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Looking to escape the monotony of everyday life in the UK, one woman's journey to India led to the creation of an extraordinary travel venture. Meet Ruby, founder of Bhavana Experiences, a unique tour company that offers an exclusive blend of immersive travel, mindfulness, and cultural enrichment in India. We talked to Ruby about the remarkable journey of how Bhavana Experiences came into being, the inspiration behind it, and the reason she relies on her Wise Business account to send and spend British pounds and Indian rupees.
''Why India? I don't know. It's a feeling.''
Ruby's journey with Bhavana Experiences didn't begin with the intention of starting a business. It all began with her gap year before university, which unexpectedly transformed into a years-long exploration of some of the most fascinating countries in the world. In fact, Ruby started out her travels in 2010 with a coming of age trip around South East Asia which eventually led her to go and live in Thailand and China to work as an English teacher.
She was not initially drawn to India, however, she describes the sudden urge to go there, and she finally visited the country in 2015 and again in 2017. After experiencing its culture and people, she developed a connection with the country and felt sadness at the prospect of leaving, which led her to seek a way to return long term. In January 2018 she managed to secure a job as a teacher that allowed her to be back in India. Inspired by the launch of Instagram Stories, she started to share her travels on the social media platform, mainly for her friends and family to see.
''I'm not an influencer, I had my friends and family following me and students from being an English teacher''
The seed for Bhavana Experiences was planted by an ex-colleague who saw the potential in Ruby's Instagram stories. The idea of a yoga retreat was born, with Ruby as the guide and her colleague as a yoga instructor. However, circumstances shifted, and the initial plan took a different turn. During a family visit at the end of 2018, Ruby organised an unofficial tour for her loved ones, during which they stayed in the south of India in a homestay where they met Paul, her now business partner. Paul's 25 years tourism expertise combined with Ruby's passion for travel resulted in the formulation of an exciting tour itinerary.
''And suddenly I had 14 people and I hadn't even thought about a maximum group size.''
Armed with a laptop and large dose of determination, Ruby meticulously crafted a captivating tour itinerary through North India. The first tour was launched on Ruby's personal Facebook, and to her delight, the response was overwhelming. From this modest beginning, Bhavana Experiences blossomed into reality, delivering experiences that transcend the typical tourist adventure. Ruby's tours aren't just about sightseeing; they're about forming connections, embracing local culture, and fostering personal growth.
''My first transaction with Wise was to pay for a course in Poland in 2016'', Ruby says to explain how she came across Wise on Google, refusing to pay high bank fees. She explains that once she became aware of ' 'this amazing tool'', she decided to set up her business from her base in Leeds, United Kingdom. She now uses her Wise Business account to send money to her business partner, usually in Indian Rupee as he's responsible for most of their cash expenses during tours.
Because her clients are from all over the world, from Germany, Holland, and Portugal, to Canada and Mexico, she's found it really helpful to be able to send and receive money in multiple currencies.
''I've also received transfers from people in Germany and in Holland who've used Wise to transfer the money to me.''
Ruby explains that she typically uses her Wise debit card to pay for hotels in Indian Rupees, which is a large expense that she can easily monitor as a result of Wise Business' easy to use app. As a small business, she may occasionally be paid through Wise by existing customers using the request payment link feature. Ruby says this hassle-free approach lets her prompt payments from customers and avoids delays, making the payment process straightforward. She creates a request payment link from within her account, selects the currency and shares the link with the customer to get paid in the currency of her choice.
Ruby says she's enjoying the ease of use and low costs so much that she's planning to switch all of her business funds to Wise Business as her primary account. ''I look at my transactions and it's just like transfer, transfer, transfer to Wise'', she says.
What sets Bhavana Experiences apart is the personalised touch that Ruby adds. She's not just a tour operator, she's a friendly, informative guide who is present every step of the way. Ruby believes providing close attention to detail is vital, which is why she helps with packing lists, is always available to answer any enquiries and meets people at the airport. Providing lunch for everyone, eliminating the stress of menus and bills, and setting up a WhatApp group which she is always available on. This is all aimed at making the tour easier for her customers, giving them the chance to socialise and enjoy the experience of exploring one of the most exciting countries on the planet.
''I've seen incredibly flustered travellers who've touched down in India and had a horrible experience not being able to find their taxi, not knowing which hotel to come to, and just generally having a nightmare. I don't want any of my clients to experience that'', says Ruby, emphasising she wants to offer safety and security that bigger companies are not offering. She also tries to accommodate special requests from her guests, from Bollywood dance classes, shopping for fabrics, organising hikes, and even arranging a commitment ceremony for a loved up couple who met on a previous Bhavana Experiences tour.
Ruby explains her use of a buddy system, where couples and friends are split up. She says this has worked incredibly well and it's been really amazing. ''One of them found the love of their life on my tour,'' Ruby says, explaining Bhavana Experiences has helped form lifelong friendships, has seen a couple fall in love and highlights that even though each group is unique, it's always the ''perfect group of people''.
And the journey doesn't stop here. With the help of Wise Business Ruby has plans to scale up Bhavana Experiences by continuing to operate 3 tours a year with more international customers from all over the world, and continuing to collaborate with bloggers and influencers. Ruby has already collaborated with a blogger in March 2023, co-creating a special Holi tour exclusively for the blogger’s followers.
Crucially, she will be giving all of her customers the option to pay for their tour in the currency of their choice. It goes without saying, though, that the experiences and discoveries made on a Bhavana Experiences tour are priceless.
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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