In an exclusive chat with SupportBiz, Jayanti Rajagopalan aka Jonty, the founder of Detours tells us all about her company and of life as an entrepreneur.
When did Detours start operations?
Detours was launched in August 2008. We are almost 3-1/2 years old now.
What were you doing prior to starting Detours?
I am basically a graduate from XLRI, Jamshedpur. Before starting Detours, I worked for several years in sales and marketing. I have worked with firms like Titan and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. I quit my job with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to start my own company.
How did you come up with the idea of starting Detours?
In the course of my sales and marketing career, I travelled extensively throughout India. I travelled to nooks and corners of the country, and in the process, I got more and more convinced that we do not market our country in the best way possible. India has so much to offer – beautiful locales, wonderful food, lovely arts and crafts and a whole host of experiences that a tourist can partake of.
We are so rich in culture and history. However, I felt that we play ourselves down a lot and do not show the true colours of our beautiful country to outsiders. I wanted to change that. I started Detours with the idea of showing the real India to people. I had been thinking of starting my own business for several years.
I have always loved travelling and am extremely passionate about history. I felt that a venture like Detours was the perfect way to combine my passion for history, culture and travel, and would help get India the attention that it deserves.
How big is your team, presently?
Currently, we have a team of four, including myself. We are all from different backgrounds, and what binds us together is a love for India, our history and culture, and our passion for travel.
What are the different types of tours that you offer?
Our tours can largely be grouped into four categories – Slice of Life, Historical, Arts and Crafts, and Culinary. Apart from this, for large groups, we also offer several interesting group activities like cook-outs and treasure hunts, where people discover bits and pieces of the place’s history as treasures.
How many trips do you undertake in a month?
In peak tourist season, we are flooded with requests for trips, but the hot summer months are lean for us. On an average, I think, we would be arranging about eight to 12 trips a month.
Why did you choose Hyderabad as your base of operations?
I happened to be staying and working in Hyderabad at just about the same time that I was on the verge of starting my own business, and so, it was a natural choice. Hyderabad, apart from being a place that I called home, also was an off-the-beaten-track tourist spot. It has a lot of culinary delights, history and arts and crafts that have not yet been explored the way other popular tourist spots and big cities have been explored. I wanted to tap into the unexplored through Detours, and that’s why I chose Hyderabad as my base of operations.
Moreover, in 2008, Hyderabad was emerging as a software hub, and there were a lot of new people coming into the city. Many of them wanted to explore the city – some were staying for a couple of days, some for a few weeks, and some for a few years. Hyderabad, thus, had the right kind of target audience that I was looking out for for Detours.
How is Detours different from other tour organisers?
Detours is different in the sense that we do not guide our guests the ‘Look right, look left’ kind of way that a lot of tour organisers do. Our tours are very well planned and highly interactive. The guides who accompany the tourists are extremely passionate about the places they are travelling to, and are very interested in putting across the history of these places to the tourists in the right way.
We make sure that our guests feel like they are part of an experience, rather than just taking them through ordinary sight-seeing. Travelling with us is like travelling with a knowledgeable, local friend and not like travelling with a guide.
Any plans of expansion in the near future?
Yes, definitely. Presently, we offer tours only in and around Hyderabad. We would like to expand to other parts of the country as well.
When have you felt the proudest as an entrepreneur?
I feel very proud when I look back on my journey and see the long way that Detours has come.
In the course of our tours, we showcase several local arts and crafts and we bring to light the work of a number of artisans who might not have got such exposure otherwise. Often, our tourists are stupefied to see the amount of work that goes behind the making of a certain piece of art. I feel happy and proud each time Detours touches the life of a craftsman, by presenting their work to tourists and ensuring that they get the attention that they deserve.
What are the major challenges that you face, as a small-scale enterprise?
A business like Detours is highly localised, and it is difficult to scale up. We have to remain operational on a limited scale, otherwise we stand at risk of losing the personal touch that is the trademark of Detours. This is the major challenge that I face.
That apart, it is very difficult to find talented guides who are really passionate about showing tourists around. It is challenging to find guides who go beyond their job to show the real flavour of a place to tourists.
Moreover, there is the challenge of acceptance by the society. People commonly tend to look down at tourist guides, and think of it as a lowly profession.
Then, there is the transition from the life of a salaried corporate worker to an entrepreneur. It is not easy. Work in corporates revolves around strict guidelines, fixed pay packages and well-defined roles, while all that changes the moment you become an entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, you are completely in charge of your business – and you have to be ready to do anything and everything to keep it afloat.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
If one has a business idea and is very, very convinced about its feasibility, I would suggest that they go ahead with it now. There is no better time than now.
The logical part of a person might tell him/her to study the market for a couple of years before launching a business venture – that’s what I did too. However, I would suggest potential entrepreneurs to take the plunge sooner rather than later if they are confident about their idea. Of course, there will obstacles along the way, there will be criticism, but if you are prepared to rough it up for a while and you are confident of your venture, go for it now!
Corporate website: http://www.detoursindia.com/dtours.aspx