When passion becomes profession

What began as passion for travel soon became a profession for Ritu Goyal Harish. She formally set up Ease India Travel, a bootstrapped start-up based in Pune in January. It specialises in curated holidays to Bhutan, paragliding trips in Himachal Pradesh’s Kangra Valley, birding and hiking trips in Coorg, Karnataka, and temple tours across nine famous religious landmarks in Kerala and beyond.

A confirmed wanderer who revelled in discovering unique places finally paid up as it inspired the freelance journalist to design tailor-made holidays. For instance, Ease India Travel offers customised holiday for each traveller, even if they are part of a group. “From the kind of room a person wants, the bike available outside the airport to special requests for a favourite beverage to throwing surprises like an anniversary dinner at a five-star property or a blessing by a Lama for newly-weds, we take care of varied requests. That is why, we cannot offer straight-off-the-shelf packages online,” says Harish, a mother of two.

It was in 2011 that Harish, 43, began chronicling her travel experiences in a blog. Her husband was posted on an assignment abroad, and she needed a break from bringing up the kids single handedly. She took off on an unplanned tour of Bhutan, and ended up falling in love with the country. She went again, and again. Each time, she discovered surprising new places, made new connections and came back with a sense of wanting more. She then began travelling across India, notably the Kangra valley in Himachal Pradesh and parts of Kerala and picturesque Coorg, and wrote about her journeys on her travel blog. Her friends and acquaintances started asking her for suggestions for places to stay and things to do. She informally organised trips for them and went along, using her local contacts to arrange little details that she knew would charm them — picnics by the river, a special piece of music, a particular kind of bottled pickle...

This October, Harish has taken eight people to Bhutan for a 10-day trip costing just Rs 65,000 per person, inclusive of travel, food and lodging. Started with Rs 6 lakh investment from her own savings, today Ritu has broken even. A dream come true, indeed.

— Michael Gonsalves