When Ease India Travel started its journey in 2012, it was a travel blog being maintained by Ritu Goyal Harish. As an avid traveller, Ritu used to share her travel experiences on the blog. The information proved beneficial for many aspiring travellers who wanted to visit the same places to get the same feel. In October 2014, Ease India Travel moved a step forward when Ritu gave it the shape of a travel operator. However, it was and is still different from any other existing travel operators in India!
Today, Ritu Goyal Harish, the founder of Pune-based Ease India Travel joins us in this interview session. In the conversation, she tells us her story. She also reveals the reasons that make Ease India Travel different from other travel startups of the country.
Hi Ritu, welcome to this interview session of conflatingVisions. To start with, please tell us a few lines about yourself.
I am a freelance journalist based out of Pune for the past 10 years. Being born and raised in Kerala and since my husband was in the defence services, I lived in many other parts of India. I started travelling solo in 2012 and haven’t looked back since. My first solo trip was to Bhutan, India’s beautiful neighbouring country. Since then, I’ve been making at least 2-3 trips every year to Bhutan. I am in my 40s and I have two teenage kids.
Ease India Travel is run from Pune, the city where I am presently based. I am currently on a sabbatical from journalism. Although I still continue to write one odd story here and there for select websites and magazines.
Ritu Goyal Harish, the founder of Ease India Travel chilling a wine in a river in Bhutan
What motivated you to do something in the field of travel?
My love for travelling, especially road trips is a legacy from my Dad who was very fond of travelling by road. As children, we would come home from school on a Friday and find our luggage packed and would be shunted into our Fiat Car (which later became Premier Padmini) for a trip across Kerala, Tamil Nadu and even parts of Karnataka. We took many holidays every year and I have some very fond memories of the road, the hotels we would stay in, etc.
When I began travelling (after the kids grew up a bit), I found that I also loved photography and purchased a DSLR. Soon I was chronicling my travels in a blog called Ease India Travel and sharing the posts on Facebook. My friends started noticing that. I wasn’t just enjoying the destination that I would be out to travel to, but for me, every single thing mattered. In August 2014, a friend asked me to plan a trip for his family of three to Bhutan, which I did. He was so thrilled that he recommended my name to many others.
Soon it reached a point when I was unable to do much unless I commercialized operations (such as getting hotel bookings etc.) which happened in October 2014.
Please tell us about Ease India Travel.
Ease India Travel is a very niche travel operator. From the start, I was very clear that I would be ‘sharing’ my personal experiences with my guests – not just taking information off the Internet, creating itineraries and selling holidays. We came up with the term ExperienceTravel (that we have trademarked as well) – which simply means that guests will experience what I have on my numerous travels. The itineraries are created not just to see sights, but also to soak in rich experiences including culture, cuisine, history, clothing, architecture, etc. and experiences that are not available on a Google search of the place.
By the very virtue of ExperienceTravel, it is also clear that I do not offer holidays to places I have never been to. Therefore, the destinations I offer are limited to Bhutan, parts of Himachal and of course, Kerala. I’ve been exploring Coorg recently and it will be added to our destination list shortly.
Ease India Travel is also not a budget operator. Since our offering, in terms of itinerary and experiences is unique, we charge a premium from our guests. Our holidays are therefore catering to the discerning traveller who doesn’t mind spending a little extra for a different experience.
Adventure in Himachal Pradesh, India
Bhutan’s most iconic Monastery (Taktsang Dzong)
Ritu, what challenges did you face at the time of starting up?
One of the major challenges for us was to reach out to our target market. In fact, we are still struggling with this, though over two years, we have had a few substantial gains – one of which is that we are now known in the travel community in India as Bhutan experts.
Please share the investment details.
Ease India Travel is presently a bootstrapped and self-funded start-up.
How do you go about designing the travel plans and tour itineraries?
Planning an itinerary is a very intensive process for me. I speak to the clients and gather all relevant information (such as who is travelling, age group, food requirements, fitness levels, etc.) to custom create an itinerary for them. Since I have been to the destinations more than a few times, I can answer any/all queries of clients and undertake many of their special requests. Although this process is laborious, I love the interaction that I have with them. I guess I am a ‘people person’.
First group of the signature holiday Blissful Bhutan in 2015
Bhutan riverside picnic
There are many organizations in this travel and tourism sector whose working model is more or less similar to yours. In what ways are you different from them?
We have been maintaining that there isn’t currently, a single business model like ours in the travel sector. We are very unique and the only ones who offer ExperienceTravel to the destinations we have ourselves explored. Everyone else throws itineraries together and packages holidays based on their singular trip/experiences. Some of them don’t even make a single trip before becoming tour operators. We are experts for the destinations we offer and whatever we are not experts at, we simply don’t offer.
Bonding together by Eating together
What are the present challenges that you often have to deal with?
Travellers in India tend to bargain for every penny. They want our itinerary, our holiday and our experience – but they don’t want to pay for it. That is a huge challenge for us in addition to finding our target market – that discerning traveller who will spend a little extra for service and happiness – that we know is out there!
What are your future plans for Ease India Travel?
I want Ease India Travel to grow in leaps and bounds and help travellers understand a destination in depth, to go beyond sightseeing and to enrich their souls with the experience.
And one last question of this session Ritu, if you have had one wish…
If I had one wish, I’d travel the world over just gathering experiences and sharing them.
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