We had an interesting chat with Mr. “Prasanthy Gurugubelli”, Founder at the Hyderabad – India based start-up “Hubchi”
Below is the interview we conducted with him:
1. What is it exactly that you do and what your start-up is all about?
Hubchi is an online marketplace to find and book cool things to do in every city, across art, adventure, outdoor, food, entertainment and travel categories.
2. When has your startup been founded? And what stage is your startup currently at?
Hubchi was founded in 2014. Hubchi is live in 4 countries with 80+ suppliers. People are booking with us as we are growing the supplier base. We intend to add 200 suppliers by next quarter.
3. What is your startup’s business model and how does it work?
Our primary source of revenue will be a percentage commission on every booking, charged to the operator. We also charge a fixed fee to list the activity in the premium space, typically on the first row or sidebar. We will also activate other channels of revenue such as affiliates.
4. How did your team meet? And who in your team does what?
Hubchi is founded by three friends who are at the core adventure-seekers and lead an active lifestyle. We have distributed our work into three buckets of Operations & Finance, Technology and Marketing. I handle the overall operations and finance.
5. What, exactly, makes you different from existing options, what will make your product and/or service stand out in the marketplace? In other words what’s unique about you and what’s new about what you make?
We intend staying ahead with our multiple-category-offering and initial-focus on emerging markets. We are removing inherent inefficiencies in offline-activity space by providing global reach to the operators, and one-stop-shop for the users.
6. What is your growth like? And what milestones has your startup achieved so far?
We have our first customers and are continuously growing our supplier network. We intend to expand to 4 more countries by this quarter and gain 200 more suppliers.
7. Who are your competitors? And what is your start-up’s competitive advantage over them?
Our biggest competitor is the offline activity-booking. Real challenge is to bring both consumers and operators online. There is no global distribution network in this space unlike airlines industry. We are building one such network. This would be a sustained competitive advantage and the reason for them to stay with Hubchi.
8. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
Although there is significant traction, the main uncertainty would be breaking into the offline-booking space – bringing customers and vendors online We need critical-mass of listings and bookings to keep both consumers and vendors interested and closely-knit with Hubchi Story Scaling-up quickly is crucial since global distribution network would set us ahead. Sourcing variety of activities from fragmented operator base is challenging. Customer-Acquisition costs are also high.
9. What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?
1. In our experience, only 20% operators have online presence, while more than 80% of consumers search online.
2. Users generally engage during weekends. We’re trying to increase engagement levels through rich dynamic content, instant booking and real-time availability.To increase our value-add, we’re providing city guides and regular updates on new things-to-do.
10. Why are you going to succeed?
We intend staying ahead with our multiple-category-offering and initial-focus on emerging markets. We are removing inherent inefficiencies in offline-activity space by providing global reach to the operators, and one-stop-shop for the users. We believe that together, as a team with complementary skillset, we can disrupt this space, and build a global technology company.
11. If your startup succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?
We have a large canvas of potential opportunities out there. We can expand into niche areas like luxury travel, extreme adventure, etc.
However, we have not given much thought about additional areas. Our current focus is on maintaining a perfect activity mix across various categories such as art, adventure, travel, food etc.
12. Why did you choose this idea and concept to build your start-up based on?
We’re trying to solve a problem that we faced. As organisers of Asia’s largest Adventure and Activity club, we found it extremely difficult to find interesting experiences and reliable vendors. In our experience, only 20% operators have online presence, while more than 80% of consumers search online. We tried to build a network of operators in an adhoc way and posted the activities in the community. As the user base increased, we had issues handling listings,instant-bookings and payments.
13. What have you learned so far from launching your idea?
Our customers are city-based and look for experiences in day-to-day life or when traveling. We received feedback from users and vendors for back- end development and real-time booking features. We are at it.
14. Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?
Scaling up quickly, which is also linked to meeting the financial requirements. We are looking to raise seed funding for the same. Managing multi-city, multi-country operations also would be a challenge.
15. What’s the benefit for the customer/user?
We are removing inherent inefficiencies in offline-activity space by providing global reach to the operators, and one-stop-shop for the users, saving them from painful research online.
16. How did customers / users find out about you?
Social Networks, Targeted Campaigns, Extended Personal Networks. For our initial customers, we ran Facebook ads and that proved to be very effective.
17. Who are your current customers / users? Who are your target customers / users?
Our customers are city-based and look for experiences in day-to-day life or when traveling. On the supplier side, all the activity-organisers such as travel agencies, restaurants, adventure companies can list their activities with hubchi.
18. Where do new customers / users come from and what makes new customers/users try you?
1. Clean Website with focus on rich content.
2. In addition, word of mouth marketing by the existing user base also helped.
3. As we increase our listings, and our value add to the customers by providing them with city guides, we think that more and more users will be interested in booking through us.
19. What do your customers / users say about your product and/or service?
Our users love it. We have also received feedback on adding some more features such as real-time location-based alerts etc and we are working on them.
20. How are you going to scale?
Scaling-Up quickly and reaching a critical mass is very crucial for us to stay afloat. We intend hiring more feet-on-the ground sales guys to bring more suppliers aboard. On the User end, we will do more paid marketing on search and social media while trying to create a strong brand name.
21. What’s the biggest missing feature? The one thing customers/users keep asking for?
Real-time and location-based features.
We received feedback from users and vendors for back- end development and real-time booking features. This will provide us with real-time inventory booking with instant booking features.
22. Are you going to internationalize? And if yes how are you planning to expand your start-up’s operations accordingly?
We have presence in 4 countries and are expanding further. We know that we will not be able to do this alone and are working towards partnerships with airlines, travel-insurance and lifestyle companies.
23. How big do you think you can get? Why? And how you are planning to achieve your goals?
1. The total available market in this space is $100 bn+.
2. We can become the “booking.com” or “airbnb” for activities.
3. We intend staying focused on solving the customer pain-points.
24. Are you looking to hire a new workforce? And if yes, what job vacancies do you currently offer and where can potential applicants contact you at?
1. Yes. We are looking for hiring in Content and Sales functions from next month onwards.
2. Potential candidates can write to us at email@example.com.
25. Are you looking for partnership opportunities or funding from Venture Capitals (VC) or other funding sources? Or your business is self-sustainable? And if the first option applies where can potential partners / investors contact you at?
Yes. We are looking to raise seed funding, and are seeking partnership opportunities or funding from Venture Capitals (VC) or other funding sources. We can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
26. What advice do you have for fresh entrepreneurs?
1. Extensive Market Research
2. Understand Customer Pain Points
3. Start off with an MVP and build on as the users come.
4. Videos and rich media have better engagement and reach.