Sure, corporate life has its moments, but some stretch too long. Looking for a break from spreadsheets and Microsoft presentations, investment banker Oshank Soni embarked on a solo trip which turned out to be such an eye-opener that he decided that board rooms weren’t his thing.
The monotony of his job drove IIT-Kharagpur graduate Mohit Goswami to book a ticket to Leh in the dead of winter, starting a lifetime love affair with the road. Software engineer Harshit Patel was always the adventurer who is high on mountaineering.
These three nomads met at an orientation camp of a travel company in Rishikesh and instantly hit it off. With their experience of trekking in the Himalayas, they decided to put it to good use and soon became guides for small groups of travellers.
Trekmunk was born. “We took our first batch on the famous Chadar Trek, a frozen river trek in Ladakh. We designed a website and registered the company after that,” says Goswami.
The platform customises plans according to the need of trekkers and focuses majorly on the development of mountain villages by pushing the concept of trekking for a cause.
“When we started our company, our aim was to simply travel and take people along with us. We went with the flow. But from the third year on, we stressed planning and worked on financial projection,” Soni says.
The Excel sheets did come to use after all. The bootstrapped startup made a turnover of `1 crore in 2019. The three are aiming to project Trekmunk, headquartered in Delhi-NCR, as a one-stop solution for all adventure needs for anyone wanting to visit the Himalayas.
Patel explains how they go about it. “We have local teams available at all the major locations and trekking points in the Himalayas. The equipment is already there and our ‘slope manager’ and trek leaders handle the safety end with help from locals. Once we get bookings, we inform the respective teams and they start preparing according to the customer’s needs and requirements. Our ground coordinators fill the gap between our local team and the clients.”
At present, the startup has over 100 treks and mountaineering expeditions listed on its website. From Kashmir, Ladakh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, and West Bengal, to Northeast India, there is something for everyone.
The platform was planning to include motorcycle trips, cycling trips, cultural tours, skiing and even photo tours, but the pandemic put a spanner in their expansion mode. They are hopeful that these ideas will take off by 2022.
“Being adventure providers, and a startup at that, we’ve taken a huge blow this year. There is no confirmation yet about when exactly we will be able to travel. We had made elaborate plans outlining our vision for the year. We had even leased a land in Himachal, which we had to let go. But we’re trying to hold up,” says Goswami.
The platform has already put in motion a number of measures for a post-Covid trekking season—whenever that is. To make travellers feel safe, they have made a health certificate mandatory for all, besides stressing smaller groups and offbeat trails.
The team is working on an app, which will be a one-stop solution for information and requirements on trails. “We plan to provide content on VR, drone shots, 360 degree photos, high-quality video, as well as 3D to adventure travellers,” says Soni. They are working on making trekking more eco-friendly and useful to remote communities.
This means going paperless, removing single-use plastic from operations and organising trail-cleaning treks.
The team also escorts doctors to high-altitude regions to treat the less fortunate residents. They admit that they are open to investments for the next phase of expansion. However, they are certain they would not become a “commercial company that cannot take the trail less trodden”.