Active Holiday Company Redefines The Travel Scenario In India

Interviews July 17, 2018

AHC Gives A Different Dimension To Adventure 

It is rightly said that if something is meant to come back, then it will definitely return. This holds true not just for love, but also in reference to your job, your profession-one of your love interests. Something similar happened in the life of the founder of Active Holiday Company.

Gauri Jayaram has been in the travel business in India for 26 years and is ‘actively’ redefining the travel scene carefully crafted by her to give travellers a true experience of ‘adventure’.

They’ve Been ‘Active’ Since Inception

The travel junkie joined the world’s largest coach touring company, Cosmos Coach Tours, in 2005 and delivered her best as the Regional Director for South Asia and the Middle East until she decided to call time on her tenure there in 2014. Picking up marathon running as a hobby in 2008, Jayaram started running in different countries so that along with fitness she could also club her love for exploring new destinations.   

Having experienced travelling via the backroads, I did not want to go on selling bus tours. There was a bucket list of vacations I wanted to go on and I assumed that there would be others like me who will appreciate this style of travel. But what would happen once the money tap that my secure job offered stopped flowing? My trek to EBC (Everest Base Camp) in 2012 helped me get rid of that fear.”

Gauri Jayaram, Active Holiday Company

Jayaram, who has travelled to over 50 countries, went on to start Active Holiday Company in 2014 with co-founder Geeta Amin. They took a group of runners for the London Marathon that same year. 

While Jayaram could see a surge in demand for adventure travel, it was very hard in the initial years for her to sell adventure destinations in India. Lack of customers and proper guidelines for adventure tourism were easily the biggest challenges in the early years.

Hence, the published author is not in favour of India-based tours for her venture. According to her, it is a great segment – just not the one she is interested in adding to her list of key offerings.


We sell only outbound tours as adventure standards in our country are poor. Our tours are based on the concept of remaining active even while on a holiday.

Gauri Jayaram, Founder, Active Holiday Company

Challenges Of National Travel

The iron-willed fitness freak who has run a race to the lowest point on earth (The Dead Sea Ultra Run in Jordan) and even trekked to the base camp of the world’s highest mountain – the Mt. Everest says – 

“I am personally not as familiar with India even though the market for this segment is huge. There is also a serious issue on safety standards of adventure travel in India as anyone can set up an adventure travel company and that is dangerous. Indian travellers are unaware of the risks of travelling with tour operators with low safety standards and the domestic adventure tour companies compete on prices at the cost of safety. We consciously want to stay away from this.”

Gauri Jayaram, Active Holiday Company

She says that most domestic travellers are also insensitive to environmental challenges and the dangers of travelling with tour operators who have no safety standards. Accidents in India are routinely reported without much change in the standard of operation.

“We have a long way to go in setting safety standards in adventure travel. The possibility of accidents in India is high. Also, because there are no entry barriers, allowing access to unqualified tour operators also, to get in. Qualification and Safety Certification should be mandatory when one conducts adventure activities. One mistake is all it takes to turn a vacation into a nightmare. There is no safety and security,” (she explains in a worrying tone).

Gauri Jayaram, Active Holiday Company


Gauri Jayaram with other runners from India at the London marathon

Gauri Jayaram with other runners from India at the London marathon


No Fitness? No Problem, But To Know, You Ought To Go

Perception gets built only after an experience, which also explains Jayaram’s passion for what she has been involved in.

There is a misconception that to get on our tours, fitness is of primary essence. Our range of trips offer active travel to people of all abilities. But we decline requests for non-active leisure holidays, we are happy doing what we are good at while we continue to build our expertise.

Gauri Jayaram, Founder, Active Holiday Company

For example solo traveller 67-year-old Neeru Saluja from Jaipur has done several tours with the adventure travel company. These tours generally involve easy walking and exploring and sometimes these are are self-guided so you can explore at your pace, she says.

In September this year, a father-son duo, the Muthiyans, will run the full marathon (42.2 kilometres) in Berlin, Germany. Ranging from easy to moderate to demanding, Active Holiday Company has it all for you!


Supermodel Milind Soman, who is also an Ironman athlete features on the board of advisors for Active Holiday Company


The (Wo)Men Behind It! And The Men Ofcourse

The four-year old company has three key functions- Marketing, Operations and Sales and Admin, employing about 12 equally passionate (about travel) people. The small team she feels are able to address everything and successfully manage and offer travel experiences to vacationers encompassing all 7 continents in close to about 100 countries across the globe, undertaking 1000 plus trips for travel and adventure enthusiasts.

“Our team does not like to compromise on quality so we turn away a lot of business, focussing on the core expertise. Mass is our enemy, we don’t want to be big scale. The average cost of our tours is one lakh. We are a nice brand. Our small yet dedicated team know all our customers, that is why quality and engagement is important for us.”

Gauri Jayaram, Active Holiday Company

The fact that she bought herself a hybrid bicycle to replace her depreciated car and was voted one of the Most Influential Persons in the Travel Industry by NDTV Profit and Travel News Digest (2014), Jayaram brings in a plethora of experience that is key in guiding the team to consistently deliver the best.


Gauri, her friends and clients exploring Zagreb on bicycles


Successfully And ‘Actively’ Leaping Hurdles

Also a ‘leading travel magazine writer’, Gauri says- 

““My own perception and interest is all that I went with when I started with Active Holiday Company. My assumption was not backed by statistics. It is not always possible to know the potential size or share in the market you can have. For two, three years at the start it was hard, sales were slow and we gave in to the temptation and digressed from our core offerings and specialisation. It was a mistake. One that we learnt a lot from. This kind of travel is heavily word of mouth-based.”

Gauri Jayaram, Active Holiday Company

The other challenge has been getting the right people for the right job. Hiring someone who can do the job and is a great fit with the organisation are hardly easy to come by according to her.  

Unlike other apps and web-based travel startups, her company hardly relies on technology as she feels they do not need it much except in methodically managing their back-end systems. Their business needs emotional investment, something that is also their expertise.


Active Holiday Company’s first Boston Marathon Group in 2018


The Key Offerings- Products And Experience  

Products and offerings backed by innovation and thorough research have worked the best for them.

Marathon hopping, cycling tours, polar and winter expeditions, walking and trekking, multi-active adventures, triathlon, wildlife safaris, sailing, family trips and customised tours are some of their key offerings.

What easily stands out is their ‘Culture Vulture’ offering. A Culture Vulture trip is meant for a hungry traveller, one who is willing to go that extra mile. Who wants to explore what’s not obvious to ordinary tourists who will see what is shown to them. The cultural high of these trips range from home-stays, the opportunity to engage with the locals in a deeper way, not just sampling local food but also the chance to learn to cook a local dish and getting to hear stories that only the locals know.


Active Holiday Company Travellers in the Sahara during a trip to Morocco


The company provides services and conducts activities that are exciting, unique and unlikely to be taken up by those looking for a ‘regular vacation’. The experiences offered are beyond the usual, and not boring at all. The company has been ‘actively’ pushing their travellers to explore and tell a different story each time they undertake a trip. The trips may end, but the gushes of memories surely don’t. Their offerings include real experiences- taking the back roads on bicycles, on foot or even the vintage tuk-tuks. Be it camping in the wild or experiencing a local home stay, they have got it all for you! Be it beer tasting at an indiscreet brewery or discover lesser-known street cafes, there will be more than enough adventure, as you cross villages that will leave you mesmerized with its scenic beauty.

For the trip(s) one undertakes, there is no compulsion to be escorted by a guide. As they say, there is something for everyone, giving like-minded travellers a plethora of options to pick from.

Guided trips are fully escorted by expert tour managers who stay with you the entire duration of the trip and provide a seamless travel experience.

Semi-Guided trips are partially guided and you have expert guides when you are engaged in a must see or a must do experience and the rest of the trip you are on your own, keeping in mind value as well as flexibility.

Self-Guided are for the free-spirited and confident travellers who like to control their own pace and time, we offer self-guided trips where you are on a ‘do-it-yourself’ holiday with some direction from us.

Group or independent? The small group tours are perfect for solo travellers, couples and a group of friends and small families who want to bond with a bunch of like-minded people.

Nature And Nurture For Formative Years



Some travel experiences can be life-changing. Their Young Adult Internships & Expeditions (YAIE) are just that! Imagine your teenager face to face with wildlife, accomplishing a challenging trek to the Everest Base Camp under expert supervision or walking 100 km on the Camino de Santiago. There are numerous opportunities to learn about the environment, wildlife conservation but these tours are really much more than that. Outdoor leadership development, photography, culinary art, science internships are some of the activities the company offers to young adults. These activities allow ample scope to learn new skills, for self-discovery and growth, to strengthen ties for cultural exchange, engage in community work and develop their personality.


Travel Industry Through The Expert’s Lens

The forty plus something CEO of the company headquartered in Bangalore says –

“It is diverse and dynamic. India is a market in which trends are constantly and swiftly changing, that makes it challenging and competitive to operate in. People have become value conscious, but it is still very niche. However, some of them have opened up and acquired a liberal mindset when it comes to travelling. This kind of travelling would not have worked in our country 20 years ago.”

Gauri Jayaram, Active Holiday Company

When she was probed on whether the company had implemented a loyalty system, she strongly insisted that it wasn’t a priority for them currently. However, she talks about a ‘loyalty’ of a different kind they and their customers have for each other.

Upendra Tripathi, a Bangalore-based resident has run all six major marathons of the world through the company. Vishwajeet Sawant and Venkatesh Dhond, lawyers from Mumbai have done four different international cycling tours with them so far.


Upendra Tripathi, regular marathon runner with Active Holiday Company


Venkatesh Dhond (extreme right) and Vishwajeet Sawant (second from right) with other Active Holiday Company clients on cycling tour


Vacation Labs Takes Care Of ‘Pain Points’

Vacation Labs efficiently manages the backend processes and what Jayaram calls ‘taking care of pain points’, minimizing the opportunity for/ of error. Vacation Labs can communicate and manage the processes taking away the challenges of doing manual operations. She believes the tour operator software has surely provided a great amount of value to them in running their business smoothly.

The services, the packages and the experiences of this company is a must for travellers looking to change their dimension of travel and go on a journey, one would long to keep going back to, time and again!

Active Holiday Company believes in responsible travel.

Each time you travel with us you help a community survive, grow and thrive. You support the locals and show you care.

Gauri Jayaram, Founder, Active Holiday Company

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