The next time you travel to a new place, you can choose to not worry about haggling with local tour guides and getting the best out of your trips, thanks to a six-month-old online venture. After establishing a strong base in Delhi and having the services of more than 1,500 (and counting) guides or ‘Sherpas’ at its disposal, SeekSherpa will now roll out full-fledged operations in Mumbai in six weeks. They already have 50 Sherpas registered with them.
(Right): Dhruv Raj Gupta and (left) Sukhmani Singh
For all this and more, founders Dhruv Raj Gupta and Sukhmani Singh have a snowy white hill dog to thank. The 23-year-old friends, who have a shared love for offbeat travel destinations, first thought of the business plan in the middle of the Triund Trek at Dharamsala. “While we were going up a trail, a white hill dog started guiding us up a pathway.
The dog actually barked if we went down the wrong way — it was obvious that the dog knew the hills like a local and enjoyed walking with us,” explains Gupta. “When you are visiting a place and the owner or chef of the hotel you are eating at recommends a place to visit, your trip becomes that much more enhanced.
We felt that we could do the same by connecting a traveller with a local who breathes and lives that place,” points out Gupta, who quit his job at Google to kick-start the venture in February this year. By keeping run-of-the-mill guides and tour companies with vested interests at bay and roping in locals, Gupta and Singh have managed to tap into a previously overlooked market. “The Sherpas are doing it out of their interest,” says the entrepreneur.
The Sherpas have eclectic backgrounds, he continues. So while one might be a musician, another might be a food lover or an art connoisseur. “Potential Sherpas have to first fill out an application form, where s/he should describe the kind of travel experience s/he will offer to the guest, its cost (anything above Rs 3000 is not welcome) and so on,” he says. After a verification process, a new Sherpa is taken onboard.
Travel experiences, so far, have included trips to art galleries, cooking continental meals and jamming sessions with the Sherpas. “We also have travel experiences around photography, where the Sherpas take the travellers to the city’s landmarks and teach them to take good photographs. People can shop from every nook and corner of the city with the Sherpa and not, for instance, from a popular place like Delhi Haat,” elaborates Singh.
So, what is the toughest part of the job? “Curating good quality services is a challenge,” he says.