From NICE Stories. Roobaroo Walks placed 2nd at the NICE Aarohana Business Plan Competition (BPC) – Growth Stage. Here’s featuring the founders’ spark for starting this venture, their entrepreneurial journey, the business, challenges, goals, learnings and their experience at the BPC!
Combining heritage discovery and experiential storytelling! Leading you to fascinating places and letting you in on the best-kept secrets! All this and more at Roobaroo Walks, a cultural enterprise that offers Heritage Walking tours, Food Explorations, Workshops with Artists and Ways to make festivals engaging.
- Aayush Rathi, Co-Founder, Head of Experiences & Product
- Anchal Sachan, Co-Founder, Head of Marketing & Business Development
Anchal and Aayush are wife & husband and have a young child – Ved. Anchal is an alumna of K.J.Somaiya Mumbai, ex-Abbott Marketer and a yoga instructor. Aayush is an IIT Bombay, IIM Ahmedabad alumnus and an ex-BCG Consultant.
Read their story.
The Motivation to Found Roobaroo Walks
We are great fans of the knowledge that is encapsulated in the traditions of this land, be it yoga, Ayurveda, its music, dance and crafts, and of course its long-living history. Indian heritage has a lot to offer to people especially in today’s time and age – but its discovery is not always seamless. It’s the quest of unfolding this knowledge that Roobaroo Walks addresses. We transform travel experiences, leisure time and festival celebrations to enthuse creativity and imagination.
Aayush: It was my travels through Europe that had me intrigued about our own heritage. And when I explored India and her heritage, I was first blown away by the tremendous depth and relevance, and next by just how unstructured and unorganized was the process of its discovery.
Anchal: For me, having experienced the benefits of Yoga and Ayurveda through my young age, I wanted to simplify and accentuate its application in the everyday lives of others.
Transforming the way people leverage heritage for personal and community growth via experiential storytelling and art-based products and activities!
Together with our team, we are keen on sharing Indian heritage with the world.
We started with our walking tours at Varanasi, nearly six years ago. After a mere three weeks of arriving, we started testing our model of walking tours with travelers and locals alike; we kept improving based on the feedback. We also made friends and identified artists who were open to sharing their knowledge in a contemporary and easy-to-understand language.
Since then, we have expanded to other destinations. From launching our Delhi chapter in 2018 to launching Lucknow, Amritsar, Agra in 2019 we went live with the Himalayan and Dehradun chapters in 2020.
Our excitement is in leading our customers to fascinating destinations and to the local arts & crafts – both popular and offbeat. Our fun and insightful Storytellers and artists let them in on the best-kept secrets. From relishing delicious food – both from the streets and homes – to engaging with local art forms and artists to even teaching a skill to an interested audience, our customers experience it all.
In these 6 years, here’s what we have accomplished:
- Conducted 2,600+ Heritage Walks
- Made memories with over 10,000 travelers from 55+ countries
- Received the Trip Advisor’s Certificate of Excellence for 4 consecutive years and earned their Travelers’ Choice Award, given to the top 10% of the travel organizations!
Whom Do We Serve
Our experiences and products are ideal for those interested in creative pursuits and meaningful travel. Specifically –
- Leisure travelers – Indians and International
- Schools interested in outside-the-classroom learning
- Corporates looking for team building activities and offsites
Our Top Challenges
- Increasing our customer reach – Going beyond referrals
We are working on shortening the usual long gestation period of making a destination sustainable. Every new destination requires initial investments – researching and developing content, exploring locations, recruiting storytellers, establishing community spaces. While referrals are great, it takes time for the word to spread. And that’s where our knowledge of Indian heritage comes in – to drive content-based marketing.
- Ensuring quality at scale
Our offerings are all about handcrafted experiences. So, the natural question is, ‘how do we scale?’ We have been leveraging the processes and playbooks that we have created for seemingly subjective aspects of our work such as storyteller quality, building community ties at new destinations, etc as we expanded to multiple destinations
Experiential Travel During Covid-19
When travel came to a grinding halt in 2020, at Roobaroo, we went online with our offerings. We offered virtual tours, digital art workshops, cultural souvenirs, festival packs – experiences and products that customers consume from the comfort of their homes.
Going online has transformed the way people explore heritage. We will continue to focus on these offerings going forward as well.
In due course, we plan to cover all of India and other countries as well. We will continue leaving the trails with memorable experiences.
- From our experience, we know that running small, measurable experiments to establish Product-Market fit quickly is less time-consuming than trying to create the perfect product on the first go.
How did we learn this valuable lesson? While building our mobile application, we took a lot of time iterating on the product before taking it to the users. However, with our virtual tours, digital art workshops, cultural souvenirs, festival packs, we decided to work closely with our users as we were designing these products and services. This helped us to significantly reduce the time required for finding Product-Market fit.
- It is best to leverage partnerships to grow quickly and in a focussed manner as opposed to doing it all by yourself.
At Roobaroo, we have made exclusive partnerships with small heritage walk organizations in some of our destinations – teams with whom we have worked closely to refine experiences and products.
Advice for Cultural Entrepreneurs
- We have observed that the gestation period for cultural enterprises is often longer than that for other enterprises such as in FMCG, Transport, etc. It’s therefore important to stay confident by focusing on the traction you’re receiving – without comparing it with other tech-based products.
- Be nimble – run quick, measurable experiments with consumers to find product-market fit.
- Build processes for your solutions.
On Winning the NICE Aarohana Business Plan Competition
It has been a great learning experience at the BPC! We prepared by writing down our story, honestly and diligently. We incorporated mentor feedback and practiced a crisp pitch.
The mentor inputs were instrumental in helping us refine our story.
The validation of our idea from this win has bolstered our confidence further. We look forward to receiving continued mentorship and help in connecting with potential investors.
This conversation, originally published in NICE Resource Center, was authored by Chitra Aiyer.
Chitra is interested in all things Indian and enjoys reading and writing. She has been a technical writer, a freelance writer, blogger, professional photographer, content creator, and an architect. She has worked in startups and has also been part of various citizen-led initiatives, both in the online and offline world. She trained in architecture and professional writing. She is an alumna of Mysore University and San Jose State University.
Images from Roobaroo Walks, one of the finalists at the NICE Aarohana Business Plan Competition – Growth Stage.