If the Human Genome Project found a ‘Travelust gene’, don’t be surprised because Travelling is wedged deep inside the human consciousness and we don’t need proof to show so. Homo Sapiens emerged in East Africa and has gone on to traverse across the world, mostly on foot, till ocean-faring ships from Europe (Asian countries had their own trade networks) seeking adventure, exploration and wonder, began to circumnavigate the world, creating a global marketplace, a melting pot of human language, food, music, dance and behavioral cultures.
From Marco Polo who traveled the Silk Roads from Europe to China and back; Genghis Khan with his hordes of cavalry reaching the gates of Vienna in 1241; to Christopher Columbus reaching the Americas, it is only now, in the 21st Century that living standards have risen sufficiently enough for more and more people to be able to aspire and plan for a vacation of their own. The fast rising middle class from Asia, a continent home to 5 billion people will increasingly shape the future of the tourism and travel industry similar to how they’re already shaping other industries.
The lines between business and pleasure is getting blurred, with customers, groups and families demanding more and more personalized solutions that take into context their budgets and unique experiences which go beyond routine sight-seeing by ticking off places from a pre-prepared common list and explore newer, off-the-shelf experiences.
Enter, Che Experiences. We recently got in touch with Seema Jaising who is the founder of Che Experiences who shared her journey as an entrepreneur. Here are the excerpts of the interview
Give a brief info about your startup?
I have been in the hospitality sector for the last eleven years, organising conferences and incentives for corporates. I started an experiential holiday company call Che Experiences in 2015. I represent Helmsbriscoe, the world’s largest venue selection and meeting planning company for their conference and incentive planning segments.
What made you start your startup and what problem does it solve?
A lot of our corporate clients who had booked conferences and incentive trips with us expressed an interest in using our services for their personal holidays – family trips, large groups of friends celebrating birthdays or bachelorettes with smaller groups of five to ten people. They asked us to assist them with planning and customizing their holidays within their budget.
We helped create a niche for customised holidays and off-the-beaten track destinations, and designed itineraries accordingly. Most importantly, we understood client budgets, and curated planned vacations and celebrations according to their requirements.
Tell us about yourself, your previous jobs/ventures? What were you doing before this startup?
I was Head of PR & Marketing at The Oberoi, Bangalore and then worked as an Assistant Director of Sales & Marketing at Le Meridien, Bangalore. I took a break from the hotel industry and worked as Director of Marketing for India for the Italian confectionery brand Ferrero at their India office for two years.
In my early 20s, when I was studying Dental Surgery, I ran a small but successful baking unit from home that made special cakes and desserts. Entrepreneurship has been in my blood since I was very young.
Where is your startup based out of? Why do you think that is the best place for you?
Che Experiences is based out of the co-working space WeWork Galaxy in Bangalore. Space has a great energy with the various entrepreneurs and startups here. It is an obvious choice of place for me to work from and I have also been fortunate enough to find my team here.
As a startup founder, what are you paranoid about? What keeps you awake at night?
Being a perfectionist. I always worry about the quality of service, especially when we start working with a new international partner. There is also always a prayer for the money earned to be enough to handle our monthly expenses, salaries and retainers.
Who are your competition and how are you better than them?
My competitors are all the big travel companies that curate trips. We customize and create each itinerary, unlike companies that send out the readymade packaged itineraries they have. Our services are personalized and we always try to match budgets and create unusual experiences that would interest them. We also include a lot of local experiences like customized tours with locals or food tours. For example, A Vespa tour in Vietnam, taiko drumming in Japan, a treasure hunt at the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, visiting a local chocolate factory in Almaty, Shabbat dinner at a local’s home in Jerusalem and tea tasting at a tea plantation in Coonor, for an example closer to home.
How hard is it to have a work life balance?
I have not had a problem with having a work life balance as I am passionate about travel. I always want to produce the best results I can. I have a highly ambitious spirit! Though sometimes I neglect my health and work long hours. My immunity breaks down after long bouts of overwork. I also go to Mumbai every few months to visit my sister and her baby who is the apple of my eye.
Have you raised funding? If yes, then we would like to know the details. If no, then please tell us if you are looking to raise.
No, but we are open to if we find a like-minded partner who is equally passionate about travel and creating an interesting business out of it.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about you?
Why do they have that? What’s the reality?
That we only create expensive luxury holidays and mid-luxury group holidays. We have booked reasonable holidays across the world, and the price is always dependent on the number of people travelling. We work with a range of budgets, but the misconception arises because unfortunately the expectation is that a curated and personalized experience must cost the same or less than rates that are available online or via coach travel groups in order to be considered affordable. However, as a high quality travel company, we do not offer or want to provide low quality service or standards by cutting costs for high-quality guides, for example.
What gets you excited about this company?
A vacation makes us happy, makes us dream and believe in magic. Sometime during a holiday we end up thinking about our life goals for ourselves and with our travel companions – be it a spouse, partner, friends, kids, or parents. We end up soul searching while discovering a new place. That to me is a very special feeling.
I believe and hope every person who travels with Che Experiences will discover something they never knew about themselves or the person they are travelling with, and that it will be a life changing journey for them. I would also love to see them create an entrepreneurial venture out of something they discover on a Che experience.
Tell us how a day in your life looks like? Your schedule for a day right from the time you get up till you hit the bed at night.
I’m an owl and not an early riser… Gandhiji must be turning in his tomb!
I wake up at 9am, take client calls from 9.30 to 10.30am, get breakfast and a tall mug of black coffee. I finish creating all itineraries from 11am to 1pm.
Around 2pm, I finish all emails that need urgent responses. Then lunch at 3.30pm. I do bank work or I schedule meetings from 3.30pm to 5.30pm and then finish my backlog of emails.
From 6.30 to 7.30pm I work on administrative tasks or I sit with my accountant to go over the week’s finances. I either head to the gym or do yoga for 45 minutes about 4 to 5 times a week. On days I don’t go to the gym, I just chill or read a book. We eat dinner at 9pm and watch some TV for an hour after which I get back to work or get on a conference call with countries with farther time zones from 11 to 12 midnight. I crash between 1am to 1.30am.
Tell us about your team and how did you meet each other?
Anushka – Nush (I like to call her that) is my Brand Development & Strategy Head. I just blindly follow her lead on what she thinks is best for our brand. I met her by chance sitting opposite my desk at WeWork. She fills the gap of Creative element that Che always needed, and we have been working together for 2 years now.
Karishma – Nush introduced me to this calm girl who always anticipates my need for chocolate desserts. She handles our social media strategy and also supports us with our PR.
Anishaa – Our new entrant, who is handling our PR. I’ve known Anishaa since 2014 as we did some art events together at my friend Namu Kini’s gallery KYNKYNY.
Lastly my better half Arjun, who is constantly working on my ideas and coming up with solutions to make them happen.
‘Tis true in this new world where one hears – Behind Every Ambitious Woman is a Man!
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