Keya Khanvte

The Globetrotting Mompreneur

Keya, a Chemical Engineer and an MBA, moved back to India from Dubai seven years ago. Wanting to do something she was passionate about that didn’t need any major capital expenditure and had flexibility, she started L’escapades Boutique Travels which focuses is creating customised boutique holidays for discerning clients who don’t believe in the run-of-the mill ‘package holidays’ or ‘tours’.

I am a mompreneur who has a 4 year old who has run out of pages in his first passport.
Last week, as I was browsing through some articles, I became aware that only 14.7% women in urban India are part of the workforce. I would never have guessed it was that low. However, I can’t say that I was entirely shocked either. I’ve seen so many of my very talented women friends - doctors, engineers, MBAs, CAs, give up their careers and it hurts me.

It got me thinking about my own journey as a Mompreneur- I am a Chemical Engineer and an MBA (Marketing), and previously worked as a consultant with McKinsey and then Landmark Hospitality in Dubai. When I moved back to India seven years ago in 2010, there were two things on my mind- firstly, I really wanted to do something I was passionate about that didn’t need any major capital expenditure and secondly, I wanted the flexibility to work on my own time.

That’s how I started off with L’escapades Boutique Travels (www.lescapades.com) with nothing more than my passion for exotic destinations, my own exciting travel experiences, and my laptop. Our main focus is on creating customised boutique holidays for our discerning clients who don’t believe in the run-of-the mill ‘package holidays’ or ‘tours’. Most places we recommend are those we have been to ourselves and clients ask us through our social media coverage.

When I started, I knew nothing about how the travel industry works - pricing, margins, terminology, nothing at all. My family is a typical GSB family from Goa where most people are professionals, a majority of who are doctors. Quitting a corporate job to start off on my own was quite a shock to them! ‘Start-Up’ wasn’t as glamorous a word a few years ago as it is now. But, I am really lucky to have some very enterprising friends and mentors who motivated me and still do. I think I was born with the mind of an entrepreneur but I needed that bit of a nudge to push me over the edge.

By the time I had my child in 2012, I had learnt a fair bit, developed my contacts, attended trade shows and settled into this business. My maternity leave was 3 days long. On the 4th day after my delivery I got a worried call from a client. He asked me why I hadn't cashed the cheque he had issued the previous week. “Well, I have just got back from the hospital after delivering a baby!” I said. He was shocked, because I had been working all through my pregnancy until the week before and now just after the delivery!

The day I got back from my one month at my mom’s home, my jhapa, who I had hired to help me with my baby, quit! So there I was, - me, my one month old child and a house that was still being done up because my son was born three weeks early! That’s it- somehow I learnt being a mom, managing my business, the house, all of it. I tried hiring a few maids in the initial months to help me part time with my child but eventually I think I managed it better all by myself. Somewhere between feedings and nap times, the school drops and pickups, playdates and school meetings, I think I’ve found a balance or maybe I’m still trying to. Days are long, nights are longer, most ending at 2 am and beyond. It is not easy being a full time mom and managing the house and the business but I wouldn't do it any other way.

For the first year and a half I barely travelled with my child, but when he was about 2, I found the courage to embark on an adventurous trip to see the Northern lights. In a remote village in Finland at -18 degrees Centigrade, as a concerned first time parent, I kept asking him if he was okay every few minutes. He said to me finally, “Mumma, I’m fine, this is my best holiday ever!” That was when I probably realised that I could still pursue my passion for travelling, and have the most important person in my life be a part of it and enjoy it as much as I do.

We travelled to many more countries together, just the two of us and in a way, we’ve grown together. One random night, after an exciting day exploring this not very well known garden in Singapore, I thought of creating ‘Where is K?’ (www.whereisk.com) to inspire more parents to travel to exciting and offbeat destinations with kids and not be limited by the traditional ‘kid-friendly’ concept of travel.

It has been a year since then, and last year, we had some amazing experiences. From skiing at the snow festival in Hokkaido, Japan, to cruising across the magnificent Lake Skadar in Montenegro, from Island hopping in Seychelles and Maldives to a ride on Thomas, the heritage steam train in Southampton, from eating authentic Canoli in Amalfi, Italy to feasting on string hoppers in Sri Lanka, from a mud bath in Nha trang, Vietnam to an infinity pool on a private island with Blue whales in Weligama, it has been an amazing journey and this is just the beginning. We've had articles published in India Today and I was also selected by the Government of India as part of the 13 member Airport Advisory Committee, in October 2016.


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