Growing up in Haflong, Assam, Ghimire's childhood involved many outdoor experiences as he was born in the only hill station available Credit: File image

Guwahati: The travel industry is ever growing and evolving in the Northeast India region. With new travel start-ups springing up and old ones shutting down, a few have truly cemented their place in the hearts of people as a result of their astute service over the years. As the world sets its sight on World Tourism Day on Sunday, it seems ideal to acknowledge the efforts of individuals who are looking to revolutionize travel. One of them is Ratan Ghimire.

As a fun traveller himself, Ghimire’s is blazing a trail in the travel industry in a way that has never been done. We recently caught up with the exciting and richly eloquent entrepreneur as we discussed the industry, his journey, inspiration, and all things travel. The 30-year-old founder of Encamp Adventures believes in quality service and offering his customers with fascinating travel experiences and memories to last a lifetime.

Growing up in Haflong, Assam, Ghimire’s childhood involved many outdoor experiences as he was born in the only hill station available. Some of these outdoor activities included hiking on the railway tracks, rice field ploughing, exploring tunnels constructed by the British, enjoying home grown corn and many more.

In their frantic search for quality education, his parents ensured he tried out several prominent schools in Assam, like Vivekananda, Don Bosco, St John’s Whitehall and Christ University. He finally was awarded his MBA degree in marketing and sales from Amity University. He also bagged a two year work experience at Grail Insights in the field of market research and, before that, an internship at Ogilvy and Mather.

Ever since his childhood, Ghimire has been a dream chaser. His passion for business and pursuing unconventional ideas led him away from the corporate world into the world of business. His transition into the transport industry was a natural one as it allowed him to offer services to people travelling around the Northeast region. He is passionate about business and service, and this was the driving motivation for establishing Encamp Adventure.

Team Encamp Adventures

Speaking about Encamp, the glowing terms says it all. “Encamp Adventures is a fast growing adventure travel platform that provides end to end itinerary planning and concierge services around Northeast, Nepal and Bhutan”, he says.

“Our campsite locations and our friendly communications are at the core of our unique service proposition. The trust that we have built so far coupled with real reviews on the online space has made a big impact on the word-of-mouth that we have gathered so far. Our net promoter score of 58% is something we are proud of and the fact that there is space for improvement makes us push our service standards every time we are hosting travellers,” he adds quite emphatically.

Ghimire’s team consists of professionals, each bringing unique qualities to the table to take the company to new heights. In administration, Manohar K. Joshi supervises the company’s finances and keeps every other aspect of the company organised. In charge of all things tech is the self-acclaimed “transhumanist”, Sarfaraz H+. When it comes to travel related matters, Prakash Sharma is the man for the job as he believes travelling is the true way to live.

Kabita Ghimire is in charge of sustainability at Encamp, while Saman Singh, often referred to as the Captain, mostly leads the team into achieving difficult sales and targets. The nerd of the pack is Sambit Praharaj. His job is to input the numbers and lead the team into strategic marketing initiatives using data analytics. Nilesh Goswami is in charge of creating magic through marketing content and the experiences he curates for the travellers. Little wonder he is referred to as “the Creator”.

Recently, well-known environmentalist and climate change activist Rituraj Phukan joined the team to lead their travel footprint calculator (TFC) project.

Happy customers at Annapurna Base Camp,in Nepal

From the many places he has visited, a few locations hold special memories for Ghimire. Two locations that stand out include The Shiva Café in Mcleodganj and Kudle Beach in Gokarna. Some of his best memories include “boating from Kudle beach to Half Moon Island, watching dolphins race against the boat, reaching to an isolated shack and savouring some of the tastiest food with a pint of beer and few good friends,” this is a special thing for Ghimire.

Ghimire’s inspiration comes from chasing his ideas. The more unconventional they are, the better. He derives joy from seeing these ideas improve the way of living for many of his “Encampers”.

Some of the challenges he has faced includes sudden exit by team members during tough moments and financial frustration. Through it all, Ghimire has managed to keep the team pressing on.

Ghimire highlights some important accomplishments in his company’s history. “We are recognized as a startup by Startup India; incubated at the Assam Startup’s COHORT programme at The Nest; The Indian Institute of Entrepreneurship & FINER was proud to announce us as the Best Travel Entrepreneur in Northeast India, as well as emerging winners of the NERES 1.0 Summit business pitching.”

“We were also selected among the Top 15 Startups in the OctaNE Business pitch event organised by STPI supported by the Government of India and are awaiting further results on that,” he notes.

“Apart from these recognitions”, Ghimire says, “some of our other achievements include; we’re highly rated on social media with 4.6–5; high quarterly year-over-year growth rate with 50%; 3000+Encampers hosted so far; and 70 trips planned”. These accomplishments remain important landmarks in the company’s history.

Travellers having a good time at one of Encamp Adventures’ sites

Speaking on the effect of the recent pandemic on his company plans, Ghimire says; “The pandemic has impacted us in a very good way as we have got all the time in the world to develop the minimum viable product and run user tests on it. We also feel that it has brought us to a level playing field with the old and big companies and thus we are excited to find ourselves in a suitable position to work on our tech enablement and releasing the product to the market as and when travel picks up,” he mused. Ghimire also highlights tech enablement and destination management as two areas in which his company hopes to improve in the coming months.

As with most competent business men, Ghimire saw the silver lining. He used the lockdown to better connect with his customers, by collecting customer feedback that has helped him begin projects aimed at improving the customer’s overall experience. Some of these projects include infrastructural development, travel footprint calculator and adventure planning free from unnecessary hassle.

When he isn’t travelling and exploring new places, you’re likely to find the young entrepreneur engaged in intensive workout at the gym and taking AIKIDO martial arts training, as well as cycling. During the current lockdown however, Ghimire has engaged in activities like reading business management books, empowering his maintenance staff to engage in business and setting up his very own fish pond.

On the structure of his revenue generation model, Ghimire says, “We provide revenue management services for our partners and our revenue model is a mix of company-owned sales proceeds, commissions on partner sales, itinerary planning fees, and concierge services fee.” Prior to the pandemic, the company was able to generate Rs 65 lakhs in revenue. However, the pandemic has struck and the company has been forced to refund payments up to Rs 5 lakhs without any profit being made.

To make up for this loss post-COVID-19, Ghimire reveals plans his company is currently making. “We are switching from Travel + Tech to Tech + Travel. We believe in the post-COVID era, technology will play a big role in assuring visitors of the safety aspects of travelling with low physical touch-points. Also, we stand by the encouraging words of our PM Narendra Modi to go “Vocal for Local”. Our first project is testimony to the same clarion call. It is time to look within,” he sums up his enthusiastic response in his similar eloquent fashion.

For Encamp campsites all over India, especially in Khanapara, Guwahati, new infrastructures are being put in place to ensure the safety of Encampers, as business slowly gears up to resume normal activities.

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