Amit Sengupta, Founder and Editor-in-Chief at TravelFlat.in, has shared his amazing life journey and about his startup story during an interview with us.
Q: Please Introduce Yourself and more about your Life’s Journey so far.
A: You can say I am a wannabe digital media startup entrepreneur. In my career, I have been a travel writer and photographer. My writings have appeared in one of the leading travel portals of India – AskmeonTravel.com. I am also one of ‘India’s Top 10 Travel Photo Blogger’ rated by Holidify.
My travelogues and travel blogs have appeared in some of country’s reputed media publications such as ‘Huffington Post India’, ‘Sunday Pioneer’, ‘Money Life magazine’, ‘Outlook Splurge’ and ‘Statesman’ Sunday magazine. My travel blogs have appeared in international websites such as ‘Kiss from the World’ and ‘The Gen Y Not’ and I also had a short stint with The Times of India.
At the age of 22 years, I served as the Editor-At-Large for an English startup newspaper published from Calcutta – Echo of India, playing a vital role in the launch of its Port Blair edition (which was the only mainstream newspaper to have launched in Andaman and Nicobar Islands till today) in 2007-2008 and making it the No.1 newspaper in the hyper local market.
In my life, nature and environment has a rich influence on my mind and philosophy. It’s maintaining the harmony of the nature and environmental sustainability that matters. What is the point of traveling to Himalayas or plunging deep diving onto the depths of ocean if there is no environmental sustainability?
My roots are in Assam and West Bengal. I have graduated with a journalism degree from University of Calcutta in and has pursued a professional course in Global Political Economy from Kings College London’s India Summer School. I am also armed with a professional course on community journalism from Cardiff University.
Q: When and Where did you think about this startup?
A: Travel Flat was born from many experiences from which we learn’t: travel planning is quintessential to your journey and it can make or break a trip. We started this website as a way of showcasing the places we visited or want to visit — with emphasis on travelogues, photography and reviews. We ensured that our travelogues and destination reviews gives a candid list of roses and thorns.
It slowly started featuring our experiences of traveling in India and abroad. We wanted to share it with hundreds of our friends whom we wanted to inspired to travel far and beyond.
In no time, we realized that it was becoming more than our individual blogs. It had to capture a lot more. Adept with the right skills in storytelling, we decided to make it a full-fledged website on destinations and awesome experiences. Gradually, we started getting invitations from the travel and leisure players in Delhi – all the top notch luxury hotels started inviting us for covering their events, food launches, interviews with their chefs. These were all splashed across our website with candid interviews, posts, photo essays and reviews.
Q: Introduce your Co-Founder/Founders and Team.
A: Travel Flat was co-founded by my wife Mousumi Kar and myself. She has worked with brands like Care, Unicef, Oxfam America, New Age Knowledge Solutions (NAKS). She has worked across India (Kolkata, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Mumbai, Tamil Nadu and New Delhi) and South Asia before joining Travel Flat.
Mousumi has completed her graduation and post-graduation with Psychology from Calcutta University and is nurturing our bootstrapped startup. She is blessed with an innate sense of understanding human psychology, brings her program management skills on the table and believes nothing can give a person joy other than traveling. She believes travel shouldn’t be a luxury for a common people. ‘It is a way of learning to enrich your life. Traveling is not rewarding yourself for doing a job; it is essential to your existence.’
We have also got a core editorial team consisting of young writers and bloggers who are extremely passionate about our vision. I have handpicked them from institutes like VIT, NIT and Delhi University. These young minds (from engineering, architecture and literature background) are extremely passionate and committed and we are fortunate to have them as part of our core team. They are able to juggle their studies as well as write for us maintaining a fine balance.
We are also fortunate to have a close-knit family who understands our dream and has been constantly supporting us in this venture.
‘Your entrepreneurship journey doesn’t mean you go solo all alone in the struggle to establish your startup. Your family is integral to your existence.’
— travelflat.in (@travelflat) March 9, 2016
Q: What travelflat.in does and How is it different from other similar startups?
Travel Flat is India’s only narrative digital marketplace showcasing the reputed and the exotic, the inspiring and the sophisticated from the world of travel, lifestyle and conscience-driven luxury. Currently, with two editions – Delhi and Kolkata – we are one of the most exciting and emerging new digital media destination focusing on travel, lifestyle and luxury sectors.
Travel Flat’s audiences are discerning globe trotters, well-travelled and affluent professionals, solo travelers, youth and families in particular who are defining themselves by their journeys and experiences rather than by what they own. Our treatment of storytelling and narration on destinations and experiences differentiates us from other travel startups. We are not a destination discovery platform, neither are we a travel portal selling tour packages. Our niche lies in the strength of our storytelling and that’s what connects us with our hundreds and thousands of readers.
We have content partnerships with internationally renowned The Travel Magazine based out of UK. We also have collaborations on content with Australia based Mapping Megan. This goes on to show the credibility that we have managed to garner through our work.
Q: What’s the Current path, Future plan, and What are Future Funding plans?
A: Travel Flat is recognized as one of the upcoming digital media startups in the travel and leisure sector. This is just a small beginning. There is a long way to go.
In our short journey so far, we have meaningfully associated with national and international brands like Barcelona Tourism, Dubai Tourism, Kingdom of Dreams, The Imperial Delhi, Taj – The Gateway Resort Gurgaon, Taj Mahal Delhi, Indonesia Tourism, Malaysia Tourism, Hyatt Regency Gurgaon, Hyatt Regency Kolkata, The Park, Kolkata, The Grand, New Delhi, Chhattisgarh Tourism Board, Andaman and Nicobar Tourism; and Punjab Tourism.
Our focus is two-pronged at the moment: one on the content and secondly on hiring the right human resources and building a team who are passionate about this dream. We have a small team who works on the content. We have handpicked them at a young age and most of them are pursuing their studies yet passionate writers. They are committed to writing for Travel Flat and have already covered a lot of our hyper-local events in Delhi. We continue to nurture these young minds and we would love to hire them full time in near future once they are through with their studies. We are also planning to get some committed graphic designers on our team. But then, it all depends on funding!
Our eyes are on VC funding in the coming days and months. We will continue to focus on the enterprise in creating a credible narrative content through the power of storytelling. As I mentioned before, we are currently bootstrapping the start up to the best of our abilities. Recently, we were shortlisted as one of the ‘Top 40 Startups among 100 selected Hottest Startups’ at Exhibit Hottest 100 Tech Startups in Bangalore.
This is a huge impetus to our vision and dream. There is an enabling ecosystem wherein precedents are set: young and committed media startups are getting funded. The success of Bangalore based Your Story is a case in point.
The quantum of funding will be vital in fueling our growth plans. We plan to venture out in videos – that’s where the audience is. Travel and leisure videos on inspirational destinations, incredible travelers and experiences shared with hundreds and thousands of viewers.
Q: What challenges did you face while setting up this startup?
A:‘The bigger the challenge, the bigger the sense of achievement when you get to the end of it.’
The biggest challenge is sticking to your vision and dream. ‘Perseverance is the ultimate key that will sail you through to your goal.’ The challenges are not new: it’s there which every upcoming start-ups are facing, right from low capital, lack of right talent or not enough tech support to improve your online presence.
However, the better your determination and passion, the stronger you will turn out to be. India is the most expensive start-up economy in the world today. That’s certainly great news for wannabe entrepreneurs like us. ‘We are not in a hurry to become overnight startup stars or unicorns. We want to take one step at a time.’ We will come out with our new avatar soon in a re-branded look and feel and we and our team is working on that project. We also have plans of hosting some really big, exciting travel events this year (can’t disclose much on them now).
Q: At the end, Would you like to share anything about VID?
A: I think the team behind Viral Indian Diary is doing an amazing job. It is a brilliant initiative to connect readers with inspirational stories about new startups, new journeys, success and motivational stories. It’s important that people know about inspirational personalities that will eventually inspire them to carve out their own personal journey towards entrepreneurship and success. VID does that exactly.
If you have any questions and suggestions please do ask in the comments below.
VID’s team thank you Amit for spending your valuable time with us. We wish you all the very best with your venture.