Toehold Travel & Photography Pvt. Ltd. was started by a group of photography enthusiasts, who have traveled far and have already achieved acclaim in their field of photography. They are a group of passionate people who have come together and formed a business model around the gaps, which they saw as amateur photographers. They all have turned their hobby into a passionate profession. One of the founders of Toehold, Jayanth Sharma, shared his thoughts with me. Read more about Toehold’s interesting and upcoming business model.
Genesis of your startup – How you started?
Since 2006, the amateur photography market has seen a tremendous growth. There seems to be an explosion of the photography bubble and an increase in the number of wannabe photographers in urban India. The need for a Toehold was born out of requirement of Jayanth and his friends as photographers. The idea was born when they remembered their early days as photographers and how much of wandering and searching they used to do in order to reach the best places, figure out the best times to go, the best people who can show them places and the subjects often difficult to find for tourists.
Graduating from being hobby photographers to professionals in this field, they realized the business opportunity amongst this huge set of photography enthusiasts. According to Jayanth, “In a recently conducted very simple photography quiz by us, we realized less than 5% of the people could answer what we called as very simple questions, correctly. We surely knew a bulk of the photography aspirants are far away from being technically sound and there was a need for some professional setup to be a toehold.
Though all the promoters of Toehold were engaged in this line of business as individuals, it was a great coincidence that they met to discuss the formation of a brand and a company that would reach farther than where these friends could reach as individuals. â€œWe immediately saw a great rapport and willingness to set aside our individualistic approach and form a team, form a Toehold. Of course, the fact that all of us knew each other for ages was a huge advantage to form this great team,” says Jayanth.
Challenges faced in the start-up phase?
At Toehold, the core team members were well known in the field of photography. So it was a challenge for them to create elbow spaces for themselves to exercise their freedom, and at the same time take the company forward. They spent nearly six months forming a direction, battling their inhibitions and discomfort in various issues that they had as each of them had a unique plan and a unique dream. The challenge was to collate all these individual’s dreams and plans to form a business plan and visualize a direction for the company.
After nearly six months and over a few dozen meetings, which actually benefited a lot of coffee joints, they announced the birth of Toehold Travel & Photography Pvt. Ltd. Jayanth and his team also faced challenges in some soft issues like quickly learning the terminologies, ideologies, the professionalism and politeness businesses need. Jayanth adds, “Since most of us came from the luxurious IT industry background, we had to change our lifestyles to suit our new roles as entrepreneurs. For instance, we took six months after the incorporation to sanction budgets for Air-conditioning for our own office. Now these kinds of life-style sacrifices were new things for us. Constant learning and hours of work and dedication was the least we had to invest in this business.”
Toehold is the only travel company in India with a strong photography focus. A typical target client is a traveller who is an avid photographer as well. Hence, they have a niche segment to cater to. Toehold’s business model is very simple and straightforward. They teach photography, then enable these enthusiasts with the photography equipments, then take them out to amazing destinations across the globe in order to bring back fascinating and professional quality photographs and lastly, they are a full fledged travel company which can plan and execute custom vacations for travellers across planet earth. “What we do is probably not any different from what other travel companies do. But how we do is where the big difference lies. All our travel plans not just keep the safety and comfort of our clients in mind, but also considers the photographic interest in our clients,” explains Jayanth.
Toehold’s biggest investment is Time and Talent for most of their revenue streams. Be it their highly successful photography workshops or their world-renowned photography tours, and their custom vacation planning team, clients engage Toehold for the photography edge and travel advice they get from them. While on Photography Group Tours which is led by Toehold professionals, participants learn on the fly and experience a destination from a photography perspective often impossible while traveling with a mixed group of participants.
Their extremely popular Equipment Rentals vertical needs quite a bit of investment and care. This is the first time this model is being tried out in India and Toehold is exploring this section of their business with keen interest and caution. “We are doing quite well in the recent months and hope to empower photography enthusiasts all over India with such high quality camera equipment, which is now only available in Bengaluru. Catering to such a niche segment of industry with instantly realizable revenue makes it an interesting value proposition for our business,” adds Jayanth.
Though Toehold is the first Travel & Photography Company in India, they surely know that they won’t be the last. Being in the Industry for less than a year, Toehold can already sense the emerging competition around them. While they believe the world is extremely huge for every one to survive, Toehold’s game plan is to keep it simple and constantly hear from their existing clientele about emerging trends and requirements.
Since the entire team at Toehold consists of professional photographers who cater to industry requirements in Travel & Photography, they will always have to apply the new rules of the game to our services as quickly as possible. Believing that, retaining an existing client is more sensible and economical than finding a new, they invest in the growth of individuals and their photography journey. Toehold’s success can be measured by gauging the progress and growth of the photography enthusiasts and travellers who give them the business.
Constant innovation and variety is the key to Toehold’s success. At Toehold, the core team invests a great amount of its time and money in exploring new destinations and opportunities that challenge their enthusiastic clients. Every destination where they conduct their photography tour is first explored by them. They hope to increase the list of destinations they offer every year. Toehold believes in creating new photography opportunities and challenges to their regular customers and helping them achieving the same.
First taste of success
According to Jayanth, “Within a few days of launching Toehold, we received great responses from the community of travellers and photographers. Ever since we conducted our first few tours to Africa, Central India and Kabini – we have had great reviews and users signing up for our tours well in advance. We encourage photography enthusiasts plan their calendar well in advance and book their tours well ahead of time ensuring best prices for airfare and also discounts on early bird bookings. When we started getting responses and business from international clients from Hong Kong, Cambodia, USA and Canada, we realized we are on the right track.”
Without a doubt the travel and photography market is only bound to rise. Jayanth feels that being the first, Toehold should gain a significant advantage in the future. The magic of Toehold lies in the efforts and contribution of its staff that are well respected and revered in the photography industry. At Toehold, they have some interesting plans to not just increase their business but also provide great benefits to the community in general. Very soon, they hope to establish themselves in different parts of the country and start being a toehold for clients all over the country.
About Jayanth Sharma
A former User eXperience specialist in an IT firm, Jayanth quit his job to pursue his passion – Wildlife Photography! Jayanth believes there is no meaning to wildlife photography if these pictures can’t be used to protect or save them. He travels extensively to take pictures and report stories on birds and animals in order to generate awareness about the critical importance of conserving vulnerable Indian wildlife that is falling prey to a great many changes.
|About Mridula: Mridula is a freelance writer. She writes on Entrepreneurship and has worked for a start-up in the past. To know more check out her profile at LinkedIn/Mridula Velagapudi|