Trabug - how it all started

This story is being narrated purely from my (Sunali, Co-Founder) perspective and my journey so far.
You can expect to get the following answers from this post:

  1. How did the idea come into existence?
  2. How was the brand name decided?
  3. How did the current founders collaborate?
  4. Where are we now, i.e. May 2018?

Before talking about the history of idea, I would like to tell you that it has changed considerably from the time it was first conceptualised and prototyped. Now, we can see it in real flesh and blood, with all its nuances solved. My partners Gautam and Gurpreet have played a pivotal role in making this dream a reality. Ideas have no value without execution, and you need partners, who have the ability, to look at all its flaws and work towards solving them and making it a viable business. And that is what we have achieved as a team.

Get Indian SIM Card with every Travel Phone

1. How did the idea come into existence?

The idea came from my visit to Dubai… I was carrying a Matrix simcard ( a service for outbound travelers, very expensive by the way.) and an old feature phone, which I used only for voice and text message. Being an iPhone user I had to carry an additional phone. I assumed I would get wifi everywhere I go and so things should pan out. This trip was not actually planned or lets say I was not prepared for this trip. I did not have the time to do my research online about Dubai and what I could do etc. But since I was travelling in a group I figured it wouldn’t be a problem.
Anyways, to my complete dismay, wherever the tour operators took us, there was no wifi. So unless we came back to the hotel in the evening I was totally disconnected with the world (my office). The mistake that I made was, taking an old obsolete phone instead of a smart phone. But my old smartphone did not have a good battery life hence I avoided the burden of charging it etc. In retrospect not such a bad decision.
I could not access my office or my team. I couldn’t speak to family or share pictures on the go. Even though I had a great time but this particular problem, kept bothering me. I faced a similar problem in Sydney too.
When I came back to India, I decided to give this some more thought. I worked on a mind map, attached here.

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A typical design thinking exercise starts with defining a problem and then looking at probable solutions. After much deliberation the idea of “A Travel Phone” seemed viable!

“What if you could get a phone that has all the information you need and also has data connectivity anywhere you go”?

I bounced off the idea to a friend of mine, Lotika, who I thought would be able to look at it more critically. She too found it to be an interesting thought and confirmed that it could be a viable business model.

We started the prototyping and Lotika helped me in detailing of product features and content structure. Within a month we managed to build a pretty cool prototype. Have a look….

And that is how the idea came into existence.

Tip for Startups

For anyone who is starting out, get a working prototype out, as soon as possible. It helps others understand your vision.

2. How was the brand name decided?

At this point (May 2014), Lotika and I were actively working on the idea. After a lot of brainstorming on what the brand name should be, we finalised ‘TRABUG’ short for Travel Bug. There were multiple reasons why we both agreed on this brand name:

  1. A DOT COM domain was available.
  2. We wanted have the word Travel in the brand.
  3. We wanted to keep the brand name as short as possible
  4. We felt the word “BUG” had many connotations and could mean different things to different people. It also gave us a feeling that the device (smartphone) could in future be called the “BUG”.
Branding of Startup

Anyways the fact that a .com domain was available probably made us think about the other factors. We feel a .com domain is very important. It takes the burden off of emphasising on the url in marketing.

Also look at my post on branding Trabug. Check out the evolution of the logo.

3. How did the current founders collaborate?

At the time we were working on Trabug, I was also working on my other project (see what i just did, I added “.in” after the brand name to be clear). Since this project was already under development and was soon to go live, my focus shifted from Trabug.

Another very important lesson for Startups, stay focussed on one thing and make that your mission.

Although Lotika and I kept talking about Trabug nothing transpired. We both knew to make Trabug a reality we needed to partner with a solid Tech person. So till we found one, we let Trabug take a back seat. Whomever we spoke to about Trabug everyone liked the idea but that year nothing big happened.

Towards late 2014, I got a call from Mr. Gautam Kachru. I had met Gautam a few years ago. We both had worked on a project together and quite enjoyed working with each other. I shared the idea with Gautam. He pointed a few flaws but liked it overall. He also agreed to partner on equity basis.

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Both Loitka and I agreed to have Gautam as our third partner in the venture. But for a very long time none of us could actually work on it. Our personal and other business matters took precedence over Trabug. I was running Beon Systems and hence could not really focus on Trabug full time, without which I did not expect it to go anywhere.

I realised with one partner in America and other in Delhi, I will not be able to work on it in an agile way. Lotika also felt the same and we decided to leave Trabug where it was.
Around mid 2015, Gautam decided to move to Chandigarh, his reasons of moving here was to have a better and greener life.

We decided to work on Trabug again and give it a shot. Lotika decided to leave the project because we didn’t see it working with one partner in USA and almost overlapping skills.

Tip for Startups

“If you are starting out, it could make more sense to have founders with different skill sets”

Our third partner, Gurpreet Singh, around this time was looking to do something different with his time and life. Gurpreet was working with a real estate company as head of Marketing. It’s an interesting story of how I know Gurpreet. Gurpreet’s best friend is married to my best friend. Although we were connected, we never got to speak to each other, we were just acquaintances.

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Anyways, it so happened that one fine day I met Gurpeet on a train to Delhi. We ended up talking about work etc. and there he expressed his intent to do something more challenging than what he was doing. Maybe start his own business or something. I thought of sharing the idea of Trabug with him. I wanted to know what he thought of it because he would have a very different take on this. To my complete surprise he quite liked the idea and wanted to be a part of it. Gurpreet had the right skills to be our Sales, Marketing and Operations partner.
Hence, Gurpreet came on board. Since we all brought different skills to the table, it worked very well. Even though we end up arguing and discussing more than required, we get to hear different perspectives a problem. As a team we were able to thrash out a lot of issues that stood between the dream and actuality.

Get Indian SIM Card with every Travel Phone

4. Where are we now, i.e May 2018?

Last 2 years have been very exciting for all of us at Trabug. We went live in Oct 2016 and have serviced over 2000 customers. Iterating, discussing, firefighting is part of every waking hour of our life and we enjoy this because our customers love us. Our customers have been kind enough to give us feedback and have also given us great reviews. Going live was not easy and will probably write another post to tell you about the difficulties we faced. But we made it happen, because we worked together as a team. Next target is to make Trabug a global brand. Our vision is to solve travel related problems with technology and great service.

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Sunali Aggarwal
Co-Founder, Trabug

You might also want to read these:

  1. Trabug Branding
  2. Roam like a Native using Trabug
  3. 20 Reasons why you should get Trabug