When in a new city, do as the locals do

Unique tours

Eager travellers and friends, Sukhmani Singh and Dhruv Raj Gupta, on the many trips they took, always looked forward to interacting with locals and get insights into their city and lives.

At any time when they went to a restaurant and the chef spoke with them or the locals guided them with what to order, they always had a better time. So on a trek to Triund in Himachal Pradesh, it was a little dog who accompanied them and showed the way through till the top of the hill.

“If the dog had not been there we would have surely lost our way. This motivated us to create a platform where locals get an opportunity to offer their skills and knowledge, and travellers get a chance to utilise these skills to have a better time,” they say. And it was this urge which led to the idea behind SeekSherpa, a mobile platform that connects travellers and locals over unique experiences.

In a similar incident, a few years ago, Ish Jindal was roaming around the streets of Moscow, figuring out what all he could do in the city. But, despite having Google maps and travel guides at his disposal, it was a local friend who helped him explore the city.

“We had real insights about the city; it was much more than regular visits to monuments and other sights,” says Jindal, whose experience paved way for Padhaaro, which helps travellers discover and book tours and experiences, hosted by  locals. Simply put, these traveller-friendly initiatives give people an option to enjoy a city through the eyes of like-minded locals who are relatable and conversant in similar fields.

“Our team (SeekSherpa) works with interested locals (Sherpas) in a city in co-curating unique experiences for curious travellers looking for local immersion. Food walks, heritage walks, and photography walks are some of our popular offerings out of a vast range that includes farm visits, to wine tastings, to archaeology walks and cemetery visits,” Singh tells Metrolife.

Explaining the model, Jindal says that travellers need to look out for the city they are travelling to and get a list of local tours and experiences available. They can then choose the experience that matches their interests, message the greeter, select the date and make the payment. “They can then meet the greeter on the respective date and have a wonderful time,” he says.

So how can one register to be a tour facilitator? “An experience provider (greeter) can sign up on Padhaaro, fill out her complete profile and list the experiences she would like to host. Once she submits the same through the site, our team curates and vets the experience and the provider after which it is published on the platform. And then it is open to reservation for travellers. And we are not just about guided tours, it is a mix of local tours, experiences and activities,” says Jindal.

Agrees Gupta, and adds that considering security concerns, identity verification of Sherpas is an important part of the process. “Traveller safety is of uttermost importance. The process of signing up as a Sherpa involves a thorough identity verification and background check. Quality checks and assurances are done for every Sherpa before they start conducting tours. We ensure safety of information for both the travellers and the Sherpas at every point; and always validate identities of both,” he says.

For both Padhaaro, whose network is spread across 18 cities; and SeekSherpa which operates in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Udaipur, Goa and Agra, the most common requests are for heritage, local and food walks.Anjan Karmakar, a 22-year-old greeter from Kolkata says he takes travellers on a tour of Old Kolkata. “Central Kolkata is easy to navigate, for which people do not even need a guide. I take travellers on a tour to northern and southern Kolkata,” he tells Metrolife, adding that the peak season stretches from October to March.

But why, according to them, are travellers opting for such services? “Power lies in ensuring that each experience ultimately makes sense and adds value. The migration from private guides happens because we offer a simple solution to the problem of understanding a place in a much better way, by connecting the travellers to locals who are well acquainted with the history and heritage of a place, and who add a personal touch to all the tours, making them memorable experiences with a lifetime value,” says Singh.

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