Story two techies changing the Himalayan landscape with customized treks that are affordable and gaining popularity
At a time when technology has created abundance of new business ideas and ventures, it is surprising to meet two IT professionals venturing into the business of outdoor activity. Meet Ashish Bhatia and Nitin Mahajan, who are both adventure seekers. Setting up Trek Trails in 2016, the idea was to make weekends more productive and invigorating, and it has turned into an exciting new business venture. “We realised that like us, there are several others who have only the weekends to spare to follow their passion,” explains Ashish about the genesis of the venture.
What actually started off with three friends coming together to pursue their interests in trekking and mountaineering has shaped into a business model, which allows them to enjoy nature and also make money on the side. Based out of Chandigarh, this eco-friendly company has gathered the necessary buzz, which has resulted in easy flow of people seeking their adventure trek services. “The idea behind Trek Trails is to provide a platform for rejuvenation amid the hustle-bustle of work life,” explains Nitin Mahajan. It is for this reason that their treks are actually centred around weekends, relegated to spending time outdoors.
At a time when several trek routes are well documented, the duo used their own past experiences to discover many new places, which has resulted in them offering several unique destinations. In order to make the experience completely authentic and natural, they have made arrangements with the local communities in the hill where their treks are held. “We give back to these communities in our own way and ensure that no one litters the villages when we are trekking through them and so on,” stresses Bhatia.
They also do their biding by contributing towards development of these remote and far-flung areas. During their recent travel to Kareri Village in Himachal Pradesh, they ended up distributing stationary to schoolchildren. “The experience of being with remote communities on treks is very different from what an ordinary trek is like. Our customers also share the joys of giving back to the communities when they join us in such activities,” adds Mahajan.
Passion takes over
Both Ashish Bhatia and Nitin Mahajan are IT professionals and have full time jobs. This meant they could devote time to their venture only after work hours and weekends. “We wanted to try out something which interested us, was less expensive to operate, and allowed us to have fun,” they state in unison. Trek Trails may not have an office, but their efficient website has allowed all the necessary work for business to come in their way; the social media presence, word of mouth about their offerings, and a general network of people keen on adventure have all aided them in this nascent business.
On being asked how they manage everything, Ashish explains, “over time, we have managed to build good repertoire with the locals from the sights we visit, so that helps us in doing our research thoroughly. We identify the area for trek and get in touch with a small team we have built and then we finalise our location. The online thing works for us for now because both of us have full-time jobs and we can manage everything efficiently online. Our clients come from diverse categories—solo women travellers, school children, casual trekkers, nature lovers; everyone is welcome here.’’
With a small capital of less than `1 lakh, some equipment and gear needed by trekkers, the duo managed well in stepping up their entrepreneurial journey. “Our initial investment came from our savings and we hardly had any overhead costs,” recounts Bhatia. The two have plans to expand to cover more areas across the foothills of Himalayas. Plans are on anvil to venture next into Uttarakhand and then to extend our journeys to the North-East region, with eventually offering Nepal and Bhutan as options. With their business growing more than ever, they plan to quit their regular jobs to run Trek Trails full time.
“We decided on creating these unique eco-friendly trekking trails for anybody who is up for some adventure. This has personally been very enriching journey for the both of us. As we enable a platform for people who share our passion towards nature. Our effort goes into ensuring that our clients have personalised quality services and we have hired a permanent team working for us,’’ they state. Moreover, being trained and certified themselves, having the right skills and qualifications was never a challenge. The founders are adrenalin junkies with Ashish Bhatia being a certified Advance Mountaineer and Nitin Mahajan being a certified Wilderness First Responder from NOLS, USA and a certified crossfit trainer.
The treks offered by Trek Trails encourages limited number of people in the groups for better organised experience. Typically groups of as less as 12-15 people are popular, though they have organised treks for up to 50 people as well. ‘’We have hired a highly efficient team who are locals and belong to the sights we visit and this has allowed in smoothening the process of managing our treks. So far, we have only explored Himachal Pradesh but we wish to expand and explore other parts of the Himalayas,” explains Bhatia.
Although the idea seems very simple to start and set into a business, there are challenges such businesses face. Finding time, organising the treks and ensuring safety of those who are on such treks are all facets that the Trek Trail team witness in each journey. They also make profits which helps continue this venture. Considering the model is designed mostly as a weekend activity, and with full time jobs to keep them busy, the Trek Trails team is delighted with the way things have shaped up so far. Not only do they get to follow their passion, they manage to spend time with other thrill seekers and also make money for their expertise.