Sujal Patwardhan and Medha Joseph have turned their passion for road trips into a successful career option. After they first met on a road trip from India to Morocco, following which they conceptualised Embarq, Sujal and Medha have made journeys to Scotland, New Zealand, Spain and the Baltics, among other places, for travellers — both young and old. They have travelled through uneven terrains, adventurous stretches of highways and mystical landscapes. Team Optimist spoke to Patwardhan and Joseph on Embarq. Excerpts…
Team Optimist: How did you hit upon the idea of Embarq? What made you choose road trips?
Sujal & Medha: Travel has always been on our agenda. We both have over 10 years of driving experience across India and abroad. We completed a 23,000-km self-drive expedition from India to Morocco across three continents in August 2015. After we returned from this thrilling trip, we quit our corporate jobs and started Embarq.
We realised lots of people were interested in road trips. Lack of knowledge, paperwork hassles, driving on the right side of the road and other traffic rules and navigation, among many other issues, bog down interested travellers. We wanted to make it an easy and pleasurable experience, where people could just focus on driving and enjoy the journey with like-minded people.
Both of us have driven close to 140,000 km internationally over the past few years. We’ve travelled to over 30 countries, embarking on luxurious journeys through quaint lands of the world and backpacking our way across mesmerising terrains. We built a strong network over the years, which we modelled ourselves after creating a professional platform catering to the road trip enthusiast niche.
Team Optimist: Team Embarq has been to Scotland, New Zealand, Spain and the Baltics. What’s been your experience so far?
Sujal & Medha: The experience has been fantastic! Nearly, 40% of the clients on our trips are repeat ones. Driving through different terrains and enjoying curated experiences add that differentiating zing to the whole trip. We’ve travelled to Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Peru and Kazakhstan, among many others, which are assumed to be unfriendly because of bad media publicity. In our experience, there’s almost no country that isn’t tourist-friendly.
Team Optimist: Affordability is often considered a major hurdle for travellers. Can crowd-funding be a way out? Your suggestions…
Sujal & Medha: Crowd-funding could be a way out for travellers who want to experience once-in-a-lifetime journeys — such as the India-Mongolia expedition — especially for the younger generation which seeks varied and adventurous experiences. The only impossible journey is the one you never begin.
Team Optimist: Over the years, road trips have become popular with tourists worldwide. What’s the reason for this trend?
Sujal & Medha: We believe there’s no better way than a road trip to explore a place. No matter how clichéd it sounds, it really is the journey that counts and not the destination. The quaint villages, offbeat routes, through mountains and ravines, meeting locals and enjoying local cuisine are what truly make you experience the beauty of a place and its culture. The flexibility you enjoy while you are on-road makes the whole travel experience more exciting and adventurous.
Team Optimist: Is travel entrepreneurship sustainable? What are the major takeaways from such a venture?
Sujal & Medha: It’s absolutely sustainable. Embarq is a niche travel venture that’s been successfully running for the past four years. Staying focused and not compromising on customer experience is key to sustaining and growing in the travel industry. A journey will have its ups and downs; we must simply embrace it because of any journey, even as entrepreneurs, begins with a single step. It’s important to keep the traveller at the centre of things because it’s them who are making lifelong memories. And the memories are very sacred. We, as companions, like to respect and savour them.
Team Optimist: What are your plans regarding Embarq? Are you considering fundraising?
Sujal & Medha: We’ve got some very exciting trips coming up next year, such as the All-Women India-Thailand, India-Mongolia Drives, Silk Route Drive and Offbeat Peru Drive. We regularly add new destinations so that travellers always have a fresh journey to look forward to the next time. We’ll be offering our premium trips on a pocket-friendly budget for more and more travel enthusiasts to enjoy and experience the Embarq road trips. And no… we don’t have any immediate fundraising plans.