Women on Wanderlust! An interview with the founder of WOW – Sumitra Senapaty
Sumitra Senapaty is an internationally known travel writer who enjoys writing about her travels in leading publications like Times of India, Femina, Verve, Marie Claire, and Taste & Travel.Her passion for travel made her a travel writer.She has done everything like sailed the waters of Seychelles & Maldives, cruised the Mediterranean, snorkelled Great Barrier & Red Sea, kayaked the South China Sea, rafted the Zanskar in Ladakh, self driven through New Zealand, toured Alaska,Canada, Israel, Egypt, Turkey, France, Australia, camped out in the African bush, and much more.
1.Tell us something about yourself.
l am trained for the hospitality industry, where I did a short stint. I got distinction in English, which is my love, and hence went into media, and did a long stint, my passion for travel made me a travel writer, which gave me an opportunity to globe trot, and my desire to share my travel experiences with like minded women made me start Wow Club.
2.What is WOW? Tell us its history – how it came about. Why did you think of a travel club solely for women?
My first experience in organizing a tour was for a bunch of my relatives, who thought that since i traveled so much as a travel writer, i could do it.While I did nt know the business , i knew the end product, due to my frequent travel. women used to say how lucky i was, and i myself saw the passion for travel in women, only to discover that most of the time , they were being held back from pursuing such a dream was because of the constraints of society and security. And there was a vacume in the market, hence i decided to provide this platform.
3.What was the response in its initial days? It was a new concept surely. Did women take to it?
The response was overwhelming among those who came to know of it, mostly by word of mouth. And then the media got interested in the novel idea- the rest as they say is history. I am very grateful to the media, both print and electronic, who thought the story was well worth it, and helped to spread the good word.
4.How do you plan the trips? Do you arrange for all facilities? Do you have a core team to handle this? Tell us how WOW functions.
In the beginning, I used to do everything, which is not possible now, as We do over 75 trips each year We have separate team that looks after the back office, and a separate team that does sales and also accompanies the tours. I personally choose the destinations, and design the product, as a bad product, how ever well it is marketed, will not hold out on long run.We make it a single window for the travelers, and facilitate for them all the various requirements , including flight tickets, insurance, forex, and the package.
5.What is the most exotic location you have taken women to?
Galapagos in South America.
6.What is the response usually, to the trips? How do women enjoy the freedom to take trips without any hassle?
I think they enjoy it very much, and hence the success. for the first time , they feel that they are themselves rather than a daughter, a mother, a wife, a grandmom etc.
7. How do you ensure the safety factor? Is there an age limit for the women who travel? What about medical issues – how are they handled and how is medical safety ensured?
Safety is in numbers and the destination that you choose to travel to. We do not travel to destinations that are not so safe for women, travel in group so that we can take on a few bad eggs if necessary, do not use substandard, cheap hotels, that are badly located- normally we use 4/5 star hotels situated in centre of town,and do not hesitate to brief about the negetives of the destinations to our travelers, well in advance. Age varies- while the bulk of the travelers are in the age group of 32 to 65, we have had girls of 8 yrs, and also ladies of 80 yrs traveling with us.- and bonding with each other so well.
8.How does one pay for these trips? Is there an EMI option for those who are not able to pay the entire amount in one go? Do you accommodate requests for a discount?
No, there is no EMI option. But in order to attract women of all strata, our trips range from rs. 15000 to 5 lacs.We also give them a chance to pay us fully in about two months. Other than that, our trips are declared 4 to 9 months in advance, so that the traveler can plan the finances .We do not accommodate request for discount for the sake of discount as we need to be fair to all our travelers. There is early bird discount, and discount for making payment in cash, Soon we will start the loyalty program, that will automatically give them a discount- each discount has a meaning and reason, but no discount for bargaining ability- indians are good at this art.
9.Are men ever allowed?
Never!!. The only possibility for a male in the group is being a tour guide.or a driver.
10. In which cities do you have a physical office? If someone wants to travel from another location where you do not have a physical office how do you coordinate the trip?
In the new world of technology, physical office serves the purpose of a premises which is used by the employees for work purpose.We are technology based, net based company, and hence physical office is only in two cities- Delhi and Bangalore.