Vinay Parameswarappa, Founder, Royal Mysore Walks
A walk to remember
Any City in India has a lot of culture, cuisine and history to offer the casual observer. For a first time visitor to Mysore the city of Palaces, the plethora of offerings may be a bit confusing and for the residents looking to rediscover their city the normal tour might seem a bit clichéd. However Vinay Parameswarappa has a great solution for both parties. The young entrepreneur is the founder of Royal Mysore Walks that offers offbeat tours that promise to show Mysore like never before.
What is a walking Tour and how is it related to Royal Mysore Walks?
Royal Mysore Walks is a Walking Tour company that specializes in offering guided Walking Tours and offbeat Tours on various themes in the city of Mysore. Walking Tours is a popular concept in most important cities around the world where short Walks are organized in the city based on different themes and it’s a great way to discover the city. Walking tours is all about interesting stories of the place, like how a Mahut from Mysore went on to become one the Hollywood’s richest stars or what does Rolls Royce mean by Doing a Mysore which is still used today, to Mysore conections to the American War of Independence or the Battle of Waterloo !! One can get to discover so much more on such tours which are entertaining, educative and a lot of fun !! From a short two hour Walking Tour to a Daylong Tour in a Car or a Tonga, focusing on History, Culture, Cuisine, Crafts or local life, A tour can be customized to suit the tastes and requirements of the customer who could be a corporate traveler trying to understand the ways of a place or a tourist interested in exploring the offbeat sights to a discerning resident who is keen on knowing more.
Are there many takers for this genre of tourism? How does it affect the preexisting tourism industry?
Royal Mysore Walks is in the business of providing offbeat yet authentic experiences. Anywhere from a 100 to 200 people experience the tours in a month and the number is gradually increasing. The use of social media like facebook http://www.facebook.com/royalmysorewalks twitter http://twitter.com/wineye and my blog http://royalmysorewalks.com/blog helps in getting more business !!
Going ahead I’m looking at adding more offbeat tours to the basket so that guests will have more options to choose from.There are different segments of people who benefit, like the Tonga Wallas who are a part of the Tonga Tours. Local Artisans, when on a tour of crafts, customers after seeing them at work prefer to buy souvenirs directly from them rather than from an emporium..Royal Mysore Walks patronizes with traditional business establishments such as sweet shops, incense makers, Silks which have been around since the time of Royalty. Also Royal Mysore Walks works with the local artisans to bring out customized souvenirs for its guests.
What diverse experiences does Royal Mysore Walks offer to their customers?
You find people flying business class, staying in star hotels and traveling in Luxury cars but when it comes to experiencing the city, they are either in the hands on the taxi driver or local tour guide most of whom are knowledgeable in a particular monument or even a city but fail to package and professionally offer an unique experience which would appeal to such travelers.
This is where Royal Mysore Walks comes into the picture, to provide a quality and enjoyable experience. Also to provide the urban Indian traveler a good tour option if he/she wishes to discover more about the place. The idea is to connect them to qualified, well traveled tour guides with whom they can relate to. It is also about scratching the surface to get deeper to answer most of the sights which we take for granted, like for ex, why do women in India wear a Bindi on their forehead ? or Why is the food in this region so spicy ? Most tours just do the popular sights and are done with it. But I believe the real flavor of the place lies beneath it, For example, getting to taste the popular sweet of Mysore, the Mysore Pak from the family who invented it or touring a 200 year old graveyard restored by the descendants of an old swizz regiment who fought against Tipu and the facinating story behind it.
Are you thinking about expanding your business to other cities?
Scalability has a two way approach with Walking Tours. One is to offer more offbeat experiences in a given city; two: replicate this in other cities. I would focus on the former as for the latter Walking Tours require people with a good knowledge about the place and also with extensive local contacts to get it up and running. As of now I’m looking at adding more routes with in Mysore. There is so much to be explored just in this region right from History, Heritage, Culture, Wildlife, Coffee Plantations and so on. So in time to come you find a lot more offbeat tours in Mysore offered by Royal Mysore Walks.
Why did you switch from Electrical Engineering to entrepreneurship?
I am a qualified Electrical Engineer and was working as a Software Engineer for an American Company. I found a desk job extremely monotonous, repetitive and downright boring. I have been a person who has enjoyed human interaction and needless to say I wasn’t doing much talking to a keyboard and a monitor. I used to be an avid quizzer in my school and college days and I found my learning curve missing at work. And while working in Singapore I got an opportunity to travel quite http://www.yourstory.in/administrator/index.php?option=com_content&task=edit&id=4110extensively across south east Asia and I also got an opportunity to go on the Singapore Walks, The amazing Walking Tour company in Singapore.. That’s when I realized that there is so much potential in India with tourism plus I could combine my interest of collecting interesting information, meeting people and also travel. So I got back. Quit. and Started !!
What was the biggest hurdle in the way of Royal Mysore Walks?
The biggest so far has been to find the right people to build the team and carry it forward. Now I realize the importance of phrase ‘finding the right fit’. I as an individual can take up and do tours to my satisfaction but to get others to have the same level of passion and energy as you do and to get them to deliver lies the secret of success. When faced with this, the key was to keep looking out and experiment with different people and most importantly, be open to new forays. Like for example you could get another person on board and may be spear head doing tours in a totally new market. Like they say, its all about possibilities.
What is the defining learning lesson you had as an amateur entrepreneur?
Timing is extremely crucial in Business just like how it is in Life. A moment once lost is lost forever. At this point I wish I had expanded faster and got on more tours and people on board Royal Mysore Walks. Like they say, Go Big or Go Home !! It’s so true. But then that’s how life is when you are an entrepreneur. You go out there make mistake and learn. That I feel is the best and the most effective way of learning.
How did you raise the capital for your company?
Starting a Walking Tour company is not too capital incentive. It’s more about your ideas, the content and your passion. But having said that you definitely need capital to get things around it. For ex, the website. the collaterals, the souvenir and to market the whole thing and the capital for all this came from whatever was left in my bank account while working in Singapore for an year. Once I got back the choice was between buying myself a car or investing in myself. Back then it was tempting to buy a car seeing all my other friends do so but then once I drive to office the torture with work would being, which I wasn’t ready to take anymore, plus driving in Bangalore Traffic is no more enjoyable J. So the money went to my business. And most importantly it’s not money which matters as much as your passion and your commitment to work. If you can showcase that, there are enough and more people willing to invest in your Venture.
How has the entrepreneurial journey been so far? Gained any accolades for your work yet?
Royal Mysore Walks just completed a year!! I would have expected the growth to a little faster but then that it how it is with start ups, they take time to stabilize.Right now I am the only employee and I’m in the process of training another person so the company would double itself soon J and the only branch is in Mysore as of now.
From CXOs and Presidents of Multi National Companies to Senior IAS officers and Diplomats, Royal Mysore Walks has catered to a very wide range of dignitaries who have visited Mysore. Royal Mysore Walks also did a tour for the attendees of the much coveted TED Conference, The international Conference which was being help in India for the first time and the venue was Mysore. These have been huge achievements for Royal Mysore Walks as it has stood for delivering quality Tours.
Royal Mysore Walks has been recommended by Singapore Walks as one of the Walking Tours to be done around the world http://www.journeys.com.sg/useful-partners-recommended.asp. This was a huge achievement considering the other Waking Tours to be recommended are of the ranks of London Walks and Paris Walks, pioneers in Walking Tours ! It also means that what you deliver would be on the same standards as any of the other walking tours around the world !! Royal Mysore Walks has also been featured in the British Travel Magazine, ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents) as one of the 3 reason to visit Karnataka.
What insightful observation would you share with aspiring entrepreneurs?
When you decide to start something by your own, Do it only if you truly believe in it. Because once you take the plunge there will be enough and more people out there trying to bog you down both within your family and friends circle and also outside. You will also encounter a lot of situations that will test your very belief as to why you are doing this whole thing. At times you will find yourself against the whole world. And the only thing on your side would be you and your belief in your idea. So make sure you feel strongly towards it. If you don’t then wait until that moment comes.
And don’t worry about making a Fool out of yourselves, The more you care for the society thinks the more you will suffer. If you firmly believe in what you are doing then just go for it. Networking surely helps , the more people you know from different walks of life the better, you never know where your next customer comes from. And also this advice from a fellow entrepreneur has helped me a great deal ‘As an entrepreneur Strip yourself of all your Shame’ !!
In which way do Indian entrepreneurs need to pull up their socks?
I would say, get out of your comfort zone !! We Indians from the very beginning are thought to play safe and not to take risks. Doing business is viewed as substitute for somebody who is not well qualified and who does not land up in a good job. All these are preconceived notions in our Indian society and as an entrepreneur you will have to learn to ignore this. We as society still have a socialistic mindset and the shift towards a capitalist one is happening surely but slowly.. What an entrepreneur needs in his/her initial days is a lot of support. You will definitely find it in other entrepreneurs who have taken this journey before you and you can relate to them. The key challenge in my opinion is to be around such people and connect with them. It’s a great moral boost.
What is that one thing you wish you had known about starting a business before you took the leap?
Business to set and stabilize takes time. It could be a couple of years before you really begin to reap the benefits. So it is important to be patient. I was naïve enough to think that all I had to do was design the Walks and announce to the World and that’s it you will have a constant flow of customer. It takes time to get visibility, to build a brand, to build relationships. The key is to persist, always keep at it. And be ready to make sacrifices, If you have been used to getting a fat pay check at the end of the month and a comfortable lifestyle, be ready to have a minimalistic lifestyle. When you take the plunge out of choice you’ll actually see yourself enjoying life this way and waiting until you make it big. The founder of Infosys call it delayed gratification!
Do you think an MBA is required to start your own business?
I personally do not think so. Yes we are all made to believe that an MBA is a must to do business. But I think it’s more of your mindset. If you are by nature willing to take risks, experiment and are good with people skills, doing business is an extension of it. Yes I do sometimes feel the need for business education, but I read a lot of books focusing on building businesses and meet people who run successful companies and I found this to be a great learning and also extremely effective. One book that I read recently and would strongly recommend for entrepreneurs is, Simply Fly by Capt GR Gopinath and his inspiring story of how he built Air Deccan and Yes! Without an MBA !!. After all one survey says 67% of CEOs in the world do not have management degrees!! So I guess it’s the B schools who should answer.
Yourstory wishes Vinay Parameswarappa and Royal Mysore Walks many walks with an unending stream of visitors. We are sure that success will soon be his and hope to experience a walking tour someday.