Swati Bhargava, the lady with an incredible talent in mathematics, and co-founder of CashKaro - the coupons and cashback rewards site - is bitten by the travel bug, and how! According to her, travel is liberating and a happiness tonic for the soul.
“There are few things we find more energising than new experiences. It expands our capacity for wonder and learning about different cultures,” she says.
“A short holiday refreshes the mind like nothing else. We come back to work with renewed energy and, more often than not, with good ideas too.”
Whether it is strolling along the pristine beach fronts of Nusa Dua in Bali, driving by the cliffscapes and golden sands from Faro to Albufeira in Portugal or crossing the rugged landscapes and picturesque fishing villages of the Isle of Skye in Scotland, holidays have the power to subtract stress, add memories and multiply joy.
Swati and her husband, Rohan (Co-founder of CashKaro), have travelled extensively to places like the Maldives, Bali, Boracay in the Philippines, Turkey, the UK, Isle of Skye, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Germany, Estonia, Belgium, Dubai, the US, among others.
“I remember when Rohan and I were living in London -- one particular week we just felt like we really needed a break. So we booked a last-minute flight to Faro in Portugal. It was just a short two-day weekend trip but our flight was suddenly delayed by seven hours on Friday evening, after we reached the airport,” she recalls. “We could see our holiday becoming even shorter as we were due back on Sunday night.”
However, because they knew they only had 1.5 days in Portugal, they made the most of that trip and the memories of that trip are still fresh in her mind! “We rented a car and drove from Faro to Albufeira – the beaches were amongst the most beautiful I have ever seen,” she says.
On a recent trip to Bhutan, Swati and Rohan did the famous trek to Tiger’s Nest. “Having made it to the top gave me a high like nothing else… though Rohan is so fit that it was rather easy for him,” she laughs.
As for her entrepreneurial journey, Swati, who won scholarships to study in Singapore and The London School of Economics, began working at Goldman Sachs, London. That was where she met her husband. Rohan’s entrepreneurship zeal rubbed off on her and in 2012 they started their cashback business in the UK, called Pouring Pounds. “Seeing the rapid expansion of ecommerce in India, we launched CashKaro.com in Indian in 2013 and have never looked back,” she says. “It’s been an exhilarating ride right from raising money from Ratan Tata and Kalaari Capital. Today, fiveyears after we had started, our excitement is more than ever.”
The ideal holiday that Swati loves is one where she can enjoy the beach, have amazing food and take in enough new things to see and do around that area. “Our holidays usually pack a good punch; lot of exploration and a little bit of doing nothing also. I can’t recall having ever taken a holiday for more than five days so naturally we try to cover a lot during the brief period that we are visiting a new place. For my birthday last month, we went to Bali,” she says.
In the 3.5 days that she was in Bali, she visited four different cities in four different directions – Uluwatu, Seminyak, Ubud and Nusa Dua. “We saw temples, sun bathed on the beach, trekked across rice fields, went around on bikes, did a little bit of shopping, ate some delicious food and managed to enjoy the pool in our villa as well,” she remembers.
In most new places, she tries to cover all the main tourist attractions. “We also love to try out all the recommended restaurants, bars and party places and we try to strike a good balance between these and the pure touristy things we can do,” she says.
Among her favourite places, is the city of Rome, especially visiting the Vatican Museum, Spanish Steps, Victor Emmanuel II monument, Colosseum, St Peter’s Basilica and the Trevi Fountain.
There have been some mishaps along the way too. “Once, on my way back from New York to London, the airline misplaced my suitcase. It was found on a later flight but would take two days to arrive. I got lucky and managed to persuade the airline to reimburse me Rs 75,000 for extra expenses for those two days without my bag. It was quite a challenge,” she says.
Swati loves Italian and Mexican food but she and her husband always try new cuisines wherever they travel. “In fact, we make it a point to try the local food and, more often than not, really like it. During our trip to the Philippines, we loved the Filipino pancit noodles and chicken adobo,” she says.
“In Italy, we loved the thin pizzas and we only ate in small local places recommended by residents. We didn't quite take a fancy to the Scottish haggis but devoured the local Turkish food in Istanbul and Bodrum. The kebabs at Falaknuma Palace in Hyderabad were an absolute favourite though.”
Swati also loves checking out the local wares in the places she visits. “During our recent weekend trip to Kochi, we bought handmade perfume oil, which was totally divine. They are made from natural flowers in Kerala and can be applied to clothes directly. We loved it so much that we bought back 15 bottles as souvenirs for all our close friends and family,” she says.
Her advice to those who are travelling is to buy a local SIM card from the airport when you land. The roaming charges are too high and it’s possible to get really good data packs in most places. “Secondly, do your research on the place and try to eat only at recommended places. In fact, we feel so strongly about this that even the CashKaro blog now has a really useful travel section called CashKaro that you can refer to.”
Swati dreams of travelling to the Galapagos Islands, which are part of Ecuador and are one of few islands that offer unique fauna and flora.
“I would also love to explore South America and visit Mexico, Peru, Brazil and Argentina. We‘ve always been fascinated with this part of the world and I hope at some point in life we can take one whole month off and do this trip of a lifetime,”