There is an increasing trend towards “experiential travelling.” People want to do more than just look at monuments… There is a huge untapped potential for Responsible Tourism in India, so the prospects of anyone working in this segment are very bright.
An IIM alumnus, Deepa spent 18 years in the corporate world, mainly in the areas of financial services and banking. In 2006, she quit and took on the role of an entrepreneur, moulding her passion for responsible tourism into her vocation. Owner, Magic Tours of India and an award-winning travel blogger, Deepa’s work involves partnering with non-profits to upskill and employ students from low-income neighbourhoods.
What sort of formal education is an absolute essential for your profession? Also, could you share with us the kind of internship or experience that would be helpful for a young person considering this line of work?
No formal education is essential. But there are courses in Tourism Management which can provide easier entry into the industry. Internship with guided tour companies or travel agencies is definitely a very useful thing on the resume, besides it gives you a real-life feel for the work and you can decide more clearly if this is what you want to do.
It is also very useful to work in the non-profit sector. The most important thing is the belief inside your head – you need to be aware of the social and cultural issues in India, and you need to be passionate about using tourism as a tool to aid local communities and support local causes.
If you simply had to draft that elevator pitch for your profession, what would it be?
Working in the socially responsible tourism sector lets you change the world around you! It is a way to bring meaningful change, to support marginalised communities and revive traditional crafts. It is rewarding, not just financially, but also emotionally.
What are the new trends you notice that are changing the complexion of your profession?
There is an increasing trend towards “experiential travelling.” People want to do more than just look at monuments. They want to connect with the land, with the people, and they want to do so in a responsible way. So our business is growing.
Show me the money! How do you see this profession faring 20 years down the line?
There is a huge untapped potential for Responsible Tourism in India, so the prospects of anyone working in this segment are very bright.
What do you do when you are stuck with a problem?
Sleep on it, instead of acting hastily in anger or in desperation.
Consider the “worst case” scenario and face that squarely inside my head.
Do what seems right and leave the rest to the universe.
When we’re in school, we’re told cheating is bad – ‘Don’t talk to each other, don’t discuss.’ And then as we come out of it, we begin to realize that there’s something called “collaborative thinking” and it’s not bad! What’s your opinion?
Collaborative thinking doesn’t work for me as an entrepreneur. I often ask people for their opinion, which is a valuable input to my thinking. But I make decisions alone. As an entrepreneur, mostly I navigate by instinct and it works best when I listen to my inner voice.
How do you overcome roadblocks in your profession?
I don’t bang my head on it and waste my (already limited) time and energy. I find other ways to meet goals, or I change the goals. The analogy of water flowing around stones would describe this perfectly.
What would your advice be to a young person at the start of his or her career and confused about pursuing passion versus being pragmatic?
There is a balance that you need to strike between your own needs and that of people who depend on you. For example, if you have a family to support, or old parents to look after, you should look for ways to make sure they are financially somewhat stable. We are all part of a unit and we have responsibilities towards that unit. At the same time, it is not necessary to always sacrifice your own desires. The right balance is critical.
If you could do some time-travelling and go back to meet yourself at 17, 25, 35, what would you say to your selves then?
When I was 17, I was very impetuous, like a river rushing over steep rocks and crashing and throwing up plumes of foam. Lots of energy but much of it wasted.
At 25, and 35, this energy began to be channelled better.
Now at 46 I feel like I am really where I should be; the impetuous river has become a broad and solid, flowing confidently, and working as a force for positive good.
I have no regrets about the past. In fact, I don’t think about the past at all. The present and the future are full of possibilities and I don’t have enough hours in the day to do all the things I want to do!
What are the pitfalls of your profession and how do you mitigate them? Did you have any fears when you were just starting out about this line of work, and were any of them justified?
I am a first generation entrepreneur, so there is no experienced hand to guide me. There are many mistakes I make, and I learn from them. I had no fears when I started out doing this work, mainly because I had built financial stability through savings, and I was ready to take this challenge.
What is the kind of supplementary informal learning you engage in that gives you that edge on the job? Any specific reading, online resources, blogs etc. that you follow?
I am in a “constant state of reading”. I read 2-3 books each week; I read periodicals, magazines, articles, opinions. Heck, I even read Wikipedia. 🙂
What is most rewarding about your job?
That it doesn’t feel like “work”. It’s just what I do, how I live. It has a rhythm and flow that is me.