Ithaka: A Promise Of Delightful Journeys For Modern Day Travelers

Interviews July 4, 2018

App-based Start-up Takes Tour Customisation To A New High

One’s destination is never a place, but always a new way of seeing things

– Henry Miller, American Poet

As it is rightly said, not all who wander and travel are lost, oblivious to the final destination as the modern day ‘traveller’ looks to seek solace whilst on an enjoyable journey.

With travel planning becoming such an arduous, lengthy affair and an expensive one too, travel start-up companies prefer to assist their loyal patrons and potential travellers in acquiring an integrated experience of a lifetime and change the overall dynamics of how travel in India is viewed.



Enjoying a 4.7 rating on the Google Play Store, the Ithaka mobile app for travel planning is steadily making a name for itself. Already predicting a sharp rise in terms of attracting travellers and a dedicated bid to change the way travel is looked at, particularly in India, Rahul Singh, an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT-Bombay) graduate started Ithaka, currently holding its mantle as CEO of the company. The enterprising travel entrepreneur and tech aficionado in conversation with Vacation Labs as he narrates his start-up’s journey, discusses the ever emerging and expanding travel landscape in India and trends amongst Indian and foreign tourists. Here are some enlightening excerpts from the conversation:

Brand Ithaka: Inception And Journey

The 29-year-old Singh says he was always fascinated by the idea of travel and felt happy when his father continued the family tradition of taking them on a long annual vacation. Now, he is trying to incorporate his own experiences from the trips he took.

I too have travelled extensively so that always helps in understanding the challenges I have faced and the things I have liked.

Rahul Singh, CEO of Ithaka



Mithilesh Said, Co-founder (on the left) and Rahul Singh, CEO & Co-founder (on the right)


Singh and another co-founder (his batchmate) Ameya Sahasrabudhe (who is now exiting Ithaka), also an alumnus of the prestigious tech and science institute met at IIT. The duo was contemplating between adopting a sports or travel theme and finally froe upon the latter. The third co-founder Mithilesh Said, who they met at a co-working space is their CTO (Chief Technology Officer). He now has a more prominent role working alongside Singh. Initially, the question was to identify the industry after which it made sense for Singh and Sahasrabudhe to get into the travel space given that the pair had travelled abroad extensively.

Established in 2015, the story behind the name of the brand is an interesting one that Singh narrates.

Ithaka is an island in Greece which is mentioned in a famous book of poems about The Odyssey. It talks about the travels of King Odysseus to Ithaca in search of hidden treasures. What we are trying to say is your road will be a long one, filled with adventure and full of discovery. Ithaka is a representation of a journey that is far more rewarding than the destination.

Rahul Singh, CEO of Ithaka

However, not to forget that Ithaka’s travel game is strong, but entirely runs on a chat and their operations are fuelled by internet and aggregators, that allows them to flawlessly cater to their customers.

Common Myths And Problems Surrounding Travel

As known to all, trusted travel information these days is hard to find and curating it is even tougher. Travellers, on average, spend 30 plus hours searching on the web at the time of planning, and still are unsure of their plan. That is when an on-demand service to help people plan and execute their trips was launched.

Indians in particular are too sceptical about travelling alone, unlike foreigners who are confident of going backpacking (form of low-cost, independent travel), he says.


A patron of ours and an ardent traveller, Maria, she books her tours and consults us before exploring newer places. She has been on a non-stop travelling spree for two years now. Most of our patrons are backpackers.

Rahul Singh, CEO of Ithaka


People who have even the slightest of desire to travel are bogged down by the thought of having to make bookings and undertake research, besides lacking knowledge of the place to visit. This discourages potential tourists!

Singh believes that research is also fun, there is an anticipation of sorts.

It is a fun journey and if we can make it memorable for them by cutting down their query and confusion and integrate everything for them under one roof then why not explore that space more? People online are very confused as decision-making is hard. We, as a fully loaded travel planning service give them the right advice.

Rahul Singh, CEO of Ithaka

The three-year-old company started out as a marketplace only for activities (skydiving, scuba diving, etc), but started receiving lots of queries regarding tours, sightseeing, places to visit and other details regarding a host of places, something they had not anticipated. The chat-based app helps individuals discover places (based on preferences) and offers personalised insights. The service includes a comprehensive itinerary and things to do, besides managing the bookings and offering tours.

In Times Of Travel App Wars, Ithaka Unperturbed



The Ithaka app has had more than 20,000+ downloads since its launch in September 2015.  They’ve covered bachelor trips, honeymoons, family holidays, solo backpacking and friends reunions and helped 6000+ travellers plan their trips till date. After having an employee strength of 24 and initially raising two crores in 2016 through angel funding, they are in the process of raising more in the second round. Singh, who has previously worked as an analyst and a product manager, feels that experience is helping him address concerns of travellers and deal with competition effectively, besides offering a unique experience.


Ithaka team hard at work


Our services provide a unique experience so there is no industry competition. Primarily we began with tours and activities so we don’t want to lose track while trying to offer varied services. However, price comparison can give rise to competition. That is also one of the reasons why we don’t want to focus on flight and hotel bookings at the moment.

Rahul Singh, CEO of Ithaka

But some common challenges would be raising funds (for a start-up), hiring the best talent at competitive prices and the overall time and efforts that go into building a team.  

He and all his other co-workers swear by a sincere, honest and genuine motto of empowering people to travel using the app and service to plan their own holiday.


 Right now, we don’t do and even want to look at flight bookings because we are the best in the ‘things to do’ domain. We wish to address and solve the planning (of location) problem fully.

Rahul Singh, CEO of Ithaka

Don’t Know Where To Go Next? Ask Ithaka!


Ithaka App in action


The organisation, driven not only by a young team, but also by people who are committed to helping tentative and unsure ‘trippers’ seek only the best work with a unique product. The chat app allows one to chat with destination experts or someone who has been to the place (a traveller may be looking to explore). Based on a series of chats, decision-making for places becomes a whole lot easier. Trust me, by the end the app will help you plan the entire trip yourself. The chat picks up the ‘holiday mood’ and recommends places accordingly.

Sustainability is based on innovation. Unique products are key drivers of growth. One such Tinder for Travel feature allows you to see the shortlisted places (based on your choices and preferences) along with a short bio profile of what the place offers and a few glimpses.
Photo sharing app Instagram displays stories and shows what the day in the city is like, besides Instagram being a familiar interface.  

Trends Changing, Number Of Travellers Increasing

The travel entrepreneur feels trends have drastically changed as people now have shifted to planning their own trips and vacations, attributed to rising disposable income amongst vacationers. The outbound travel market has begun to witness a surge, which itself is testimony to the majorly changed ‘planning your own trips’ from the traditional method of offering plain and simple ‘packages’.

The travellers have come a long way, now taking interest in learning and really exploring on their journey. They are keen to know about the local culture, explore the place. The idea of vacation has entirely changed- not just fun, but a learning and knowledgeable experience too.

Amidst growing diverse tastes, luxury travel start-ups are seeing a spurt, allowing travellers to get a regal experience too. With the industry rapidly booming and several activities taking place, Ithaka is trying to ensure that travelling is set as a life goal.

We like to call ourselves the 3.0 version of the industry because we came in only with so many features and advancements, mainly the personalisation and one-on-one advice. It is fully personalised and assists in decision-making, based on our insights and the level of depth and detailing we go into. We like to put our travellers first.

Rahul Singh, CEO

Loved The Experience? Thank The Workforce


Ithaka team out on an adventure


The team that is responsible to providing its tourists an experience of a lifetime leave no stone unturned in ensuring they do so. The travel wizards or advisers (which constitute the chunk of the workforce) also handle community programs to help and connect seeking tourists. The tech team comprises of mobile, front and back end developers, the marketing team, and the bookings management team.

Online Booking Remains Negligible

The vendors themselves discourage online bookings and are yet to embrace digital means, which is why online presence has continually remained negligible. The transition to online management system will take some time. Right now confined only to South East Asia region, with expertise for Thailand, Bali and Turkey, the travel app aims to expand to 14 countries in the next year. But Singh feels despite the region they are focussing on, their presence has really been boosted by Vacation Labs.

We started using Vacation Labs two years ago and have been able to manage some seriously good amount of business due to it. There are two aspects to that. One, it allowed us to start bookings early and second it ensured adequate web presence that helped us gain traction and tell more people about our service. Our entire game is on the app that creates an experience merely through chatting.

Rahul Singh, CEO of Ithaka



Ithaka website & booking engine powered by Vacation Labs


Singh feels that Vacation Labs has been a game changer of sorts for them, driving a considerably significant part of their online business and even automating their back-office. Vacation Labs provides unique solutions in the travel domain bringing together several aspects of travel, catering both to tour and activity operators. Vacation Labs calls itself a technology company, which aims to revolutionize the travel industry. With a robust platform linked to agents and distributors, entrepreneurs have plenty of options to offer travellers to choose from.

Ithaka promises more than just an experience as it gives shape to the ideas of a modern day traveller, customizing his/ her journey till the final destination is met. No journey is complete until you return, feeling a certain sense of void after you left a trail and all you want to do is keep looking back and returning to that place again and again.

The enthusiastic travel planners are based in Vikhroli, a North Eastern suburb of Mumbai, their office overlooking a vast expanse of green cover, far away from the chaos of the city. For fresh ideas the employees swing by the balcony and brainstorm (after all fresh ideas come in a clean and green environment right?) and while they are in office or the conference rooms, they are constantly treated to motivational quotes staring at them from Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, etc plastered on the boards and their hologram in the background. If travel is your passion, then you are sure to have a great experience and make others do it too.

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