Harshvardhan Tanwar is a founder of Mumbai based startup called No Footprints.
No Footprints is a travel boutique focused on sharing stories of people and communities through tours, workshops and group events to tourists, says Harshvardhan.
We got an opportunity to talk with Harshvardhan about his journey and see what he has to say. I am sure his interview with us will inspire you.
Give a brief info about your startup?
No Footprints is a travel boutique focused on sharing stories of people and communities through tours, workshops and group events to tourists. We’ve been in existence for nearly five years and are the preferred partner in Mumbai for leading companies in the inbound sector.
We’re also proud to be the number 1 Tour Company on Tripadvisor, despite being on the review platform for just over a year.
We’ve been fortunate to show around imminent people and groups such as Nigella Lawson. Eric Roth, Peta Mathais, Zubin Mehta’s Israeli Philharmonica, chef Rick Stein, Meera Sodha, Allan Lamb, Pascal Cagnis, Stanford Business School, Harvard Business School, Shwatzman Scholars, Wharton Business School and Christine Manfield, Hermes, Head of Dior amongst others. We’ve also been featured in publications such as the New York Times, Harper’s Bazaar UK, New York Times China, Nat Geo UK, Vogue, GQ, Getaway Magazine, Saveur, Love Travel Guide and our tours feature in the Lonely Planet online tours.
One of the tours we pioneered is called Mumbai by Dawn – a tour that shows you the underbelly of the city and what makes this city truly tick. From walks into the docks, seeing the newspaper sorting, learning about them mills of Mumbai, to the colourful flower market, ending with a two century old dying exercise form; all this at 5 am. It’s fascinating to decode the method in the madness, and just to understand the complicated micro economics that employs nearly 80% of this city.
What made you start your startup and what problem does it solve?
It all started on that one free walk in Paris in 2012 – the city of Romance, where my romance for tours started. I had gone for a prestigious advertising award to France, representing my then company. One morning I set out on a free walk of the city’s lesser-known areas. I was really fascinated with the way the guide made mundane information sounds so interesting.
It was fun, there was humour and suddenly history didn’t seem all that boring. I came back to Mumbai and decided to go on one such guided tour. I was appalled to say the least. It was just the absolute opposite of my experience in France and that’s when the seed of doing something fun in tourism was planted. I quickly learnt that most companies were providing cookie clutter based tours – People were coming to Mumbai for one day and often complained there wasn’t much. They would do the standard city tour and Elephanta. That’s it!
There was a need to do something different, creative, yet meaningful – That’s when the idea of the early morning tour was conceived and No Footprints was born.
Mumbai was never considered a tourist city, unlike say Jaipur, Jodhpur, Agra or even a Delhi. It was just a transit city. Till 2013, Mumbai was gateway in and out of India – just for a few hours. Today most people spend atleast 2-3 nights in Mumbai. We believe through our experiences and the faith our partner DMC’s have shown in us, is the reason the stats have changed.
Tell us about yourself, your previous jobs/ventures? What were you doing before this startup?
I graduated as Industrial instrumentation engineer. However, till date I haven’t worked in any job related to it. And I have no regrets about it. (Laughs)
Because it was only a matter of time before I realized that my heart lies somewhere else.
Prior to founding No Footprints, I had worked with the reputed agency Leo Burnett on many of their creative campaigns. Thanks to this stint, I got an opportunity to globe-trot and be a part of many prestigious events including the Cannes Lions.
This experience helped me to hobnob with people from all over the world and understand them much better. All these experiences helped me immensely while setting up No Footprints.
Where is your startup based out of? Why do you think that is the best place for you?
Our startup is based out of Mumbai. Having been born and brought up in Mumbai, I am extremely passionate about the city and in this business if you aren’t passionate, you wont be able to be a good story teller. Also, being familiar with the geography of the city helped me navigate the city better and decode its cultural ethos.
This definitely did help me starting a regional tourism company. However, convincing people to come to Mumbai as a tourist was a different matter all together.
As a startup founder, what are you paranoid about? What keeps you awake at night?
The biggest challenge fort any start-up is to staying abreast and aware of the rapid changes that happen in the consumer behavior and technology. Considering the technologically advanced times we are living in, it is necessary for startups to keep updating themselves with the everyday changes happening around and implementing the same in your business operations.
We are always looking at ways to develop newer, unique and memorable experiences for our customers. As this will only help in strengthening our reputation and brand image.
These are extremely competitive times and one never knows when they can get obsolete or left behind. However instead of fearing this, we believe in tackling this positively and using it to get better at what we do. Being relevant and collaborating with the right people is key.
Who are your competitions and how are you better than them?
Why we are better than most competitors is because we get bored easily. And that always encourages to do something challenging everyday and stay ahead of the curve. Competition is everywhere. And Nowhere. Depends on how you look at it. If you are constantly reinventing you are competiting with your own old idea, most times.
Without trying to sound pompous, I would like to say that our motto has always been to create experiences that are out of the box and defy conventions.
It was with this approach we founded our flagship tour Mumbai By Dawn. Which has seen over 3000 expereinces and over 12000 guests. Who would’ve thought people would wake up at 5 am on tour. Not only did they do that, they also have made this one of the most successful tours in the city that everyone wants to now emulate.
How hard is it to have a work life balance as a startup founder and how do you manage it?
The concept of work-life balance ceases to exist when you are running a start-up (laughs). Running a start-up requires you to overlook all the departments and constantly coordinating with your team to ensure that it functions smoothly. And it’s a herculean task to say the least. I also believe in becoming friends with follx I work with. Helps make the work environment easy and longer hours at work more enjoyable.
Moreover, we have an off season that lasts over 2 months, that’s the time I takr a long holiday with my wife. It helps interact and take tours and walks all over the world as research, and take some much needed time off. Im also passionate about cricket and take some time off whenever I do and sneak in a game every week.
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, we are bootstrapped and loving it for now.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about you? Why do they have that? What’s the reality?
The biggest misconception that people have about leisure travel and the space we operate in is that these tours and experiences reinforce several stereotypes about India globally. This perception is not only disappointing, but it is also far away from the truth.
Through touring, we stand as ambassadors of our city for the world. The way we show our city is the image they go back with, is the image that they tell their world around them about. So, it is important to be able to give factual and correct data in the most interesting way possible. Our guests come in as clients and go back as friends, that’s our attitude. And that’s our reality.
We love meeting new people. Are passionate about the city. Love touring with people and giving information that challenge their stereotypes and helps demythify the city and the country.
What gets you excited about this company?
The fact that I get to meet new people everyday who hail from different parts of the world. It also gives me an opportunity to share with people unknown stories and anecdotes about Mumbai – a city which I love a lot and is an inseparable part of my existence.
Lastly, the feedback which our guests give post the tours validates all the hard work we put into creating the tours and experiences. And trust me, there is no greater joy in the world than listening to our guests about how our experiences have helped them to discover new things about Mumbai.
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.
No Day is the same and that’s the beauty about my job. Everyday is an interaction with a new person. Which helps me learn a bit more about the world and vicariously helps me travel to various countries. I love this job.
Tell us about your team and how did you meet each other?
My dad has been my mentor in the travel industry. But my partner in life and in the business is my wife Eesha Singh who has helped create strategic alliances that has helped No Footprints grow beyond being just a small crerative set –up. Besides this, we have a team of on-ground story-tellers and employees, who really define Mumbai for thousands who come to the city. They are the ones who put No Footprints on the map for delivering some amazing content and crating some great memories.
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