Malini Gowrishankar is the Founder / CEO of F5 Escapes, a 6+ years old travel company with a vision to redefine the way women travel in India. She started F5 in June 2013 and was joined later by Akanksha Bumb as a Co-founder. They provide all-women fixed departure tours and custom India tours for women travellers, inbound tourists and families who appreciate an authentic and culturally immersive tour of India. They also organize skill-building workshops for women from different strata of society. Their modus operandi is quite different – They work primarily with homestays, boutique stays and community organizations across the country, helping their clients experience real, local hospitality and also contributing to the local economy through sustainable tourism.
- Who you are (naturally!)An ever-evolving specimen!
2. What inspired you to create your business?
Sadly, The Nirbhaya incident in Dec 2012 was the trigger. The perception that India is extremely unsafe was what jolted me to think in this direction. F5 Escapes was born with a vision to redefine the way women travel in India. We do this in three ways – EDUCATE vendors and customers alike, EMPOWER women with skills, confidence and travel, ENGAGE with local communities/homestays to create safe, culturally immersive and meaningful experiences for women. I think we are the only company in the women travel space to focus completely on India as a destination – there’s so much work to do, right here in this country, so much change to bring about at the ground level!
3. An anecdote which epitomizes your India?
This country is a melting pot of cultures, cuisines, castes, communities, colours, conmen(yep!) and the fact that we manage to coexist fairly peacefully is absolutely mind-blowing! To summarise, many countries in one country.
4. One thing that you can’t live without?
Ah, the ever evolving specimen doesn’t have anything in particular. My heartbeat, may be?
5. One thing that you hate?
Lack of integrity / entitlement.
6. If you could change one thing about India what would it be?
Clean Toilets everywhere + sensitive, socially/environmentally conscious citizens. Ah, that makes it two!
7. Who is your greatest inspiration?
Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. If not for him, I don’t think I would have realized that even one person can make a difference.
8. What is your favourite quote?
“Be the change you want to see”
9. I have noticed huge changes in India over the last few years but what is the biggest change you have noticed in India over the last 10 years?
The good – Young minds are more raring and socially inclined than ever. Entrepreneurship boom. Internet penetration has made strong network connections possible.
The bad – The sense of entitlement when it comes to tourism, resources and what not.
The ugly – Increasingly unsustainable ways of living. Indian lifestyle was fundamentally sustainable – that’s how I grew up. The focus on ‘anything available on demand’ has completely toppled the balance – plastic pollution, entitlement, traffic woes etc.
10. What do you think are the biggest challenges India faces over the next ten years?
PLASTIC MENACE, WATER. Chennai faced its worst drought this year. Shimla ran out of water in the recent past. Mindless consumption needs to stop. The day where we run out of landfills to dump our own garbage is not very far.
11. Which is the destination at the top of your bucket list?
12. What is the one place you visited that you have NO desire to return to?
13. Book or Movie?
14. Just for fun! I am doing a survey to find India’s most popular breakfast, what is yours?
Pongal, Mangalore Buns, Kuzhi Paniyaram(Paddu in Kannada), Sabudana Khichdi.
15. In retrospect, what is the one thing you wish you could have told your 20 year-old self?
You studying engineering? SERIOUSLY?
You can find out more about Malini and her work at F5 Escapes here.