The travel startup is already present in Indonesia, and is looking to expand to Malaysia and Vietnam in the next phase
Ithaka, a travel app that helps people plan their trips over chat with travel experts, has raised US$325,000 in maiden funding from angel investors, including LinkedIn Pulse Co-founder Ankit Gupta and Puneet Motihar, a pilot at private carrier Jet Airways.
The round also saw participation from a few other unnamed angel investors in the US, India and Singapore.
“With Ithaka, we are targeting Indians who are travelling to various countries in Southeast Asia. However, we are also seeing demand coming from over 45 countries across the world,” Co-founder Ameya Sahasrabudhe, told e27. “We will use the funding to expand overseas and also to enhance the product. We are already present in Indonesia, and are looking to expand to Malaysia and Vietnam in the next phase.”
Mumbai-based Ithaka was founded in late 2015 in by IIT Bombay graduates Sahasrabudhe and Rahul Singh. Launched as a marketplace for travel experiences, Ithaka later pivoted to a chat-based travel assistance model after identifying the opportunity in this space.
Ithaka is essentially a personalised travel planner that helps users plan a custom itinerary based on their interests and preferences by chatting with a travel expert. “Existing solutions either try to sell you a package upfront or generate an itinerary based on little or no understanding of the traveler. This to us is blasphemy,” added Sahasrabudhe. “Travel should be personal and experiential, and we’ve built our user experience with just one goal in mind: every traveler should have the most personalised travel experience possible.”
Travel planning is difficult and tiring. While there are innumerable blogs, online guides and reviews, they don’t help the consumer take a decision. Ithaka solves this problem with a chat-based support. Users get realtime advice from destination experts, which allows the company to understand the user intimately and be deeply involved in the planning process. More importantly, the app does not spam travellers with various tour packages, rather helps them plan their own itineraries. The user experience is designed to help craft unique, super personal trips for every type of traveler.
The app is free to use, and Ithaka makes revenues by selling local activities and experiences from carefully-curated and highly-recommended operators. “We don’t charge our travellers extra for bookings,” added Sahasrabudhe. “You would pay the exact same price if you walked into our operator’s store. So it is a natural choice to book in advance and avoid the hassle of carrying extra forex.”
The startup claims over 700 trips are customised through the platform every month.
“The biggest compliments our users give us is how we help them structure their plan to minute details in a simple manner,” Co-founder and CPO Singh.
“It is very crucial for us to maintain the human touch because users love it, but also to automate to tackle scale. We are selecting parts of the travel planning flow, and reducing human dependence by introducing intelligent features. This involves using our rich user data to have machine learning driven recommendations,” added Singh.
Ithaka has launched its bot ‘Sparrow’ to move towards a hybrid human-bot experience, and is looking to automate its experience in chunks.
The company mainly competes with Lola and Pana, two chat-based travel concierges.
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