I come from a family with a farming background and our roots lie in a small village in Rajasthan. Being an entrepreneur is a far-fetched dream in our community. It is nothing but a mirage in a desert where anything apart from a public sector job is not understood at all. Everybody I knew in my school days wanted me to go for administrative services, simply for the reason of being called ‘collector sahab’. But as I grew up, I understood that a public sector job is something I am not meant for. (Multiple reasons for that, which I will talk about in a separate post)
When I was in management college, the phenomenon of entrepreneurship was at a very nascent stage in India. At that time, 2 friends of mine came up with the idea of creating a portal which would be ‘for the students, by the students, and of the students’. Sound familiar? Yes, we borrowed the theme from our constitution (wink). And this led to the foundation of CollegeKhabar. We ran it in completely organic ways, maybe not by choice but we did the best we could while studying and within a few months, we had created a community comprising thousands of students across the country, actively contributing to it. It was quite a hit! (At least in the engineering institutes)
Here are 3 important takeaways from my CollegeKhabar experience:
- Sense of creating something useful (for masses) is just ‘beautiful’
- Once you believe it’s possible, it’s possible
- And being an entrepreneur, you learn new things everyday
So I understood that ‘entrepreneurship’ resonates with my life’s vision, here’s why:
- I had the desire to create an impact on millions of people; with every business venture I wished to have a tangible impact on real lives, be it social, economic or cultural.
- To create, all you need is conviction and to learn all you need to know is how to, Google Baba Zindabad!
- Lastly, every act of every day should be worthwhile including hanging out with friends over drinks, which I definitely consider worthwhile.
Now each of these above pointers can be elaborated in details, but for that there will be another post at another time. Regardless, the points above define my reasons for choosing the path of a startup.
After my college, I worked for 5 years in 3 different companies (all startups) before partnering with my school friends in their social media agency and then finally setting up ToRoots. In each of them, a different segment and a different role. But there was one thing in common – a whole lot of challenges and hell lot of fun.
The story of building ToRoots can be read here but the reason for choosing it to be the ‘formal’ start of my entrepreneurial journey can be explained with my vision for ToRoots:
- There is no problem, for which ‘travel’ doesn’t have an answer:Every person on this planet is a different kind of traveler. My way of travel is to head out at random times without a destination, plan or time frame in mind. I just wander around, spend time where I feel like and observe the things happening around me. In recent times, I have seen a paradigm shift in the travel domain; people are now evolving into ‘travelers’ rather than remaining ‘tourists.’ They seek out ‘experiences’ rather than ‘trips’. It is a good sign but again the noise on a domain like the internet adds to the problems these travelers face. It is said that ‘a book is a man’s best friend’ but I have a different opinion. I believe that ‘travel’ is the best thing in life and that it literally has a solution to every problem in life. A simple explanation is: traveling gives you a chance to break away from the regular life and see things from a different perspective with a free mind. And there is no problem for which a free mind can’t find a solution. So I decided to de-clutter this noise and make the transformation of ‘tourists’ into ‘travelers’ an easy one.
- The most viable method of any business is to make it driven by the community:I witnessed the true power of community during the CollegeKhabar stint. Also, as a digital marketer, I have built communities for clients from the ground up, which probably strengthened the way I feel about its impact. Imagine this, instead of just you and your workforce putting your mind & energy into a business element, thousands of evangelists/patrons contribute to it. So whenever I have a thought about any business plan or the nitty-gritties of any business model, my mind starts thinking ‘how can we involve the community in this’, and get gratified for their contribution. With ToRoots, our vision is to create an ‘intelligent community driven platform for experiential travel’. The evolution of ToRoots (as we think and have planned) will be: a marketplace for experiential travel -> a community driven platform -> an intelligent platform for experiential travel.
- Every business, while being a profitable operation, should have a tangible impact on society:ToRoots will be helping people easily discover and encounter unique travel experiences; be it living the traditions of a place, immersing oneself in the culture or natural beauty of a place, exploring the history of a region and so on. Every experience will involve the local communities in one way or another providing them an alternate source of income. And when the locals see the value (monetary and non-monetary) for the local traditions, cultures, arts & crafts etc it might in turn help us preserve them. With ToRoots, we want to create a tangible impact on the social, cultural, economic and environmental aspect of the society. To give you an example of it, one of our partners, a rural travel company Grassroutes have generated a 20-25% growth in earnings in the villages they work in while simultaneously reducing the rural to urban migration, conservation of biodiversity, and reviving the locals arts, crafts, and traditions.
Apart from these, there are several small reasons for venturing into ToRoots. But the above 3 points capture the essence of it. I believe that travel has the potential to act as a catalyst for sustainable development.
If you want to have a detailed discussion on anything mentioned above, write to us and we would love to have a conversation over coffee (or beer) sometime. Also, do share your feedback/suggestions in the comments.