Indiahikes Founder talks about similarities between Treebo’s and India...

Indiahikes Founder talks about similarities between Treebo’s and Indiahikes’ value systems


By Arjun Majumdar

Sidharth Gupta, the founder and CEO of Treebo Hotels, invited Arjun Majumdar and Sandhy UC, founders of Indiahikes to address the Treebo team on their foundation day.

For any organisation, foundation day is significant. It is time to reflect and look back on what's been achieved and what the future holds.

During the event, Arjun noticed how both organisations looked similarly at certain foundational values. He shares his observations here:

"In this select gathering, speaking about Indiahikes was very special for me. It was a big honour. I was invited to speak because Sidharth thought there were a lot of similarities between Treebo’s and Indiahikes’ value systems.

If you don’t know Treebo, it is one of India’s largest hotel aggregators, like Oyo. But with a far better reputation and rating. They have used technology to drive quality control at scale. They are in the ‘economy’ segment of the hotel industry.

At the gathering, I shared the Indiahikes origin story, our value systems, and some of our learnings from following our value systems.

They were listening keenly. I could see that what I shared with them had left them thinking.

In the end, Sidharth asked me a question that I am often asked. He said, “There must be constant pressure from the market to provide extra services. How do you manage this pressure, knowing that some competitor can provide those services and take your business away?”

It was a pertinent question.

Providing a “little extra” has always been a pressure point at Indiahikes. But we have always resisted these pressures. Over time, our value systems have developed out of these pushbacks.

In 2009-10, a year after we started, we were increasingly uncomfortable with how trekking was done. We would form an army of porters or mules to carry trekkers' luggage. The mules would eat the grass from the meadows or trample the grounds with their hooves. If it was porters, the human waste generated was a lot. This disturbed us greatly.

One day, we decided we would not accept this. Carrying the trekkers' luggage was not okay for any other human being or animal.

We started to ask trekkers to carry their backpacks. And if they did not wish to carry, they would have to pay to offload their bags. This was how backpack offloading started.

There was immediate pushback from trekkers. Almost everyone resisted it. Some reasonable people suggested we charge a little extra to carry the luggage.

But we stuck to our thoughts. We continued to say that getting another human or animal to carry your luggage was not morally okay. It took a long time, but slowly our trekkers came around and accepted our offloading policy.  

Around the same time, serving trekkers food in our cutlery was the norm. Our teams would wash the dishes later (much like a restaurant). We noticed how inhuman it was to wash dishes in cold water after trekkers had retired. Many times, our team would leave residue behind. Doing this day in and day out did not sit well with us.

We told our trekkers it was not okay. And we wanted them to get their plates and spoons for food and wash them too.

This led to a furore. Trekkers were very upset. They said, “How can you ask us to wash our dishes?” The water is very cold. Other organisations don’t ask us to do anything.

We stood through the backlash and persisted with our thoughts.

Over time, trekkers have accepted that getting cutlery on a trek is normal. Except for a few stray cases, most trekkers are also okay with washing their dishes.

Trekkers want dining tables, chairs to sit on, personal guides, and only 6-10 team members. There is no end to what trekkers want. I continuously get suggestions that we ‘charge extra’ for these services.

We go by what we believe is good for trekking. The more services we offer, the more damage we do to trekking and the environment. It's as simple as that.  

As our organisation grows older, we learn from the world around us. I am not saying our spirits of trekking are hard and fast. We will modify them as we gain more wisdom.

When people say that Indiahikes is a value-based organisation, they don’t understand that we don’t sit down and write down a value that comes to mind. We arrive at them when we observe the world around us. We choose to go with what is morally good for trekking.

Back to Treebo, I told Sidharth the same thing: we are constantly pressured to cater to people. We are told that we are very strict and not very flexible. We are asked to charge an “extra” to provide better services. I am also told that a premium segment is prepared to pay more for better services. I am yet to understand what this ‘better’ service is.

My position is very clear. If providing these extra services harms the environment, goes against the basic principles of trekking, and serves the interests of a few and not many, then I am not for it.

I told Sidharth that sometimes, by taking these hard stands, many people do not like trekking with Indiahikes. We are okay with that. We will not move away from what we stand for."

Arjun Majumdar

Founder, CEO, Indiahikes

About the author

An entrepreneur by profession and a trekker by passion, Arjun started Indiahikes in 2008 with a vision to explore and document new trekking trails. He wanted to solve problems in the mountains and implement sustainable ways of trekking. His biggest dream was and still is that Everyone Must Trek, because Trekking Transforms Lives. Today, Indiahikes takes over 20,000 trekkers in the Himalayas every year and has changed the face of trekking in India.

Arjun is deeply respected for his expertise on trekking trails and entrepreneurship. He has written extensively for Discover India magazine and is a TedX speaker. He frequently talks at institutions about his journey, but his favourite topic is always the impact of trekking on the human mind, body and spirit.

Watch his TEDx talks here -
TEDx Sayajigunj University on how Trekking Impacts The Mind, Body and Spirit
TEDx IIM Bangalore on 3 Unusual Lessons In Entrepreneurship
TEDx IIM Sambalpur on Why Children Must Trek