Welcome to Royal Mysore Walks, an interesting and informative walking tour that will take you through Mysore’s cultural and rich heritage. Walking tour, the term itself might be new to Indians. A walking tour is a full, partial-day or longer tour of a historical or cultural or artistic site or of sites, in one or more tourist destinations, which can be led by a tour guide as an escort. Walking tours has been popular in Europe and is extensively used by tourists who are interested in exploring cities on foot.
A walking tour is an excellent way to familiarize yourself with Mysore’s epic history and heritage. Techie-turned-entrepreneur Vinay Parmeswarappa and his team organize walking tours with a specific focus on either the city’s royal history, its markets, its old quarters or its handicrafts. Royal Mysore Walks conduct walking tours, cycle tours, jeep tours, offbeat tours, corporate tours and kids tours. The walking tour packages starts at as low as Rs.600 per person.
Royal Mysore Walks, started by Vinay Parmeswarappa in 2009, are a bunch of passionate and enthusiastic entrepreneurs, who show you how hard it is not to fall in love with Mysore.
I had a chance to discuss some interesting stories about Royal Mysore Walks and the entrepreneurial journey with Vinay Nagaraju, Partner & Director, Royal Mysore Walks and here is the full blog interview:
KC: From an electrical engineer, to software engineer and to an Entrepreneur, How did it all happened? Tell us about the “Aha Moment” Vinay Parmeswarappa realized and decided to be an entrepreneur?
VN: The idea of entrepreneurship dates back to the experience when Vinay P was working as an Engineer in Singapore where he had an opportunity to travel extensively in South Asia. The way tourism is packaged and offered in these countries was quite impressive which motivated for him to start something similar here. The most impressive experience was when Vinay took the Singapore Walks and realize how beautiful it is to see a city and gain a perspective through a walking tour which soon became an addiction. He realized, with the amount of History we have in India, the culture and the tradition a walking tour is of a dire necessity and a huge value add for a visitor coming to India. This gave the birth to the idea. Added to this was the constant feel of wanting to do something more in life, creating an idea, making it work, making a difference. All of these combined together gave rise to the idea of Royal Mysore Walks.
KC: During this transition, what were the challenges faced by Vinay P and how did he overcome them?
VN: I think the challenges were multifarious, the first and foremost being introduction of the concept of a walking tour. A new idea in a transitional society is something which takes time and effort to establish itself. The challenges were right from creating the product of the walking tour, designing the routes, getting feedback from guests and above all marketing. Marketing of a new product comes with a very strong challenge that it does not have an existing market to tap into, it needs creation of a new one, it need consistent effort, value addition, endorsement for the idea to be established. One of the biggest challenges I believe was to set the market base and widen from that. It started as a part of training program to a few state officers on training and furthered up opening new dimensions in the variety of tours catering to different section of visitors. We now have more than 20 odd varieties of tours catering to different interests right from history to culture, tradition, food and lot more..
KC: Any tips from your journey, for budding entrepreneurs and the ones who already started up?
VN: It is the idea, the value addition and the way you keep reinventing yourself which matters the most. Market yourself very well, as a start-up, the only thing you have to endorse you is yourself, make sure you use the channels very well. Media, press and social communications come a long way in establishing the business base.
It is all about people and it is always about people.
The design of a product is about offering more value than people expect out of it. No one is going to complain that you made them more happy than they thought you would. 🙂
KC: Why a startup in, walking tour?
VN: It was mainly the passion, the true call for the field, the opportunity to meet people of varied backgrounds, the desire of starting something new. We also had a strong flair for history and very passionate about culture and trivia. It was delightful for us to realize that there was a way we could put this all together.
KC: Does Vinay’s quizzing background helped you in starting up Royal Mysore Walks?
VN: It was of a great help with the quizzing background. The trivia, natural inclination and curiosity helped us think what might interest people and what in that would make an experience more enriching.
KC: How is walking tours different from other tours? Is the concept accepted in India compared to foreign countries where walking tours are well accepted?
VN: A walking tour is one of the best ways to know a place, it gives you enough time and opportunity and of course varied experiences at your own pace. Most other tours or the ‘sight seeing’ tours mostly focus on the facet and not the true flavor and under the skin of a city. There certainly is a lot more to the fabric of the city than its structures and a walking tour tries and establishes the same.
The walking tours have well adapted to India as well, it was an earlier notion that it would be very much limited to a foreign nation where tourist base and packaging is offered in a standardized way. However it was a pleasant feeling to know that it has been accepted equally well here and if implemented in the right spirit, it is of a huge potential in a country where there are so many varied experiences across its geography.
KC: Are our cities designed and structured to accommodate walking tours unlike Mysore, Pondy etc.?
VN: I believe so Krishna, each city comes with its own flavor and its own set of characters. Some cities I agree are walking friendly but in cities which are busier, the walking tours could reinvent themselves as a rickshaw/cycle/Segway tours and a lot more. It is about understanding the rubric of the place and identifying how best we can enhance the experience.
KC: What are the segments of travelers that you are targeting?
VN: It is a fair mix of travelers, we have had a wide range from children of schools for who we design special tours, treasure hunts, etc to the corporates for whom we design team building activities, team outings and a lot more. We have had youth, we have had elderly people. Something we have found common among them is the spirit and the open mind and the thirst to know about a place which makes a tour FUN.
KC: How well has the Indian travelers accepted walking tours? How is their overall experience?
VN: The Indian travelers have been extremely appreciative of the tours. Especially a few special flavored tours like – MALGUDI Tour where we establish the connect between India’s most famous writer RKN – his Malgudi and the current day Mysore while we derive parallels between the tours. The Tipu’s trail has also been an amazing hit amongst the Indians where it is about realizing the reign of Tipu in his capital and the story while we explore the fort of Srirangapatna. Overall the experience has been very fulfilling both for us and the guests as well which perhaps is endorsed by the reviews and thoughts on TripAdvisor which keeps us as a #1 attraction in Mysore based on customer reviews.
KC: Who are the major challengers for walking tours in India?
VN: I think it is a new segment on its own. The challenges are not very physical. At the same time, any idea which is new takes time to delve into the market. At one end, people understand as to how these tours are run while for others it is still a challenge. Once the market realizes the true value, it starts catering to the needs at both ends.
I believe the biggest challenge is that marketing bit in a market where the concept of a walking tour is not that well-known. But that is perhaps one of the beauties of a start-up, there will be challenges to win over.
KC: How do you market yourself when the concept itself is new in India?
VN: Marketing has been a constant challenge, we realize that in a market which is constantly changing, we need to reinvent ourself as well. We personally don’t believe in push marketing like the bill board ads or the newspaper ads. We believe in a pull marketing, the concept that people would want to know more about us since they are curious, since they know that we do a good job at what we do. This kind of marketing has happened through customer reviews on portals like trip advisor, mentions and features in newspapers across all national ones and a few international like The Guardian UK, a few features on NDTV good times, magazines like Outlook traveler, NGC traveler, guide books like Lonely Planet, Blue guide and a lot more. Added to this, we do have a few of our tent cards in most hotels in Mysore where we realize is a good value addition. I think most importantly marketing is about value addition, the more we do in that front, the more it sustains on itself.
KC: Why Mysore and how about expanding to other cities in India?
VN: Well Mysore is one place which has been very close to our hearts, we have a lot of memories growing up here and we know that for a place that has so much to offer, there is a lot we could do as well to enhance the experience of a guest in Mysore. Till now, Mysore has been extremely popular for its erstwhile attractions like the palace but there is so much more – The history, The art, The culture, way of life, the kings and their stories and a lot more. The more we have gotten into knowing about the place, the more we keep falling in love with it and Mysore has now been converted from a 1 day destination to a 3 day destination and we would love to make it a 7 day one soon.
About expanding to other places in India, that is on the plan, it would be a very exciting venture to extend geographically as there is so much the country can offer. There is so much of value, so much of history and the beauty in its ways that keeps us mesmerized. I think it is about showing the reasons as to why we love this country so much and there is so much at every turn to fascinate us and keep fascinating us.
Hope you enjoyed the interview. So next time when you visit Mysore, Royal Mysore Walks could be the best stop, if you want to know Mysore close to your heart.
You can reach Vinay Nagaraju and Royal Mysore Walks here: + 91 9632044188 / firstname.lastname@example.org.