- March 27, 2021
- Posted by: Planet Goa Team
- Category: Startups in Goa
Talk with Maria Victor (Founder – Make It Happen)
You hail from?
Panjim, Goa has been my home, the city I call my own, the one which beckons me always.
What made you start this Startup in Goa?
I am a traveler at heart. Discovering places, people and paths that lead to the unknown always came naturally to me. From exploring the Buddhist culture and the rustic lifestyle of Ladakhi villages to attending the annual Hornbill festival in Nagaland showcasing the culture through music, dance and cuisine to the quiet, introspection-inducing Lahaul Spiti road trip in Himachal, home to some of the most revered ancient Buddhist monasteries and picturesque high-latitude villages, my travels got me connected to various enlightening individuals, communities and cultures.
Make It Happen originally started as a travel club operating out of Bangalore in 2011 where I would connect like-minded travellers and curate thematic tours across India. Some of the experiences included an immersive trip to the mystical Nilgiris, offering opportunities to spend time with indigenous people such as the Todas and Kurumbas, and learn from them the art of traditional embroidery, painting with natural paints and making medicines out of forest produce. Being a Chartered Management Accountant with a well-paying job, this was my weekend escape from the daily grind of the corporate and city life.
While curating experiences in Goa, I realized that the Goa I grew up in was changing, and its image as a travel destination was restricted to its coastal belt. Goa’s rich cultural history and colourful local communities were forgotten in a rush to capitalize on the ‘sun, sand & beer’ narrative. I realized that if this narrative had to change, then the travelers had to learn about local culture from the locals themselves.
This led me to finally quit my job and form a team of young travel enthusiasts and Re – launch Make It Happen in 2015, as an Experiential Travel company specializing in curating heritage trails and cultural experiences conducted by local host and storytellers.
If you weren’t building your startup in Goa, where would you be located and doing what?
If I wasn’t working on building my start up in Goa, I would be based out of Bangalore curating and developing weekend getaways and curated experiences across India.
Having said that, apart from Goa our future plan is to expand our work of curating community-led curated experiences and narrativize tourism in other key tourism destinations and upcoming tourism destinations in India.
What’s your start-up about (as briefly as possible )?
Make It Happen is an Experiential Travel company that specialises in curating community-led curated experiences that connects travellers to local communities . Our experiences are curated to bring to life stories that are unheard of. Through vivid storytelling by our local host we take you through history, architecture local anecdotes, savour local delicacies and experience the local way of life
Is your Start-up about a Product or a Service?
What’s unique about your product/services?
What makes us stand out from the other travel practices is that it highlights the finer details and brings to life stories that are unheard of. We bring ‘People Experiences’ which are not otherwise explored. Through such journeys, we wish to challenge cultural biases and invest in intercultural exchange and understanding to bring out the very essence of India’s diversity.
As an enterprise, we aim to change the face of travel not only for travellers but also for the communities involved. Our curated experiences are hosted by inspiring locals who are passionate about sharing their culture, giving way for an authentic experience of the community. We see tourism as a platform to showcase and nurture local talent from musicians, artists, traditional occupation and passionate storytellers.
In a few sentences, what do you offer to whom?
We offer discerning travellers curated community-led curated experiences such as Heritage Walks, Village Experiences, Bicycle tours and Culinary experiences.
Our insightful walking tours in Goa offer an in-depth exploration of heritage streets, such as the Fontainhas Heritage Walk, the Old Goa Heritage Walk, Saligao Village walk and Chandor Heritage Trail. The highlight of the Fontainhas Heritage Walk is a visit to the house of a renowned musician, who serenades visitors in Latin, Konkani and the soulful Fado ( a Portuguese style of music). On our Chronicles and Echoes of Divar Island Experience, travellers experience authentic village lifestyles where traditional fishing methods are still practiced, and bread is still baked in a traditional wood- fired oven. The Old Goa Heritage Walk paints a picture of the Colonial era , helping to understand the varied European influences that have shaped Goa’s history and cultural heritage.
In addition to these, we also organize a food trail called the Goan Feni & Tapas Food trail which includes visit to some of the vintage clubs and bars in Panjim, a vivid narration of Goa’s food history, tasting of Goan Feni paired with the most delectable Goan Tapas.
Each of our experiences highlights a different facet of Goa which is lesser known and introduces traveller to the real essence of Goa.
Does your startup also serve International clients from and in Goa itself?
We cater to domestic and international travellers as well as residents of Goa
We cater to international guests travelling to Goa, as well as expat population living in India and Goa.
Do you and your team head to any beach/waterfall for getting refreshed? Which one normally?
Exploring new locations is a part of the work that all of us at Make It Happen enjoy and hence don’t limit ourselves to one beach or waterfall.
So, the locations for team outings keep changing and it could be a waterfall, a beach, wildlife reserve or a casual gathering over dinner.
Do you have Happy Hours during the week? When? How does that help?
No we don’t.
What do you love about your team?
We have a team of passionate storytellers. We do not call them just guides, in fact they are friendly, reliable people that present the experience, while showcasing the culture and heritage of a place, host a home-cooked meal, a music performance, and other arts. It was the idea of giving tourism in Goa a new narrative, as seen and lived by Goans, that got them interested in working with us.
Even though our team of storytellers been hosting experiences for years, it has always been about meeting different people with diverse backgrounds, perspectives and intercultural exchange that keeps them inspired and makes every tour different from the other.
Do you miss your other office locations while you are in Goa?
We are in the process of expanding to other locations and we spent a considerable amount of time travelling to different locations in India.
How did you manage uncertainty, if any, in the early stages of business in Goa?
We pioneered heritage and curated local experiences in Goa and it was a time when Goa didn’t have such offerings. Goa Heritage trails was started as a pilot project to test the market and we received overwhelming response as soon as we launched and we scaled our operations in Goa. Today we have over 20 unique experiences showcasing different facets of Goa.
However, the pandemic caused uncertainty and we pivoted on the idea of virtual experiences to continue our work of storytelling by launching the virtual experience “Heritage Hues of Panjim” presented using online video conferencing services like Zoom & Google Meet. We experimented further and launched an Interactive Documentary Film called “The Guardian Spirits of Goa” which is played on a screen accompanied by live storytelling and bespoke dinner.
Any challenges that you are facing or faced while building your startup in Goa?
Yes, initially we were being confused for a company offering guides and guided tours. However, the experiential nature of our work attracted the our target audience and today we have catered to over 15000 customers who have booked our curated experiences in Goa.