The travel sector in India and the World over is buzzing with something new at any point of time. A lot of startups have made it large in this sector. Recently, YourStory launched TravelSparks to showcase Indian travel entrepreneurs. One aspirant in this field is NirvanaNomads. Started by a group of youngsters, this startup aims to introduce a new way of traveling places.
How do you describe NirvanaNomads?
Nirvana Nomads is an alternate travel outfit based in Bangalore. We conceptualize, design and produce offbeat weekend travels around Bangalore for those that are interested in doing much more than the usual touristy pilgrimage. Journeys at Nirvana Nomads are much more about people, conversations, cultural immersions, learning something new through travels rather than visiting a popular destination. We see ourselves as a community of like-minded travelers more than a business. We are focused on creating alternate travel journeys centered on interests of people – wildlife, culture, art, history, photography and so on. The idea is to use travel as a tool to enable positive social change, connect people, and open them up to issues facing our world today. Nirvana Nomads , as a community of travelers, also facilitates offline events such as Nomads Jam, talks by people from different facets of life, potluck dinners etc to ensure that people connect with each other beyond the virtual world
How did you startup? What motivated you?
Motivation a plate of pani-puri on one quaint January evening. Like really. We always believed that travel wasn’t explored to its fullest capability. As a process, travelling does so much to people – introduces them to new culture, teaches new things and most importantly it leaves you a slightly better and more informed an individual. Travel also connects cross culturally, promotes diplomacy and feeds a whole section of people.
Why isn’t this macroscopic idea being spoken about? Why aren’t people being told about all the things that travel is capable of? Why aren’t there options available beyond the redundant and obscenely commercial “Tour packages”? There aren't really too many people who can empathize with you. Understand what you like. Experiment with funky ideas. Swim across various disciplines and whip up a Sundae that is an immersive travel experience. Those that exist either die an insignificant death or cannot reach out to people due to lack of marketing. Like great artists. There are a few that enshrine values of experiential travel / responsible travel deliberately make themselves exclusive themselves “exclusive” (Read expensive). If this was the case, how can normal, sorry-I-don’t-own-a-Mercedes class participate? There was this huge vacuum that had to be responded to.
Talking all these over an evening, three of us friends got together to vent our frustration in form of starting up a business that offered funky, offbeat, responsible AND low-cost travel options. Low-cost was very important. No point being a pretentious brownie serving exclusive stuff only to those that can afford to give you fat cheques. The inspiration was initially to create a platform where we could marry our business aspirations and ideals and live happily ever after.
Travel, to us, is an under-explored space. I mean, one way yes there are a zillion "tour operators" that are quite proud at having you "Do Europe in 15 days". There are others who can amaze you with a billion "cheap and best package tours for the hill stations" kinds. Are you traveling or running a marathon?
Why did you choose this sheer nomadic life (travel sector)?
Travel is an intensely spiritual experience really. The idea of continuous displacement is just an outer façade that hides a deeper inner journey within. In seeing people, in finding yourself in an uncomfortable cultural situation, in eating that food you are not used to eating, in interacting with people and learning about their life lies the true essence of beautiful living. Life is all about its subtle nuances isn't it?
So, travel really bridges cultural gaps, dilutes ones ethnocentrism and makes you look at the world for what it really is and not what you understand it to be really. We chose travel because that’s a sure way to have an impact on any person's life. In so doing, going one step closer to being the change one wants to see in the world. This is not mumbo-jumbo really. It happens all the time. We recently took this crazy journey to travel from Bangalore to Ladakh – 23 days, 8000 km – in 5000 rupees. We met Indian jugaadu innovators making a 8 mobile charger station in a general compartment of a moving train, interacted with Himalayan truck drivers and learnt about their challenges during Kargil war, walked about local streets in Srinagar and learnt about Kashmir for what it really is and not what media has us believe, made friends with farmers in distant regions of Ladakh. Everyone had something to teach us – a lesson that will remain with us for our lives.
You are taking people to Leh in less than 5k, what/how will you earn?
NO, we don't take people to Ladakh in 5k. You see at Nomads we believe in the idea of travel being an intense and immersive experience - a way to look at life from an entirely new perspective. We're constantly experimenting with various ways to interpret travel and "Gettin Lehd" was one such project. This was a purely non-commercial initiative aimed to inspire people to take up alternate ways of going about their journeys. There are other projects like this we take up now and then. Bhukkad Diaries is another such where our travelers are packed off to different Indian cities and encouraged to experience the city through its gastronomic culture. Food being such an integral part of our cultural ethos has a zillion things to say about the city, its people, traditions, values etc. The bhukkad chronicles his journeys in form of pictures, blogs etc.
So, GL & BD were just a small part of our efforts to promote alternate travel. As a business we are into conceptualizing, designing and producing offbeat travel experiences for people.
Your concept can appeal to a mass, what about the rest?
On the contrary, this is a concept that is darling of a very small subset of people. It’s a niche audience base and the idea is to make this group bigger and bigger. The "janta" still wants to sit in their AC cars and go to that beautiful hill station, have someone attend to them at the ring of a bell, expect clean towels and pretentious smiles. They are almost on a mission to validate the place's existence by their act of taking a picture!! We are keenly desirous of changing this very attitude.
Can you describe the itinerary?
Going forward, what are your plans with NirvanaNomads?
So now the works on to build this social discovery platform that focuses on travel, alternate/offbeat experiences to be more precise. So next time you are in Bangalore and need to go somewhere, do something exciting – rappel down a hill at midnight or learn pottery from a traditional craftsman or learn to climb a coconut tree – our website will be your best buddy. In addition to the virtual community, we also host regular traveler meet ups , Nomadic Jams, Film screenings etc to bring travelers together and share stories.
The online platform will bring together the best of offbeat experiences from various parts of the country – an online offbeat travel marketplace of sorts. We will focus on weekend travel experiences.
Please excuse a bit of self-indulgence here – we were recently awarded one of Top 100 SMEs in India by Franchise India Magazine. We are working on bringing Skydiving to Mysore next month and want to adapt films into travel. We are also working on starting an offbeat travel blog that can evolve into a magazine called FERNWEH. Nomads' merchandise is coming up soon coupled with Nomadic reunions for colleges. So is a Nomadic travel club in colleges in Bangalore. We are also launching The Roadschool by end of this year – an initiative to take travel as a learning tool for children in school.
Aspiring for a nomadic life? Check out NirvanaNomads!