The woman who helped turn a blog into India’s largest trekking community: Meet Indiahikes co-founder Sandhya Chandrasekharayya
Upon experiencing the ecstasy of reaching the summit of a mountain countless times, Sandhya Chandrasekharayya, then a software engineer, decided to chase the dragon and conquer peaks in entrepreneurship as well, by co-founding India’s largest trekking community, Indiahikes.
Outdoorsy, adventurous and curious since she was a little girl, her hobby thrived right up to when she started working – for the software engineer, employed at Mindtree and later at America Online (AOL), formed a community of like-minded people amongst her colleagues as well, and hiked across several peaks dotting the Western Ghats.
When she wanted to take it up a notch by trekking up Himalayan terrain, her search for reference points threw up nothing save for one blog titled Indiahikes. Connecting with the blog admin Arjun Majumdar to hike up Roopkund, she soon learnt that the latter, an experienced trekker, had initiated a project of raising funds to organise more such treks to document them for his blog. “It interested me and I volunteered to be a part of it but nothing more than that as I had a job then,” she says.
But Chandrasekharayya found herself getting more passionately involved with this project and got cracking on ways to popularise the blog. Within a few months, they managed to bring together a group of 18 people and raised 9,000 from each of them. Post that, Indiahikes, which was just a travel blog, had 150 people signing up for more trips to Roopkund.
So, Chandrasekharayya, in addition to writing code at her day job at AOL, was doing the same to ramp up Indiahikes’ website until she finally decided to get rid of her training wheels altogether. “I believe that if you want to grow something then you must give it your 100%, otherwise it doesn’t work,” she recounts.
Heavy rainfall in Uttarakhand posed their first business challenge, and they stopped drawing salaries from Indiahikes to buy the company runway. They survived, and even managed to scale and introduce a winter trek to Kedarkantha. Today, Indiahikes runs six such profitable winter trails among its 30 identified treks, employs 60 people, and has even popularised the concept of sustainable trekking.
While she is cognisant of the need to maintain a healthy bottomline, she reveals how monetary aspects often take a backseat. “We’re here to do something bigger, business at any cost is not our motto.”