Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Hey, friends! It's Spiffy, back again on Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs making life on land better for all! I have another great interview for you this week. Today, I’m excited to cruise around with Rumit Mehta, the founder and chief experience officer of Immersion Journeys. Are you ready to be inspired?
Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Rumit! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing?
Rumit: Happy to be with you, Spiffy! At Immersion Journeys, we provide travel experiences to Africa and South Asia, address wildlife conservation, and emphasize how wildlife and humans can live side by side in a sustainable manner. We are addressing several important issues through travel. With shrinking land for wildlife to roam freely as we make space for humans, there are a lot of unprecedented pressures on global ecosystems. We are also facing climate threats that affect humans and wildlife alike. By wielding tourism as a tool, we are creating experiences and awareness of the work being done to conserve endangered species, working to protect pristine wilderness areas, and helping support local communities through steady employment in the hospitality sector.
Spiffy: Awesome! What motivated you to do this?
Rumit: As a third-generation Indian born and raised in East Africa, I realized as an adult that it was MY responsibility to help demystify Africa. It was frustrating to see the media only speak of the wars and disasters in Africa without mentioning the positive aspects of this beautiful continent that is blessed with natural resources, wildlife, and a vibrant young generation. I felt that travel was the best way to showcase Africa, and there was no better way to do this than to arrange safaris. We then expanded into South Asia where my ancestors are from. I love what I do, and I am always thrilled when I hear from guests on how I transformed their lives and gave them a fresh, new perspective of life and the world.
Spiffy: In what ways are you and your team at Immersion Journeys working towards a more equitable world?
Rumit: For us, it's ensuring that the majority of our team is local to a given country and that the money stays there. There’s nothing better than seeing a destination through the eyes of a local guide. We also ensure that the camps and lodges we pick follow an ethos of buying local (including everything from eggs to construction material), hiring locally as much as possible, thinking green (e.g. solar, water usage, minimizing plastic, etc). All these add up to a huge positive impact. Now imagine asking hundreds of lodges, hotels and camps to follow the same mantra and become change agents.
Spiffy: Wow, that sounds powerful! Tell me about a recent initiative of yours. What impact does that make?
Rumit: During the pandemic, we started to re-think and re-model our business approach. While our core business mantra remained intact, we realized that in the last few years we may have started catering to too many types of clients which led to complications and more work. We decided to streamline things and only work with a handful of solid and supportive lodges and camps who follow a sustainable credo (e.g. environment, governance, low impact) and are small in size. We believe this is a powerful statement to our prospective traveling guests that we are sensitive to the environment and that bigger is not always better. Our guests reacted positively to this approach and reported having a much more enhanced and deeper experience. This is still a work in progress as we fine-tune things.
Spiffy: Please share an experience when you faced failure and didn't give up. What did you learn from that experience?
Rumit: As entrepreneurs, we always face skepticism. We are always asked by clients why they should choose us versus other, more well-known brands. After all, they are trusting you to give them what they paid you for. We've been turned down many, many times for a variety of reasons, and we've learned that that’s okay. It is critical to be completely transparent with your guest and as long as you don't waver from the core mission your guests will immediately see that you are genuine and will give you a chance. Now it's your job to ensure you deliver what you promised and then some.
Spiffy: Thank you for sharing that with me. What is something you've unexpectedly learned from someone recently?
Rumit: We love taking kids on trips, especially on safari. What we've learned from kids is hope and optimism that there is a lot more good in this world than we know. The other thing that we learned from a kid on a recent safari is that elephants poop a lot!
Spiffy: Lots to digest, I suppose! Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?
Rumit: We LOVE designing travel experiences for people, and each trip brings a fresh set of ideas and opportunities. We want to change them through travel. I personally feel responsible for each guest who travels with us – their joy, their sadness, their enthusiasm, and their glee as they discover the world. It is through their eyes that we find satisfaction.
Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Rumit—it’s been an honor!
Born in Kenya of Indian descent & raised in Tanzania, Rumit Mehta has a love for Africa that is unmatched. Rumit grew up leading safaris for friends and colleagues through which he refined his keen wildlife-spotting skills in the bush. As founder and chief experience officer of Immersion Journeys and an avid thrill-seeker, Rumit plays a pivotal role in developing custom itineraries for luxury and academic clients, leveraging a wealth of knowledge and professional networks in both Africa and South Asia to design and execute memorable experiences. (Nominated by the Ladderworks team. First published on the Ladderworks website on July 25, 2022.)