It’s safe to say that tourism in India is a booming industry, considering India’s Travel and Tourism sector ended up ranking seventh in the world due to its total contribution to the country’s GDP. However, it’s also fair to say that certain sectors of the tourism industry have moved past catering to what tourists need, instead focusing on commercial aspects. Mumbai is a city with history hidden around every street corner — beyond the occasional stench, the city also reeks of culture; we live and breathe it everyday. It’s why it grows on you, the longer you stay, making all those cheesy quotes you read about the city resonate with you on some level. Working along this very trail of thought, led to the creation of No Footprints. Harshvardhan Tanwar started the company in November 2013, after uncovering the lack of creativity that existed in the tourism space.
“We spent six months understanding what the tourists actually liked in Mumbai, or rather, what they would like to see in Mumbai. It was unanimous; they weren’t here for a history lesson, but they did want to hear stories — of people and spaces. Mumbai thrives on stories, and we wanted to create that synergy between various cultures, sub cultures and community based stories, and link it to tourism,” says Harshvardhan, about the concept of No Footprints.
Their first tour actually began when a gentleman who had spent six days in Mumbai, wanted to do something absolutely out of the ordinary with his wife in tow. “We decided to wake them up at 5AM, so we could take him on a tour of the city waking up. Since it was our first tour, we decided it would be free of cost. All we wanted was an honest review,” Harshvardhan continues. Starting with the stories of the Kolis at Sassoon Docks, while partaking in the auction for tonnes of Bombay Duck; they were then taken on through the robust vendor distribution network and migratory patterns of the city by observing newspaper sorting. The mills and how they changed the cosmetic and cultural makeup of this city soon followed, as well as the flower markets and how religion impacted their businesses. The couple was so enthralled that not only did they pay them for the tour, they also recommended it to the hotel they were staying at.
“We started making our tours more tailor-made depending on the kind of audience we were targeting. We changed the way we conducted the tour for leisure clients, food enthusiasts/chefs, photographers and business schools. We became the Mumbai by Dawn company!” he exclaimed, thrilled by the response they began to get.
2017 saw two additional tours — one being the ‘Free Guided Tour’ around Mumbai’s popular heritage, along with guides who have amazing stories to tell. The other, is the ‘Five Senses Tour’ which allows a tourist to partake in five amazing experiences around Mumbai, helping them truly gauge what Mumbai is. From Bollywood dancing and a walk through the spice market to a Konkan lunch and a heritage walk, they’ve managed to capture every essence of the cultural potpourri that is Mumbai. As for the local guides? They comprise of individuals from multiple sectors, tied together by their passion for sharing stories about Mumbai.
As of now, the organization boasts of about 20 different tours, put together by Eesha Singh (Harshvardhan’s partner) and him. “We’re looking at engaging technology in tourism, music in tourism or even theatre in tourism. It’s an ever evolving, ever changing business and we need to be prepared by being relevant. We’re even adding another food walk besides the ones we have.”
Currently, the duo are seeing a lot more locals participate in their free heritage walks, at 9:15AM every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
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