Don’t be afraid to think out of the box

The Mad Hatters platform for adventure seekers, risk takers and avid explorers

Please introduce yourself and your startup The Mad Hatters to our readers
I am an avid traveler and cyclist with a strong passion for exploring and experiencing new things. After graduating with an MBA degree from Lahore School of Economics, I acquired a diverse skillset by working in various industries for a period of 10 years, including investment banking, telecommunication, education, not-for-profit, and the fashion industry.

I strongly believe that one should always keep exploring new opportunities in life. Giving in to my love for traveling, I decided to turn my passion into a career and started a travel company by the name of The Mad Hatters; a platform for all the wandering souls like myself, who have an unconventional way of approaching life and its challenges. My passion for traveling took me to the remotest corners of the country, and made me fall in love with the beauty, heritage, and diversity of Pakistan. Through this platform, I aim to educate people about the beautiful landscapes, culture, lifestyle, crafts, and cuisines of the country – the side of Pakistan which generally does not get the deserved limelight.

How did you get the idea to The Mad Hatters?
Whenever I got tired from the usual routine and madness of the corporate culture, I decided to take a break from the city and went on a trip to find refuge in the mountains. Exploring the nature and interacting with people from different cultures always helped in finding a new perspective and direction in life every time I got back from a vacation. This habit of running away from my worldly responsibilities to hide in the mountains became a hobby, and with the passage of time turned into a passion. The frequency of these breaks constantly kept increasing with time. So much so, that they started causing problems in my daily life, as it became difficult to manage my work responsibilities and be able to get leaves from the jobs so frequently.

The Mad HattersI had a keen interest in traveling since childhood, but was able to pursue this hobby more actively as I became more independent after graduating from university. It becomes difficult to materialize plans with friends when everyone is tied up with jobs and responsibilities, so I had to rely on various tour operators to fulfill my yearning for adventure during the past decade or so. Traveling with these operators made me realize that there is a dire need for offering quality services in this industry and promoting Pakistan’s beauty and diversity on a larger scale.

One day, I finally decided to take the plunge of breaking free from the chains of corporate slavery, and left my full time job once and for all to turn my passion into a career. This led to the formation of The Mad Hatters.

How difficult was the start and what challenges you had to overcome?
The biggest challenge that I had to face in the beginning and still do is to make my space in the male dominated travel industry of Pakistan. The men have kind of marked it as their territory and are usually quite hostile towards women entering the field. Women are generally not encouraged to be seen in public spaces in Pakistan, so getting into a career path that requires you to be out and about offers a lot of challenges. Dealing with all sorts of men including drivers, guides, waiters, hotel owners, and competitors makes women quite vulnerable to many forms of harassment in the travel business.

Who is your target audience?
The Mad Hatters provides a platform to like-minded individuals who are passionate about exploring new places and learning new skills. It is the perfect platform for adventure seekers, risk takers and avid explorers who are looking for opportunities to get out of the daily grind and journey into some of the less explored areas of Pakistan.

What is the USP of your startup?
Even after the long struggle for women’s empowerment and equal rights, it is still a rare sight to see women in public spaces in Pakistan. Hence, the freedom of traveling is not as easily enjoyed by women, as it is by men. But, we are trying to change that at The Mad Hatters. It is probably the only tour operator company in Pakistan that is being led by a woman, without any male partner/support, so it naturally offers a comfortable environment for females on trips.

The educational element of our trips gives a hands-on insight into the local culture and lifestyle of the places we visit. We take education and learning out of classrooms to make it an entertaining and interactive experience that encourages people to think out of the box. Our aim is to combine education and traveling, to ensure that the participants learn something new while traveling with us.

Pakistan is home to some of the most spectacular landscapes, architecture, and communities. The Mad Hatters team is not only focused on exploring these amazing areas, but we also strive to make them better through our conservation and community development activities. We strongly focus on the welfare of the areas that we visit, and inculcate the same values in the people who travel with us.

Can you describe a typical workday of you?
A typical workday includes:

 Giving directions to my team
 Meeting vendors
 Meeting clients
 Market research
 Field visits
 Planning and organizing upcoming trips
 Social media and word of mouth marketing
 Managing finances and cash flows
 Reporting and analysis of past and future projects

Where do you see yourself and your startup The Mad Hatters in five years?
I plan to add more service/product lines during the course of next five years while maintaining the quality of my offerings. I also plan on expanding in new markets geographically and will be taking international trips in the near future.

What 3 tips would you give other Start-up founders on the way?
1. Don’t be afraid to think out of the box.
2. The key to success is nothing else but being persistent and organized.
3. Whatever you do, do with all your heart and give it your best!

More information you will find here

Thank you Aneeqa Ali for the Interview

Statements of the author and the interviewee do not necessarily represent the editors and the publisher opinion again.

Sabine Elsässer

Sabine Elsässer is founder and chief editor of the StartupValleyNews Magazine. She started her career at several international direct sale companys. Since 2007 she works main time as a journalist. While that time she learned more about the Startup Scene, what made her start her own Startup Magazine the StartupValleyNews.

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