CHENNAI: Want to try something radical for your next trip? How does staying in a tribal village in Wayanad as the guest of the chieftain sound? May be extract honey in the Niligiris with the locals?
How about a silk trail in the heart of Bengaluru? Unearthing the quaint and hidden-away aspects of travel hotspots is what makes Wandertrails, an experiential travel startup, one of the fastest growing companies in this niche field. Having received a good response for their innovative, off-beat venture, the five founders — Hari Gangadharan Nair, Sruti Ramesh Chander, Vishnu Menon, Narayan Menon and Pranav Kumar Suresh — are motivated by the $1 million seed funding they have just received.
As always, the spark for innovation was lit by a necessity that arose when one of the founders, Sruti, was to be married in Kerala.
“Her fiancé’s family, who were from outside the state, wanted to get a feel of Kerala in the truest manner, but weren’t satisfied with the tour packages available with other operators,” says Vishnu. It was through a fortuitous network of contacts that Pranav was able to set up an immersive trail with a guide (who eventually became their first employee) that started from the quintessential houseboat stay but soon took on a more wholesome form.
“The group got to take canoe rides off the boat to fish, watch the locals climb coconut trees to tap toddy, and interact with them, saw them spin coir off coconut husks, tried their hand at paddy harvesting and even went crab hunting!”
Later, they attended performances of kalaripayattu, kathakali, and more. “Not everyone is lucky to know a local to set up such an experience for them,” says Vishnu, adding that it left them wondering if they could replicate such experiences at other off-beat locations as well. “We wanted to become the blindly trusted Alfred (Bruce Wayne’s caretaker) for the new age traveller!” he laughs.
“We have a dedicated team and a large number of people on field who find leads on the ground – this is done by talking to possible suppliers, and even sometimes unearthing activities we didn’t know even existed,” says Vishnu.
“People are impressed by the concept and keep coming back. The activities comprise the best the place has to offer. One of our activities in Goa involves a curated trip to the oldest distillery in the state to see how fenny is distilled, the different stages in the process, their grades, and so on!”
Similarly, they have also curated city-specific trails that would surprise even a long-time resident as well – like the silk route in Bengaluru’s Kempe Gowda Pete. Founded in early 2016 with a focus on growing organically with a loyal user base, the new infusion of capital from Earlsfield has them setting up expansion plans from 12 states and 65 destinations to 20 states and 100 destinations in the next six months. In the meantime, they say, they will continue to be what they describe themselves best — an ‘Alfred’ to the discoverer in you!
For details, visit www.wandertrails.com