ThinkPlaces, a Hyderabad based start-up offers travellers a unique and effective way to plan vacations

When a bunch of researchers in the Netherlands set out to measure the effect of vacations on individual happiness, they found that the largest boost in happiness comes from the simple act of planning a vacation, rather than actually taking one. While the anticipation of a holiday can significantly alter out mood, planning a good vacation that will not leave you disappointed is no mean task. You spend hours roving the internet for travel guides and blogs to be left with a million bookmarks and a vague itinerary which will most likely fall apart on Day 1.

This is where ‘ThinkPlaces’, a Hyderabad-based start-up comes in. Developed by Krishna Teja Madempudi, Samudra Gupta, Ankit Bhatnagar and Vinod John, ThinkPlaces is a peer-to-peer platform that connects travellers to travel experts. “ I was on a trip to Europe when I realised that you need a bit of local knowledge to put everything you find on the internet together,” says Teja, “ For instance, how long it takes from Paris to Netherlands or how long I should spend in Amsterdam once I get there. You don’t find such specific information online, you need to speak to someone who’s done it all before,” he explains.

Started only three months ago, the website is designed for the traveller who worries about the nitty-gritties as well as the one who has no idea where to start. The home page invites users to find an expert to plan their holiday. You can then pick a destination, filter results according to your interests — be it adventure travel, food and wine, art and culture or travel with kids — and then schedule a call with an expert of your choice. “They should be able to help you create a comfortable itinerary within 25 minutes,” says Samudra. The team is also working on an application that will allow the expert and the user to create an interactive itinerary with pictures and maps as and when the conversation is happening. “This will provide cues for what you spoke to the expert about,” explain Samudra.

Expert opinion

A 20-minute call costs an average of Rs.1700, which may seem like a large amount but as Teja points out, this amount is negligible when compared to what you will be spending on the trip. And considering the cost of bad planning, the call might just be value for money.

The cost is also justified by the experience and qualification of the experts featured on the site. “We realised that experts are those who write travel guides or travel pieces for leading publications. We reached out to them via Twitter and email and asked them to apply to be an expert,” says Teja. “Not everyone can become an expert. Once they apply, there is a vetting process on the basis of a few guidelines,” adds Samudra. The experts have to have published for major publications like Lonely Planet or Fromes or have lived in the area for over ten years. The experts are then featured on the website and their profiles include their areas of expertise, photographs, a promotional video in some cases and ratings and reviews by users. So far, ThinkPlaces features 30 experts who can guide you on taking a cycle tour of Paris or backpacking in Peru. “We have over 20 more people in the pipeline and are expected to increase our database once the website takes off,” says Teja.

Apart from this core service, they also want the website to be a trove of information for traveller. To this end, the website will include mini itineraries and other information that will help potential travellers.

“What we are doing is funnelling information for the user so there is more clarity when you make such a plan,” says Samudra. “Think of it like a consultation service for travel,” adds Teja. So next time you think travel; ThinkPlaces.