Sujal and Medha have driven a car from India to Africa across 15 countries, apart from several other road trips over the last ten years. Here’s excerpt from an interaction with Sujal and Medha.
Finance to travel – That’s one huge career shift. What made you do the deed?
Medha: I have been travelling and taking road-trips since childhood and while I was enjoying my career in the Finance field, the traveler in me pushed me to do the mother of all road trips. In 2015, Sujal (my other co-founder at Embarq) and I with 4 other friends drove from Hyderabad to Marrakech, Morocco covering a distance of 23000 kms across 16 countries in 57 days. The detailed research, route planning, managing budgets, paperwork, permits, visas, prepping up the cars, fuel management, what to pack etc was so close to Financial Planning, which was core area of expertise. This planning and attention to detail came naturally to me. The whole experience of the trip made us want to make it our new career because we wanted every traveller to have similar experiences.
Sujal: The journey and the actual drive made us realise that this is what we would like others to experience too. However, people either don’t have the time or resources to research and plan for such road-trips. The lack of knowledge, right-hand driving, traffic rules, navigation, and language issues among other things bogs them down. It sometimes could be discouraging for aspiring travellers. My experience as an HR and as a VP of an investment bank has made me a people’s person, multi-tasker and a troubleshooter. It is like second nature. I can foresee the predicaments traveller could face because I have faced them in the past in many different ways and occasions. That’s how Embarq comes in, we conceptualised and created it to ensure that a traveller is thinking more about the journey and less about the stress. We take away all the hassles of planning and paperwork, our routes are scouted so the knowledge of the place is first hand. Our road-trips are for everyone, we make it an easy and a pleasurable experience, where our clients just focus on driving and enjoy the journey with like-minded people.
Planning an ‘All Womens India to Thailand trip’ is such a gigantic move. How did the idea come up?
Medha: In our gypsy minds, women around the world inspire us and in today’s times they are also very liberated. They are breaking barriers. What a better way to portray this than to do it literally and figuratively and that is how the concept of India to Thailand Drive worked out in association with Western India Automobile Association (WIAA). There are lot of women who like to drive and want to do overland road-trips. The thrill and joy of crossing India’s border in your own car/motorcycle is a unique experience.
Sujal: Touring and travelling across the globe is in our blood. Having successfully covered a distance of 21000 kms across 15 countries on a epic drive from India to Spain in 2017, we wanted to do a special drive in 2018 that celebrates women breaking barriers. However, overland road-trips require a lot of know-how and paperwork which is time consuming. Having done this route from Guwahati to Thailand multiple times we wanted to provide an opportunity where women could sign-up without any hesitation. Their concerns regarding safety, security, experience are completely taken care off. This not only puts the women at ease but their families as well.
What were the challenges that you faced in the initial stage of setting up Embarq?
Medha: Road-trips and exploring a new country by road is not so popular with Indian travellers. When you drive through the quaint villages, offbeat routes through mountains and ravines, meet the locals, enjoy their local cuisines, it allows you to truly experience the beauty and culture of a place. This is unlike any other experience one can have as a tourist, the real experience is that of an explorer or a traveller. Many travellers yearn for such experiences but seldom take that journey. It was our challenge to make people believe in the possibility and see it through till the end. We were are here to fill that gap or doubt and problems that one faces before taking or even when they are on their road trip.
Sujal: Road trips are always exciting, even if you do a local summer road trip in India.You will discover so many new things along the way that every time you take that road trip you will be enriched. We are one of its kind road-trip company in India. We did our first road-trip in Kyrgyzstan in 2016, our biggest challenge till then was to explain this concept of road trip – it is about the journey and not the destination. However, since that first trip we have never looked back.
What’s your top most priority when it comes to ensuring the best outcomes of an all-women’s trip?
There are 2 important aspects- One is briefing and getting the participants ready for the overland drive. Explaining the detailed route, road conditions, weather to expect, packing, vehicle prep, border crossing formalities, country specific driving rules and convoy rules among others. Once they sign-up they will be provided with all the information at regular intervals followed by a briefing session which will ensure they are all set and geared up for the drive. The second most important aspect is the safety and contingency planning. We will have separate convoys for cars and motorcycle teams. Each convoy will have its own lead car and support vehicles with support teams.
You are a classic example of ‘Follow your passion and make it big’. What would you like to advice to the younger generation? And especially women!
Medha: We are ourselves too young to give any advice, however what has worked for us is that we chose a career we are committed. We profoundly passionate about travelling and bringing that experience to other travellers.
Sujal: Be honest to yourself. Do something you believe in, stick to what you are doing as long as you are believing in it and try and have fun along the way.