The Rock Stars of Wanderlust
After a sweaty hike to the Enchantments of Washington State’s famous Cascade mountain range in July 2012, US-based engineers and backpackers Anoop Goyal and Prakash Sikchi stood mesmerised by sight of the sparkling blue waters of the Inspiration Lake, flowing a few hundred feet below. Then, an epiphany struck them.
“We wondered how many were as lucky as us to witness such heavenly sights on earth. We felt that many shy away from travelling not because of the time and expense involved, but due to the mind-numbing exercise of planning a trip. Being engineers with more than 20 years of experience, we realised we must use technology to find out a solution to this,” says 46-year-old Goyal.
In September the same year, the duo left their jobs to start Inspirock, a free travel planner that helps people plan customised vacation itineraries through www.inspirock.com.
“It is more of an advanced search engine that filters data from several sources to chalk out a personalised itinerary for you on the basis of your preference of destination and style of vacation,” says Sikchi, who is 44 years old. It can design itineraries for multi-region and multi-country trips.
With its head office in Palo Alto, California, the website curates over 7,000 destinations from 50 countries in Europe and the US.
The founders, whose camaraderie dates back to their days at Stanford University, say it was their passion for travel that cemented their friendship. A resident of San Francisco, Goyal has worked for Silicon Valley companies like Ebay, Oracle and Accenture. Sikchi lives in Seattle and is an expert in machine learning and data. He has worked for Microsoft, Bing Mobile and Azure Cloud.
“When we started, nobody bought the idea that our algorithms could build a technology that could literally whip up a dream vacation,” says Goyal.
It took more than a year for the duo to develop the website. The first place to be added on it was France in 2013, followed by Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK in 2014. It now lists itineraries to 50 countries. While it is free for users, whenever they make a booking through the website, Inspirock gets a commission.
Goyal says the website is very user friendly. “One can visit the site and tell us the country or city of their choice, the duration of travel and style of vacation.” Based on one’s place and activities of interest, hobbies and even cuisine, the website calculates a travel plan and conjures up an itinerary that curates places supplemented with a personalised calendar and nitty-gritties like key information and photographs of places, driving directions, weather predictions and other handy tips.
“We have segmented vacations to help users narrow down on their area of interest. Clicking on the ‘popular’ tab will lead you to oft-visited tourist attractions, whereas the ‘hidden gem’ option will find activities and places for people who want to visit less explored areas,” says Sikchi. Options like culture, historic sites, museum water bodies etc are a few more that helps one customize their search.
While no two itineraries are the same, one needn’t stick to whatever the website plans. “You can use our itinerary as a skeleton and add and subtract places and activities as well as make last minute changes while on the go. Our recommended options will help you find everything you need,” Goyal adds.
With Makemytrip.com being a major investor in the website, the company has also collaborated with Booking.com to help users with booking flights and hotels. Inspirock currently caters to over a lakh users from 190 countries, and plans to expand to more.