safety and sustainable tourism
Now, four years down the lane, the goal is to change the face of a trekking organisation. With every other organisation running towards the end reward that is big profits, He wants and is already working a social angle. Trekmunk believes in trekking for a cause wherein, it hosts trail cleaning treks, escorts doctors to high altitudes to treat the less fortunate, trekmunk is also working towards going paperless and is in talks with numerous NGO’s to collaborate towards societal progress.
The key aspect is organising premium trekking in the Himalayas in India, Nepal and Bhutan. We are expanding into Motorcycle trips, cycling trips, Cultural Tours, Skiing as well as Photo Tours into these regions by 2021.
We are not just an organisation but a platform from where people can connect. All the 3 directors are always in touch with the trekkers. Their personal stories and experiences are all over the website where people can read and can get inspired from.
Moreover, we are experts in Personalised Adventures. We provide tailor made packages for our clients. We can tailor-make a trek/tour according to the needs and likes of a particular client and his family and/or friends. We cater to you personally as your Adventure consultant. We even take people for solo treks. We have over 100 treks on our website and are adding offbeat and non commercialised treks continuously.
We are working towards making our operations more environment friendly by removing single use plastic from trek operations. Also, we are on our way to becoming paperless as a lot of paper is used in legal documentation and medical certificates from when someone comes for a trek.
The biggest challenge/roadblock of following your passion is always crossing the threshold of your home. One can imagine the amount of resistance created when you tell your family that you will be creating a life in an Adventure field of which they had no idea about and had no certainty which means we had no support whatsoever from our family.
The other challenge which we faced in our initial phase was financial aspect. When we registered our company i.e. on 17th November 2016, three of us decided not opt for any sort investment/funds from V.C. or any angel investment company and also not to take any loan from any bank. The main reason for that was, since we all came from corporate background, we didn’t want to make our passion a business, if we had, we might have quit from it again. While, we travelled and trekked in the Himalayas like nomads, we started to get bookings and we accepted them.
Our first batch which we organised and lead was Chadar Trek (Frozen river trek in Ladakh) on 6th of January 2017 and the second batch was on 14th just right after the first one. Both the batches got full. Later on, we came up with our own unique style of customising treks according to the need of their trekkers and focused majorly on the development of mountain villages by organising trek for a cause.
Trekmunk founders explained their whole story in detail… Let’s read
1. How did you come up with the idea and what was the Eureka moment?
All trekking organisations are highly commercialised and we wanted to deviate from that path, bringing our audiences to deeper and virgin parts of the Himalayas. We have a company policy of limiting the trekkers through our company and boycotting the most commercialised treks like Kedarkantha Trek, as thousands of people trek on this trail in the season and the essence of trekking is lost. The more important mission is to bring a positive change around us.
2. How did you build the core team (co-founders and initial employees) – How did you meet and how did everyone align to the idea? What is the total team size?
All three of us met at an orientation in Rishikesh and instantly hit it off with our passion and humour. The drive till the base camp of a trek which we had to work on was long and hence, they got ample of time to discuss their past and the things that bought them there. Happy to be sharing a common ground, all three of us commenced their job as trek leaders and trekked together at some of the most beautiful slopes of Uttrakhand.
After doing what they assumed was their dream job for four months, they felt that the organization, even though it was a travel company, was same as a corporate company in any of the metro city. The work culture was again look deceptive and one after the other, all three of them resigned.
4. Give us a background of your core team and yourself with the age
Tired of being a corporate slave, Oshank, Investment Banker, decided to travel solo, leaving behind all the madness of an office life and towards finding inner peace. In 2014, he packed his bags and booked a flight to Kolkata with no return ticket. The short trip extended to become a month long trip where he covered not just Kolkata but also explored Sikkim, Gangtok and Darjeeling; and then, he made a decision that was the first turning point of his life.
He planned on trekking the Goechala summit and though it is still one of the most difficult treks to conquer in India, it was his first. Barely making it alive in his jeans and a torn wind cheater jacket, he says that was the moment he first, felt alive. After returning from the trip, he couldn’t settle for anything less. He applied for a job in a trekking organization and packed his bags for Rishikesh.
While Oshank realised it later in his life, Harshit had been a passionate traveller since childhood. Following his dad on his journeys, Harshit had starting doing solo bike trips at the age of 19. He was never inclined on making a career in academics and had always dreamt of riding his bike on mountains and into sunsets. In September of 2014, while riding along the coast of Kerala, Harshit slipped and had a major accident in which he broke two major bones of his leg. The doctor said he would never run again.
But, the passion was too deep and the dreams to high to let a setback change the course of his destiny; after three months of depressing bed rest, he got up, started walking and in a few more months, starting running and then, in a couple of months, summited Stok Kagri in a jaw dropping time of 46 hours. After he aced his Advance mountaineering course, he couldn’t settle for anything less. He applied for a job in a trekking organization and packed his bags for Rishikesh.
Mohit was a bit different, he got into IIT Kharakpur, and his parents were as proud as they could be. Studying in college students dreamt of, he always felt something was missing. He was lost all the time and nothing made sense. After graduating, he changed six different jobs within a course of just one year and still, was not satisfied with his life. In a blink of an eye, he left everything behind, booked a ticket to Leh in the dead of winter and then, made a decision he still laughs at.
With no prior trekking experience, he decided to do the Chadar trek and that too, alone. Yes, he was insane to do so, but in the dawn of that insanity, raised his passion for travelling and the need for adventure. After coming back from Ladakh, he couldn’t settle for anything less. He applied for a job in a trekking organization and packed his bags for Rishikesh.
3. What has been Revenue, traction and growth from the date of inception till now?
In 2019 i.e. our 3rd year. Our turnover crossed 1 cr.
When we started our company, our aim was not to earn a lot of money, nor we had any budget and financial goals. We just wanted to travel as much as possible. Out of three, one person has to stay back to take care of the query and to take feedback and other backend task, Other one handled the operations and third one lead the batch. We kept shuffling our roles for two years. For first two years, we couldn’t focus on anything.
We were just a team of three and we couldn’t keep a track of anything. From the third year, we started planning everything. We created a database, we worked on our website, started working on SEO and marketing, we worked on financial projection and start hiring people so that we can focus on more relevant thing.
4. What is the one thing that sets you apart from your competitors and what’s your revenue model? – Who are your key clients? How much do you charge them?
We believe that doing our bit, as little as it may be; following this enough times, makes a big difference. Holding onto that thought, Trekmunk came up with a social initiative called ‘Trek for a cause,’ under which we try to take the basic amenities to high altitude and remote villages or leave them in a better condition than what we get. Setting up medical camps, providing education, supporting women empowerment, opting eco- friendly trekking options, cleaning up the trails are some of it.
5. What are the unit economics and margins for a business like this how does the model work?
We started the company without infusing any capital into the company. The only way we could do that is to work with the vendors who were already operating on the –different slopes of different states in Himalayan region. Every vendor has a different cost depending on the trek and number of people coming in a single batch. We treat that cost as a Fixed cost which could vary from 50% to 70% of the cost what we charged from our client.
If a product is a commercial one and is on our fixed departure list, our margin is sometime 20% but then we have to play with the number of people. Higher the number of people in a single batch, lower we are charged with the fixed cost and higher we get the margin.
Around 20 to 25 of our products are commercial and famous which makes them cost sensitive. Since they are cost sensitive, we have to work on a less margin. The treks which are not famous, we call them off-beat trek on which we can increase the margin and can be sold at a good mark up sometimes even at 60 to 70%. Then we have customisation of a trek which means if a group of friends or a family what us to organise a trek just them as a private group. Customisation can be sold a high mark up.
6. How are you funded?
We are a self funded company.
7. How does the product work? Detailed answer on the workings of the product or how does the platform work? How does your service work?
Right now we have more than 100 treks and mountaineering expedition on our website. Each trek is categorized into 6 difficulty level. Easy, Easy to Moderate, Moderate, Moderate to difficult and ultimate. Difficulty level depends on three things: Number of days. Altitude gain and the tarrain, if a person is a first timer/beginner, we recommend him to go for an easy or easy to moderate trek. If his/her fitness level is good, then he can join max a moderate level trek.
If a person is an experienced one, he can go for a higher difficulty trek. Each trek has a season: Winter, spring, summer, Monsoon, autumn. Furthermore, trek gets categorized in region. We are operating in Kashmir, Ladakh, Uttarakhnd, Himachal, Sikkim, West Bengal and northeast India.
Then we have two further option: Fixed Departures and Customisation. In fixed departure, a person can join the batch even if he is coming solo. The strength of a fixed departure batch goes till 16 people.
In customisation, we organise a trek for a group of friends or a family as a private group irrespective of the number of people.
Suppose a person visit our website for a trek which he or she is looking for in the month of June. He can filter out the trek which is available in June. Further he/she can filter the treks according to the difficulty level and number of days he/she has in hand. Then if he/she wish to make it a private batch then he/she can opt of a customised batch. If he/she is confused, then you can call our customer care that will help you to decide a perfect trek for you.
Once he/she has decided a trek, he/she can book it and pay for it through our website. After the payment, he/she would receive acknowledge and necessary document through emails. Necessary documents include Medical certificate, Disclaimer and personal details form. Our services usually start from basecamp to basecamp (basecamp is the starting and ending point of a trek) but we also arrange pick up/transportation for our client to reach to the basecamp. The pickup point is usually from the airport or the railway station of the region in which they decided to trek for example Dehradun railway station or airport if the trek is in Uttarakhand or Srinagar if the trek is in Kashmir.
One of our ground coordinator stay in touch with our client throughout the period starting from the booking date till end of the trek. Ground coordinator will make sure everything is arranged for our client from pick up drop to any other facility they require. One of our trek leader will receive our clients at the base camp.
8. What are the costs of building something like this (approximately) or basic idea atleast? How long does it take?
To build a trekking organisation in Himalayas, you need a strong network in Himalayan region and good understating among the local people. It was possible for us only because we travelled and trek in Himalayas at great length and made mountains our home. You also need to have at least basic understanding to mountaineering and risk involved in it. Mountain sickness is common at high altitude trek and if your trek leader does not have medical knowledge and past experience, you might be risking the life of your client. If you have money but no knowledge of this industry, then again you will be risking your client life.
9. Future plans
The aim for us is to change the face of trekking in India wherein, social responsibilities are the bases of an organisation and non-commercial, virgin and tailor made treks are given more importance. We are trying to give our clients a very unique and wholesome experience instead of a climb up and climb down trek. We are also working on an alpinist niche where trekkers can go solo (shadowed by a trek leader) where is expected to cook for himself, set up a camp himself and carry his stuff himself; we are trying to give our clients a REAL taste of adventure rather than assisted adventure. We are also working towards making our operations more.
environment friendly by removing single use plastic from trek operations. Also, we are on our way to becoming paperless as a lot of paper is used in legal documentation and medical certificates when someone is coming for a trek. We are working on an App through which our client can stay in touch with their fellow trekkers and assess all other details of Himalayas, can share pictures and other relevant information.
10. How COVID has impacted your startup and the steps you’ve taken to overcome them?
Adventure providers, and a start up at that, we at Trekmunk, like all travel
tourism related organisations, have taken a huge blow. To begin with, the situation around with the world and India looks grim. The testing for a new vaccination has begun but it offers no guarantee as of now (DATE). With the number of cases shooting higher with every passing day, there is no confirmation about when exactly we will be able to travel, not even an assumption. Unfortunately, for us, it just spells HORROR. This is not how we expected our 2020 to begin.
We had this elaborate planning and excel sheets outlining our plans for the year. As we are in an expansion stage, everything involves taking financial risks. We even leased a land in Himachal which we had to let go of and we had to do several layoffs.
Meanwhile, nature is still doing its thing. The spring and summer has come and gone, and so will the monsoon and autumn. The batches have been cancelled since the mid of March until no further notice; which means the the biggest trekking season, that is, the entire year will be completely dark for us.
Even when the world recovers from this bizarre virus, travellers will refrain from venturing out into the wild immediately. Hence; to make them feel safer, we have come up with a very detailed list of plans and actions that we are now putting into execution.
We are regularly scrutinizing the corona virus outbreak circumstance and are planning to continue our treks with the same enthusiasm and standards after the lockdown is exempted and the government allows interstate travel for tourists. The only way to put this thought into action is by taking not just a few but a lot of precautions. And we here at Trekmunk are up for the task. For this, we have issued guidelines which will help in ensuring safe treks for the mountain lovers. All the members are highly motivated to get back into action and make your dream into reality once again.
Here we are, strangled up in a never seen scenario; COVID19. When it comes to us, our topmost priority is ensuring the health and security of our family which includes all the trekkers, guides, staff, porters and luggage carriers. We are planning to give excessive importance to each and every trip so that it can be smoothly conducted even with this pandemic on the loose. We will maintain strict protocols through which a guest can be denied acceptance for a batch if he or she is found not fit under our category.
Any guest or crew member of Trekmunk will not be allowed to be a part of a trip if:
(a) He or she has travelled or resided at a location which has a level 3 warning identified by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the last 14 days before the departure of the trip.
(b) He or she has had close contact with an infected COVID-19 person within 14 days prior to the beginning of the trip.
(c) He or she has developed any symptoms of flu within the last 14 days prior to the scheduled departure of the trip.
(d) We won’t be able to fulfil these above-listed guidelines without your co-operation and hence we expect you to take this thing very seriously with utmost honesty and self-identification.
Here are our new protocols which are added due to COVID-19:
(a) We will make sure that everything happens outdoors and not under a confined space which will ensure proper social distancing.
(b) A health certificate ruling out any symptoms of COVID-19 will be mandatory for every trekker.
(c) We will be stationing alcohol-based sanitizers throughout the camp.
(d) We will make sure that thorough cleaning of all the equipment and gear at camp takes place more frequently.
(e) Screening for high body temperature will be done on a daily basis of every crew member and trekker.
(f) We will follow proper norms for transfers which will include proper sanitizing of the interior and exterior regions of the vehicles.
Here are some points we wish our trekker would consider:
(a) If you can, prefer a personal group. A personal group will only consist of only you and your friends and family. Hence, it will rule out the chance of catching the virus from a fellow traveller while on the trek.
(b) We would recommend you to go for an off-beat trek. We say this because those trails are not commercialized and so, you will not come across camps and people for various other companies. The world has witnessed many catastrophes but we have always found out a way to get out of it. We are sure that this time also we will fight back to restore our normal lives and make our way back to the mountains once again.
Visit Trekmunk to book your trekking tour.