‘Time flies! Years of plenty disappear before the eternity to which we are all hastening’
                                                          - John Fletcher

And why do I get reminded of it……because today we’ve turned 2. Happy Birthday to all of us at WeAreHolidays..…at last count 23 people.

In the industry we work in, anyone between 0 to 2 years of age is regarded as an infant. So by that yardstick, we’re finally coming out of our infancy – hale, hearty & healthy.

In the daily grind of the start up, which by the way is much more glamorous from the outside than from the inside, you usually forget the yesterday in pursuit of the tomorrow. Well that is true for most things in life, but is much more pronounced in a young early stage start up trying to fight off death, ensure survival today and hope to rest a bit tomorrow. Statistics also are of no solace - for telling me that 99% of the start ups die within two years or hardly 0.1% will make it to 5 years aren’t very comforting numbers.

We started on 7th March, 2011, the day Deepak and I spent our first full day in our office . We were both dressed in the best of clothes as you would, if you were joining a new office or going to a college for the first time. The fact that there would be ONLY the 2 of us and NO ONE else never crossed our minds! And for good measure we had our stationary and desks sorted out. The fact that none of the pens, paper clips, papers, printers etc. would be put to any use since there was nothing to do with them hardly mattered to us. What mattered was, this was a new beginning and we had to put our best foot forward. And we did.

And we’ve continued to put our best foot forward, everyday since that day.

Deepak at lunch, 7-Mar-2011, our very first day in WAH

Early on, (late 2010, and through the early 2011) I spent months seducing Mohit to leave his high paying job to join us as a Co Founder (often blatantly lying to him and sexying up the story). Obviously I managed to get him back from Singapore, for my lies had conjured up such visual imagery that he would have come to the dusty by lanes of Saidulajab even if he had been living in Fabulous Las Vegas! To get Prashant to join us, Deepak & I literally met or spoke to not less than 200 different folks. But we just couldn’t find someone who clicked. And when we did manage to find that someone, turned out that someone wasn’t as enthusiastic about us as we were of him to begin with. Deepak courted Prashant for over 6 months (from late 2011 into the mid of 2012) to get him to throw in his towel in the ring. And then there was this strange Mallu from someplace deep inside Kerala, who decided one fine day in the mid of  2011 to board a flight to Delhi to meet a couple of even stranger fellows talking about cooking up something interesting. Suffice to say, he didn’t return and has made South Delhi his home since. That’s Neeraj for you. And I can continue on with such nuggets, but the point I wanted to get across is getting this team in place - the named ones and the unnamed ones – has been the biggest and the most satisfying milestone for us. Well, lets just name everyone shall we - Neetu, Vinay, Aashima, Manan, Rajesh, Jugmendra, Nidhi, Shivangi, Manoj, Vikram, Nishant, Nimit, Nishi, Ashima, Upendra, Ratnesh. Nothing gives more joy than walking in every morning and seeing everyone trying to do their bit as we try to dent the universe, one blow at a time. The only thing that comes close is a random customer reaching out to say thank you for the little bit of happiness we could spread in his life.

But now that we’re here, where do we go? Over the next few months we’re trying to get the consumer to mentally break the Booking of a holiday (which we feel is inefficient, but not broken) from Planning of a Holiday (which we feel is fundamentally broken). We’re trying to add value around Planning of a holiday and trying to leverage technology to solve some of the inconsistencies, inefficiencies and opaqueness in the process. I’ll probably cover this approach in depth in a separate post soon.

To quickly summarize some of the major happenings in the last 2 years,

  1. Got a fabulous team in place with complementary skills, spread across Technology, Sales & Operations & Content.
  2. Got our own office, complete with a small pantry, table tennis table, bean bag sit outs et all. I’m just hoping Mohit can surprise me one of these days with eye popping sales and revenue numbers, so that I can get a foosball table or maybe a pool table on that list!
  3. Managed to put v1.0 of our online product live, which is predominantly focussed on online transactions. We’re working on a v2.0 to shift the focus to customization and personalization and make Holiday Planning stand out.
  4. Bootstrapped our way through the last 2 years, and we’re not only alive but thriving. Ready for the next phase of our growth especially after 5 below.
  5. Raised a angel round from leading angel groups and a early stage VC. Since we haven’t announced it officially, so I’ll stop at that.

And where we head from here,

  1. Mesmerize people with v2.0 of our product. Rather than a single big bang release, it’ll be a slow transition over the next 4 - 5 months so lot’s of work there.
  2. We’re working on an advanced artificial intelligent system leveraging machine learning and recommender systems to help in holiday planning. That needs to see the light of the day.
  3. Inoculate design in our DNA. Our DNA is strongly identified by Technology, Content, Sales, Product & Travel. But not beautiful design. And design does not mean a well designed site, that is but a small piece in the puzzle. The philosophy goes much deeper and touches and influences every aspect of the company. Think Brian Chesky & Joe Gebbia @Airbnb or Steve Jobs @Apple, Next & Pixar. Getting this one right is a challenge.
  4. Get Planning to carve its own niche in the product mix we offer and over time overshadow everything else.
  5. Get our customers to fund our growth, rather than go back to the VCs for a Series A round. If we could pull this one off, it will be amazing and one of the best things to happen to us.

As you can see, it’s a long journey and I cannot but not think of  Robert Frost’s immemorial lines from his poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep…

WAH Office.. all decked up

WAH Office.. all decked up

WAH Office.. all decked up - 2

WAH Folks...a few absentees.. but most.

WAH Folks…a few absentees.. but most of them are in there..

—— The End —-

Harkirat – who has written posts on WAH Blog.