StorySutra.in is an initiative to build a community of Entrepreneurs, Startups & Industry Stalwarts to celebrate success & to learn from shortfalls, and to Contribute, Inspire & Embellish Entrepreneurship by sharing their exciting Stories!
And as a part of our initiative, we invited yet another passionate Entrepreneur Mr. Shikhar Chadha for an interview with us to understand more about his entrepreneurial journey. He is the Founder At The Tarzan Way . Let’s learn more about his exciting journey, his background and his advice for our growing community!
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey, please!
I am going to start by saying that I am your regular 21-year old, who keeps getting different and crazy ideas every day. I like to play piano, and guitar in my free time.
I, along with my friends (disclaimer, all of them have left now) started this venture when I was 19. We had this vision and we wanted to see that materialize. But what we didn’t know was the amount of hard work it demanded. This is the second makeover of this company. Started as a backpacking homestay, we moved on to the hostel phase and finally, working on experiential travel programs and our Artificial Intelligence powered personalised travel platform. Starting from -1.75 Lakhs to reaching a valuation of more than 1 crore has been one journey full of ups and downs. In that journey, we have crossed several milestones, faced several problems, gained loads of experience but in the end, I can say that it has been completely worth it so far.
Please Provide a brief overview of your product & Services?
We’re building a highly flexible and transparent platform, where users can find unique, immersive and experiential travel programs, (something like learning the traditional handicraft of a town or living like a fisherman for a few days, and a lot more), which can be personalised as well as created from scratch using our AI-based software. All the user needs to do is fill a small questionnaire, and get a highly detailed tailor-made travel plan, bookings in a click and 24/7 live concierge while he/she is travelling. Meanwhile, through our unique and highly immersive experiences, we empower the local communities, abandoned villages and small towns around the country by generating employment opportunities through tourism.
What inspired you to build the above Product & Service? How did you find the industry/niche you are in?
This is my second venture, after a brief stint at college, The Tarzan House, which was a backpacking homestay with the vision to provide a home-like culture to all the travellers, which ran for around one year. Over that period, we saw many problems which travellers faced, while some foreigners getting cheated in India, to some Indian tourists who just went to one or two locations and felt that they experienced the culture. We somehow felt we were not achieving our full potential with the venture, and we felt we could do much more. After months of brainstorming, and planning we decided to close down TTH, and start a new journey which was then inception of The Tarzan Way.
What is Your life Mantra?
“Experience a meaningful journey and keep solving all problems along the way” – I am a very strong believer of the fact that your journey matters much, much more than the result, and adding to that, there might be many results, life is not an exam where there’s only one answer. There can be an unlimited number of paths and roads, and you’ve no idea where it might take you.
The most challenging part of your journey to date and how did you overcome those challenges?
- To be honest, I’ve faced much, much more failures than successes; We even started with a negative balance in our accounts, and no cash; With a lot of meetings in CCD, spending 10-11 hours every day, to trying our different things, this journey has been challenging.
- However, the biggest challenge was when my co-founder, who I had been living and working together with for the past 2-2.5 years started facing some personal problems, and due to depression, he had to step down as the COO of The Tarzan Way.
- I’ve not yet expressed it to him, but those 2 months were completely devastating for me since at some point he stopped responding to our messages and calls as well. He was one of my best friends, and this sudden development hit me hard. Those few months were a disaster, things took a 180-degree turn for us.
- Finally, I went to Chandigarh with my CTO to meet our advisor, who was not aware of the situation and he told me to immediately start building a team again.
- Both of us went home and had a long three- hour discussion, after which we decided to move on.
- I started meeting new people, showcasing our plan to many, and finally, I was able to cut down to four people who became a part of TTW’s core team. Together we started focusing a lot on earning revenue since the last few months hit us hard financially.
- Currently, I’m managing a team of 74 people including full-time, part-time employees, work-form home interns and freelancers.
How are you managing your life and work during Lockdown caused by COVID 19?
Well, if I look at it rationally being in the travel industry things are scary, I don’t know what’s going to happen next, but we’re anticipating all possibilities, and I believe no matter what, we’ll make sure to work things out. Otherwise, my daily schedule is fixed, I wear formals every day ha-ha, I wake up at around 7, usually workout and help my family with the household chores, and then I start working at around 9:15-20. I usually work in two shifts, from 9 AM to 7:30 PM, and then from 9:30 PM to 2:00 AM. Our team has been working through the online workspace, and we’ve pretty much adjusted to this whole work from home thing.
What is your source of motivation for the day when you wake up?
Well, I’m not going to romanticise this answer by saying ‘I love to wake up early’ or ‘I do meditation and listen to audiobooks daily’ I feel very demotivated at times as well. I’ve many sources of motivation, whether it’s to achieve my vision, to build the product we’ve been working on, to empower the local communities we collaborate with and what not!
But if I had to choose one, right now it’s my team. The passion which my team exuberate is just mind-blowing, and I love to work with them, with the energy and excitement they have. Our team is like a family and I am proud of all of them.
Money or Emotions, what comes first for you?
When I started, we had no money. We had to take a loan without even telling our families. The reason was, we knew that our parents would not allow us to take this huge risk. What I am trying to say is that I don’t know how we sailed through, but we did. With this, I would like to set up an example for all those young minds who are aspiring to be entrepreneurs that it doesn’t matter whether you are earning or not as long as you have a vision and the willpower to do what it takes.
Honestly, sometimes I feel if it’s about money, I can take up side projects, and take up some classes to sustain that, and thankfully I have got that privilege. I want to make a difference with my work and that’s what matters the most, so yeah, I’d go with emotions on this one.Money is never the objective but the by-product of the arduous journey towards your vision.
How do you manage your stress?
All of us deal with a lot of problems, daily, so it is natural that sometimes I also get stuck on problems and become stressed out. But I have also realised that I have to maintain my calm and composure and take every decision with guarded rationality as it is not just me who is affected but the company, the employees and all the associated clients as well. I have devised a rather simple plan to beat the stress.
Whenever I sense that the environment is getting too overwhelming, I take a five minutes timeout. I do nothing but breathe with my eyes closed. I do not think about the problem, nor do I think about the solution. I just try to remind myself that “Why am I doing what I am doing”. I think this tradition has helped me a lot.
On a side note, I do engage in writing poetry; I also love playing my piano and believe that listening to indie pop music or doing little chores like washing the dishes is therapeutic for me.
What according to you are keys to success?
Again, there’s no mantra or keys to success, everyone has a different journey. I’ve stressed upon this point, many times before that success comes in different ways. I would just define success as a feeling of content and satisfaction.
I’ll share some habits, which have helped me throughout my journey through –
Problem-solving attitude – Everything was just a series of problems, whether waking up early, giving 100-hour workweeks, finding a developer, designing. I kept solving these problems. Google has been a major support and I learnt front-end development, designing, management, marketing, HR skills, and a lot more throughout this journey. Whenever there’s a new problem, I exhaust all my resources, read loads of books and keep implementing side by side, which helps me grow and also helps The Tarzan Way grow.
Persistence – This is a one-key habit which I had since the beginning; I don’t like to stop in the middle due to so and so reasons, I like to keep doing something until I’m perfect at it, no matter what happens.
Finding happiness in little things. Well, this was hard to learn, I started celebrating little successes, since there were so many failures, and that is something which kept me going.
Finally, one last habit which helped me a lot was taking everything, whether success or failure, in stride and moving on.
What Online Apps/tools do you use the most and Why?
I’m very fond of Trello, Google Keep, Tasks, Evernote and Google Calendar. These are some basic productivity tools which help me a LOT in my daily life, from organizing meetings, to put together all the ideas, from planning, to make sure my tasks are on time, I am fond of these Apps. Adding a few others, Google Meet for meetings and specifically Slack as an online workspace which helped my team with this COVID situation.
One more tool which I’d like to mention here is StoryTel, it’s for audiobooks and it’s excellent if you don’t get a lot of time to specifically keep things aside and read.
Share a quote that inspires you the most.
A few lines from the poem ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling, which has stayed in my mind for years now –
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
Your advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs.
My advice to all aspiring entrepreneurs is; Start small, but start soon. You should be confident in your idea and should be streamlined in your operations. You should not just worry about capital and investments, rather try to create a sustainable venture which is aligned with your mission. Although difficult, it is essential to take risks, but my point here is always bootstrap, and start small.