Though she was born to a north Indian business family settled in Kerala, Ritu Goyal Harish did not realise that entrepreneurship was in her blood too. That was until she gave up her work as a journalist to set up her own boutique travel company, Ease India Travel, specialising in customised holiday packages to Bhutan and parts of India. She’s now thriving in her new role of ‘delighter’. Having completed her graduation in English Literature from Delhi University, Ritu began writing for national media publications and worked as an investigative journalist for almost 17 years. Based out of Pune, she uncovered real-estate scams, wrote on women’s issues and other human-interest features for newspapers such as DNA and several magazines and news portals.
From 2004 to 2006, she also served as a judge on the bench for Electricity Grievances in Delhi. She was a guest lecturer at the Indira School of Communication from 2008 to 2010, and Symbiosis International University since 2010, where she teaches news reporting, feature writing and media ethics. “Teaching helped me become a better reporter myself. It helped consolidate my knowledge and experience in the field,” says Ritu.
The adventurer in her, however, refused to sit still. With a penchant for taking off on spontaneous holidays and road trips since her college days, Ritu began traveling by herself after her kids grew up and her husband moved abroad for a work assignment. “He told me to go ‘someplace safe’. So I picked Bhutan,” she recalls of her first trip in 2012. She wrote about her experiences on her travel blog, and soon readers started asking her for advice on planning their own journeys, from hotel recommendations to suggestions for unknown destinations off the beaten path.
By 2016, Ritu realised she would have to convert her passion into a profession. By then, she was already arranging personalised tours to Bhutan and treks into the Himalayas for small to medium groups at a no-profit-no-loss basis. She decided to take a leap of faith, and set up an office in Pune, got herself local partners at all her destinations, hired full-time staff, and set the ball rolling.
As luck would have it, the 43-year-old was in the right place at the right time. Indians woke up to the fact that they don’t have to pay a daily royalty of USD 250 that other nationalities have to pay on entry to Bhutan and the Kingdom was suddenly under the tourist radar. Ritu’s company, with its expertise, existing network, and arrangements in the mountain land, became the first choice for anyone looking to go there.
Through her company Ease India Travel, Ritu also began offering paragliding trips in Himachal Pradesh’s Kangra valley, Birding and Hiking trips in Coorg in Karnataka, and ‘temple tours’ across Kerala’s nine most famous religious landmarks. What set her packages apart are the personal touches and the offbeat experiences. For instance, she offers a ‘forest bathing’ holiday in Wayanad, Kerala, where in addition to spending time inside a forest just soaking the sights, sounds and smells of the forest, visitors can also partake of a complete tribal experience from visits to a soothsayer to a jungle safari and consultation with a tribal medicine man.
“I offer the kind of experiences I seek myself,” says Ritu of her company’s ethos. Her guests know they can count on her for the sensitive little details that make their holiday just perfect – she once even arranged for yogurt and a special type of pickle to be made available throughout the eight days of a tour to Bhutan because her guests could not have their meals without it. In another instance, she arranged for a surprise candle-light dinner at the Taj Tashi in Thimphu for her guests who were celebrating their first anniversary.
“To me, a guests’ holiday must not just be special, it must also be the cue to their happiest memories” says Ritu.
What her company also offers is a personal touch – where there is an expert on the other side answering your queries, resolving your issues, and ensuring that your precious trip remains the source of happy memories. Ritu believes that its time that companies deal with their customer at a human level – where the interaction is so personal that it is like chatting with a friend about your travel plans, where the expert who’s listening to you understands your holiday needs so intimately that they can throw you a surprise when you least expect it and where they treat you like a ‘guest’ not just a client or customer.
The most fulfilling profession is indeed one that delights