Female-focused travel companies have been around for some time, at least globally. In the late 1970s, the first iterations came up that offered adventure tours like camping trips for women. In recent years, as travel has become mainstream and female spaces have moved beyond their negative stereotypes, women-only tour operators have grown strong. From remote camping trips to relaxing at luxurious resorts, these operators provide a plethora of customizable packages to suit different travelling needs.
Travel firm Wovoyage has been enabling women travellers to discover new corners of the world. We spoke to the founder Rashmi Chadha to understand what it takes to operate in this segment.
Can you tell us about yourself and what made you start Wovoyage.
I did my graduation in Journalism and Communication and my Masters in Social Entrepreneurship, but dropped out when my business plan was ready. I was not very bright in studies till 6th standard and spent most of my time playing sports like gully cricket, basketball and handball. My mom always supported me in what I like. I was so bad in studies that I had to repeat my 6th standard, so my juniors use to tease me. However, since I was good in sports, I was the first student who represented my school at nationals in two categories. That changed my life and I got tremendous support from my family and sports coach Sanjeev Sharma Sir. I also won the “Best Sportsperson Award” at school for six consecutive years. From being a dull student to becoming the school champion is what made the difference in my life back then.
While conducting a few tours as a freelancer, I researched on foreigners travelling to India, especially females. I found out that foreign female travellers really want to travel to India, but they felt insecure. Another research showed that when foreigners/expats travel to India, they want the tour to be conducted by a genuine company rather than third party travel agencies. Moreover, women travellers feel comfortable with women guides. I felt that if I can reduce the risk and provide them with a fully secure tour, then there is a business opportunity waiting to be explored. The name Wovoyage means women voyage, and they are your trusted travel buddies. I believe this name has lots of power in it.
When did the company start its operations, how big is the team?
We started our operations in August 2016. There are five operations, with 37 women guides.
Your company claims to enhance the experience of travellers. How do you do that?
We create women-friendly customized packages and assign them expert women guides. For example, if a German lady wants to shop in Delhi, we assign her a woman guide who knows German and is an expert in shopping. We are giving foreigners a safe travel option and at the same time empowering Indian women through employment opportunities. We were mostly online in our early days, but we have now started a women-friendly travel centre in Paharganj, New Delhi. It’s a first-of-a-kind travel centre in India, and hope to change the perception of travel companies in India.
There is a huge demand for quality, secure and risk-free travel in India by foreigners and we are looking to deliver them to our clients as seamlessly as possible. We also plan for mixed groups, senior citizens and male travellers.
Who are your current customers?
Women groups, couples and senior citizens (preferably women). We assign them all a personal manager on call or email to answer every query.
What is your revenue model?
We are following the service model .There is Niche, which has packages of weekend trips around India to non-famous cultural and natural places, with special opportunities for modern sport activities and traditional experiences. They have comparatively low prices, an English guide and appeals to foreign travellers and expats in India. Then there is a unique value proposition differentiation with its convenience, including a ready package, simplicity of booking, pick up from several locations, and language guidance. The emotions that the service evokes are a feeling of adventure, fun, and having a ‘unique’ experience. We offer high-quality service for foreigners by providing them with female tour guides who speak different languages .
Who are your key competitors and how big is this market?
The big players are Viator and Trip Advisor, but they have just basic packages and deals and don’t do Foreign Independent Tours, which have now become important for customers. The foreign tourist arrival in 2016 has hit approximately 8 million. If we talk about travel in India, both domestic and international, it contributed 27 billion and is growing exponentially by 2x.
What is the source of your funding?
We are currently bootstrapped, with plans to see funding in the next quarter.
Which startups inspire you, within or outside the travel industry?
There is a community ‘Girls Love Travel’ and they are really inspiring the community of women travellers by sharing information about travel,stay and safety. We recently welcomed their founder in India, Haley Woods, and tried to understand how she managed to reach such a large audience of women just through social media.