Not your average Jane: This startup is reimagining travel for Indian women

WanderingJane, founded by Garima Pande, is a Bengaluru-based startup that organises women-only trips, not just in India but worldwide, based on fun activities like yoga, surfing, trekking, or even rafting.

Not your average Jane: This startup is reimagining travel for Indian women

Monday April 10, 2023,

5 min Read

Growing up with a parent in the army meant being on the move for Garima Pande. Much of her life consisted of shifting from one place to the other. 

With every move, while she was fascinated with the thrill of the unknown, she also craved to find a place to call home. 

"We realised that on trips, many people miss out on the local touch of the place, may it be the local sites, food, adventure, fashion," Pande tells HerStory

Taking this as a focal point of inspiration, she kickstarted WanderingJane in 2017 with her cousin Akshat Sharma in Bengaluru.

Akshat Sharma, Pande’s first cousin, is also a keen traveller. After pursuing engineering, he went for an MBA and later worked in several FMCGs, before starting WanderingJane.

"Through our startup, we wanted to create a trusted platform that enables women to travel freely and confidently and lets them interact with the locals to get a seamless travelling experience,” she says. 

Finding Jane 

Wandering Jane

Garima Pande

The Jane in WanderingJane refers to a gutsy explorer. Much of this correlates to Pande's own experiences growing up. 

Her childhood experiences instilled in her love for travelling, settling into a new place, and learning new cultures.       

With each move, an avid traveller was growing within Pande, who began travelling from one place to another, eventually covering various locations in and outside India. On some of the solo trips, she saw a common thread—there were very few Indian women who travelled solo. Women usually tagged along with their friends and family.

A large part of this was owed to impression that there were several safety concerns with solo travel and that women could not manage travel alone, says Pande. This led to the solo women traveller segment being hardly touched upon. 

WanderingJane started with group travels consisting of four to eight solo women travellers. Later, it expanded its services to solo travelling and customised travel plans. 

“Many women would express concerns about the safety of solo travel, and some were discouraged by their families, so we would take the time to address their worries, often spending hours on calls to assure them that solo travel is a perfectly valid choice for women and that it can be done safely,” says Pande. 

The startup organises women-only trips, not just in India but worldwide, based on fun activities like yoga, surfing, trekking, or even rafting.

Pande had a very planned life, and hardly considered entrepreneurship. 

“People questioned my decision back then, but I knew in my heart that this is what I love,” she says.

She did her MBA from Symbiosis in Pune, after which she started working in a bank. Later, she switched to marketing and began her career in the corporate world until she decided to quit in 2017 to start WanderingJane.

Till date, things haven't been exactly rosy. Once the pandemic hit, sales began to drop but Pande did not lose hope. 

WanderingJane began offering online tours like virtual travel to Italy and Rome, mixology sessions, coffee painting sessions, and online classes for making local cuisines of various places, among many other activities. 

“Although it was a tough time for the business once everything opened, solo travel gained traction, and everything fell in line,” she says.

The business today

Wandering Jane

The Bengaluru-based startup provides a comprehensive travel experience from setting the traveller’s itinerary and accommodation to providing 24/7 access to a local expert who assists them from the start till the end of their trip. 

“We handpick our destination experts based on their expertise on the location and activities,” Pande adds.

WanderingJane prepares the itinerary based on traveller’s preferences and arranges for local activities like boat rides, scuba diving, kayaking, sound healing, cooking lessons for local cuisines. Nearly 85% of homestays provided are run by women, and around 70% of its local experts are also women.

“We try to get the travellers in touch with the women to make them more comfortable; however, that is not possible in all cases,” says Pande.

With a network of 500 local experts, the startup offers its services across India. These services are not limited to India alone; it also arranges trips to Southeast Asia, including Vietnam, the Philippines, and Singapore.

WanderingJane also organises trips to exotic destinations such as the Maldives, Bhutan, Bali, and parts of Europe, including Croatia, Spain, and Ireland.

Trips aside, it also provides one-day activities like rock climbing, pottery making, and joyrides, among others, in Delhi, Bengaluru, and Mumbai.

“We work on a 10% margin. Around 40% goes to the homestays and the remaining 50% for various activities and services included in the package,” Pande explains.

The prices for one-day activities vary from Rs 750 to Rs 1,800, while the average selling price for trips is between Rs 35,000 to Rs 40,000.

The bootstrapped startup is now recording a 20% month-over-month growth. So far, it has planned 100 solo trips, 200 customised trips, and group trips.

However, Pande believes that due to limited funds, the brand cannot spend much on marketing and increasing its scale, and as such, it might look for funding soon. It is also looking to launch an app for its users.

“The Janes have long been sharing their travel journeys with others, but it’s high time they embark on life-changing adventures independently and become modern wandering Janes,” she says.

Edited by Akanksha Sarma