Photo courtesy: Catterfly
Meet Mrigakshi (40) and Nitin Pradhan (43) avid travellers based out of Switzerland who run a travel company – Catterfly to share their love for experiential travelling with more like-minded travellers across the globe.
After a long stint in the corporate world, as the couple delved deeper into their life experiences, they contemplated exiting from the corporate world. It was then, they realized that most of their personal growth was mostly due to their ability and willingness to keep moving from one place to another.
As they dug their heels deeper to absorb new experiences and learn from what life brings to them, Mrigakshi and Nitin unanimously decided to curate this process of travelling, learning, and personal growth through their venture – Catterfly.
As Nitin adds in his words, “Catterfly was born as a natural outcome of personal metamorphosis that Mrigkashi and I had, as we kept moving ahead with our life journey.”
When did it all begin?
Catterfly was born when they realized that experiential travelling could be of value to everyone who would like to acquaint themselves with new cultures and destinations. As Mrigakshi shares, “It is not as much about the money that one spends, but the stretch that one is willing to make to have different experiences.”
As the Founders of Catterfly they believe that travel can often be a life-changing, but it actually starts with the willingness to stretch oneself and let go of preconceived notions.
“Catterfly is our attempt to bring travel-based experiences to everyone based on local presence and expertise of living and travelling deeply in these destinations. It is mostly about designing curated experiences that suit each travellers’ interests, interacting with locals, digging into local cuisine, art and culture. It also involves staying in accommodations that offer a personal touch, taking leisurely walks, sipping on a fine brew or partying in places frequented by the locals. The experiences that stay with us as we continue to move forward in our journeys,” adds Mrigakshi.
Mrigakshi further explains, “We decided to self-fund the venture at least in the first 4-5 years – as any business needs primary focus on product and services as well as ensuring the highest quality of customer experiences. Also, we were clear that we would not like to build a model that doesn’t generate sufficient cash flows to manage the operational needs of the business.”
Since then, Catterfly has organically grown two to three times, year after year and that has been extremely promising especially since their travellers are the biggest source of their marketing strength, as they keep referring Catterfly to their friends and families. “It is the age-old dictum – any satisfied customer will refer at least 3-4 more people and that has worked very well for Catterfly,” adds Mrigakshi with a smile.
In any personalized and content-based product and services – it’s primarily about ensuring high touch engagement and personalize the experiences based on specific needs. As Nitin explains, “We manage it by having an ‘integrated approach to product definition and experience delivery’. For instance, our destination experts not only help us to define new destinations and experiences but also actively engage and help travellers during their travel.”
Technology has also played a crucial role in Catterfly as their web and mobile platform is extensively used in product conceptualization, detailed logistics planning. In fact, every traveller has access to Catterfly mobile app with their personal login that has their customized end-to-end plan with all bookings, live feeds for managing logistics in any country, and their destination experts and counsellors actively help the travellers on livewire during the actual travel. However, the team’s primary focus is to ensure high touch personal engagement than having technology as the frontline.
Popular experiences curated by Catterfly
Mrigakshi tells us how Catterfly primarily focuses on Free Independent Traveller (FIT) segment – that comprises of a family or group of families travelling together, couples and solo travellers.
The Catterfly founders share how it really depends on different seasons and segments. For first time travellers to Europe – the most popular destinations are typically Switzerland, Paris, and Italy but it is all about curating and customizing unique experiences that are hitherto unknown to even avid travellers. Besides this, Catterfly has a significant number of travellers who travel with them almost every year and they like to explore other parts such as Spain, Portugal, Central Europe, and more involved travellers hop on to Iceland and Nordics as well.
“In recent years, we have also gone deeper into Asian destinations like Bali, New Zealand and Japan. However, the focus is always to bring out the local and unique flavour of the destination customized to traveller’s interest,” adds Mrigakshi.
What makes Catterfly unique?
Deep destination expertise with local presence and ability to customize and personalize the experiences to specific interest and needs – backed by integrated web and mobile platform that helps Catterfly team to stay in touch with travellers before, during and after their travel experiences.
“Catterfly experiences are based on real experiences of travelling and living in a destination and any digital content on our channels and website is also as real as it gets. There’s no bought pictures or content on our platform,” adds Nitin.
Impact of Covid19 on the travel segment
Sharing our concerns of how the travel segment has been affected owing to the pandemic, Mrigakshi adds, “The travel industry is significantly impacted in short to medium term, and in the actual travel across countries is extremely unlikely to pick up. And, even after the lockdowns are lifted – there is likely to be a slow ramp up with a primary focus on the consumption of local activities and experiences. That is why Catterfly took a lot of proactive steps to drive a #Wisepivot towards delivering ‘Travel based Experiences’. In essence, several unique and personalized experiences can be delivered digitally – for instance, Digital Art Based Experiences, Virtual tours from local experts etc. and Catterfly is already seeing very positive results from these rapid innovations.”
Recently, Catterfly invited a bunch of children for a free virtual tour through France, which was conducted by Archita Prasad, an in-house travel expert who has lived and travelled extensively across the globe. She took the children on a virtual tour talking about history, culture and interesting facts about Paris. In case you’re looking for something that’s interactive, engaging and educational for your young adults, maybe curated virtual tours through Catterfly be just the thing for you.
Digital Art Based Travel Experiences
It was through a Digital Art-Based Learning Workshop, that The Lifestyle Portal got first acquainted with traditional Indian art forms such as Madhubani. We liked how Catterfly team along with award-winning artists were curating online art workshops across the globe. This was one unique experience that opened our doors to different parts of the country, the artists and their art forms that were moderated by Mrigakshi.
Talking about our online art experiences, Mrigakshi adds, “Truly Tribal is our partner for sharing gifts with our travellers, as it directly works with the artist and creates direct economic value creation for them. For Digital Art Based experiences, we work with award-winning artists and firms like Truly Tribal to make sure that an authentic artist from the place of origin of the art is able to share their art with the participants across the globe. It helps us to make sure that we create economic value for the artists who are significantly impacted by the lockdowns, drive community engagement and also helps them to teach their art form to kids and adults from different parts of the world. In a way, this drives the sustainable travel-based experience more democratically even in the downturn.”
Responses from the Catterfly clan
The Catterfly Clan of travellers has deeply appreciated their efforts and initiatives to make sure that they’re delivering beyond unique experiences. It is through their work, Catterfly is also helping artists and their destination experts when there is no direct source of income generation in such times. It has also helped Catterfly to broad base their customer segments to people – who may not have had the opportunity to travel for social, economic or physical reasons. Presently, Catterfly is also conducting sessions for school children, for instance, Warli Art session from the kids in Gurukul (that provides education to kids from an underprivileged background in a village near Lucknow). In normal time, as a part of Catterfly Social Initiatives – these school kids visited Madhubani learnt the art form from the masters on the premise.
Future plans with Catterfly
Signing off Mrigakshi shares, “Catterfly will continue its journey with our new product and experiences in the digital travel-based experiences. This complements our core travel experiences and helps us to go much deeper in bringing local art, history and culture and deliver it to broad-based customer segments across the world.”
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