Tell us about On Her Way – what was the idea behind it and how did it all begin?
At On Her Way, we are on a mission to empower every woman to travel fearlessly. We are doing this by building a community that acts as a trust network for these women, and can be relied on for anything travel – whether that’s help in finding safe places to stay, or actual support in an emergency situation at the destination. Both Srishti and I have had incidents while travelling that made us feel unsafe and vulnerable, and we never found any solutions for this.
On a trip to Kasol with my sister, I booked one of the most top-rated hotels in the area, only to reach there and find out that it was absolutely unsafe for women. The owner kept trying to enter our room late at night without consent, saying that he needs to fix something. It made us feel super uncomfortable and worried for our safety. The hotel was also located in a street with no lights and away from the city center, which just heightened our anxiety. What I realised was that women’s voices on such incidents are often suppressed because of the volume of good reviews this space might get from male travellers who don’t face these challenges. It’s important for me, as a woman traveller, to be aware of what another woman who has stayed at this space, thinks of it.
For Srishti, it was a trip to Himachal with four of her girlfriends. This was their graduation trip and the first time they were headed out without the safety or guidance of their parents. They booked a stay at a renowned hostel and instantly loved it when they arrived. It was aesthetic and had a beautiful view of the mountains. After spending a couple of hours, one of them found out that you could see both ways through the window in the bathroom. They had least expected this property to have a peephole for a window. None of the reviews they saw mentioned this, no one called them out for it. There was a lack of information on something as crucial as this and it threatened their sense of safety.
We have been travellers all our lives, owing to our parents’ transferrable jobs and our undying wanderlust. Having travelled to 20+ states in India and witnessing the challenges women face, we were passionate about solving for this. After 7 years of knowing each other, we have now set out to build our second community and venture that changes the face of women’s travel not just in India, but across the globe.
Why do you think women’s safety is overlooked by the travel industry?
There are two primary reasons for this:
a. While women play a vital role and represent 54% of travel and tourism employment worldwide; all too few occupy any senior or strategic roles. This reflects in how the smallest conveniences for women are unaccounted for and the ecosystem seems to be built for men, by men. Safety, hence, is often overlooked by the industry as the leadership often doesn’t understand the gravity of this problem for women.
b. Women are looked at as a ‘niche market’ and someone with limited purchasing power. This is perhaps the biggest misconception. A Forbes study actually quotes that 80% of all travel decisions are made by women. And yet, we neglect this segment completely when building our travel products.
What are your future plans regarding your venture?
We aim to grow our community across all major cities and travel destinations in India by Feb’23 and across Asia by Dec’23. We have received a lot of love from women in the last 6 months, and hope to receive just as much and more in the coming year as well. We are also gearing to raise capital that will help us accelerate our growth and make travel safer for a lot more women globally.
What are the top tips you would give female travellers?
For any woman who’s reading this and hesitant on travelling because she’s concerned about her safety, I would say, take the leap. There are enough ways to make sure you’re able to do it safely, so don’t miss out on an experience, just because of that fear. Here are some things that have helped me safely travel in the past:
a. Finding a safe place to stay, since this is where I will spend majority of my time. I usually rely on trusted networks & communities for this, and dig deep on what other women are saying about the space. One can always find these at On Her Way.
b. If travelling solo, finding avenues to meet new people I can trust and feel safe with, so I don’t have to miss out on any key experiences just because I am travelling alone. I usually find these at hostels, community cafes & workspaces, and through online communities.
c. Keeping my loved ones informed about my whereabouts. My Mom is usually extremely worried about my safety when I am travelling. So I make sure to keep her updated, so she’s at ease, and I also feel more safe knowing someone knows where I’m at, in case something happens.
d. Keeping a charged power bank with me AT ALL TIMES. Our phones have become our biggest safety weapons. We can make an SOS call, navigate to safer spaces and much more. Losing charge on your phone is probably not a good idea when you’re travelling.