Leap Of Faith

Asad Habib and Taimur Ahmed are fourth year undergrads at LUMS and co-founders of Travelicious, an adventure travel enterprise founded in June 2014. Travelicious has lead trips to Fairy Meadows, Naran/Shogran and Kashmir so far and is still expanding its itinerary. SIL had a chat with Asad and Taimur about the story behind Travelicious, its business model and the position of social impact on the startup canvas.

SIL: How did you get involved with adventure travel?

Asad: While I was Director of Trips at Literaty Pakistan, I was encouraged by the co-founders Maryam Mohiuddin and Asad Ayub to expand my activities and launch an independent social enterprise. I started building a team, and knowing Taimur’s experience with the LUMS Adventure Society and his leadership skills, naturally partnered with him.

Taimur: I was always fond of travelling and exploring new places. As a child, I took road trips with my family every summer and developed a passion for travel early on. This penchant for adventure complemented my liking for mystery novels by Sherlock Holmes, Star Wars and Enid Blyton. When I was a student at LUMS, I went on a LUMS Adventure Society (LAS) trip to Rattu, an army base that trains soldiers for snow warfare and offers skiing courses in winter. That trip was the singular experience that got me addicted to travelling. Since then, I haven’t stopped really.

SIL: Every startup faces challenges. How difficult was the road to startup in your case?

Travelicious: Very often, we became the subject of negative publicity by elements that tried to run us aground. These challenges seemed overwhelming at first but we did not let them bog us down. We showed perseverance and created a service that surpassed the taunts of our naysayers.

SIL: Can you briefly describe your business model?

Travelicious: Our business model is crafted on our goal to maximize the number of people from Pakistan who visit tourist locations. To that end, we do not invest substantially in capital. We partner, instead, with large adventure clubs that have already invested in ‘camps’ and equipment for undertaking such trips. The majority of them operate on a part-time basis and this makes for a mutually beneficial partnership in which we handle the marketing and customer end of the trips. On any given trip, Travelicious would market the event, collect registration fees and ensure adherence to the itinerary, while the partner club would oversee lodging, accommodation and other components of the itinerary. In the process, we thus alleviate pressure from existing adventure clubs and add a much larger clientele to the tourism industry.

SIL: Should social impact be on the agenda of startups?

Travelicious: We believe that is a subjective decision which rests upon the individual entrepreneur. In our case, the need to create social impact had a great influence in launching Travelicious. Since 9/11, we had grown up surrounded by negative news about our country. This was starting to create a mindset of negativity among our peers in LUMS and beyond. We wanted to change this and decided to launch a nationalistic revival through tourism. We aimed to encourage mass tourism, or tours with large groups of people. The rationale behind large groups is that tourist locales usually consist of small-medium sized vendors and large groups can cater to a large cross-section of such vendors. This helps boost the local economies of areas we visit. We also plan to develop documentary-making on our trips to educate people about the beauty of Pakistan and change their views on a country perpetually viewed through a skeptical lens.

SIL: Any advice to budding entrepreneurs?

Travelicious: You can join a society in Freshman Year, work hard as a volunteer, become an Assistant Director in Sophomore Year, then Director as a Junior and finally graduate with a solid title to your name, but if you really want to be an entrepreneur you need to shun the formula and follow what you like to do. It may not always work. At Travelicious we have seen setbacks and have had to cancel a few events but we do not lose sight of what we aspire to. So to people starting up their own enterprises: take that first step of courage. Take a leap of faith!

SIL: Asad and Taimur, we wish you the best of luck and hope to chart the progress of Travelicious the next time we sit together. Thanks and happy travels!

Travelicious is organizing a series of trips to Gilgit Baltistan this summer. You can read about them and sign up here.

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