A Wanderer’s Tale
When we met born overachiever Nipun Shakya, founder of Dulwa, a social travel enterprise, we were amazed by the enthusiasm and passion he brought to his conversations. A fantastic tale is what we got!
“I’ve always been hyperactive,” he gleefully admits, “I was always focused on books. A major turning point in my life came in Grade 6 when my teacher Kaushik Banerjee told me, “There’s a different world outside books. You need to go and explore. You have to find your ambition in life by trying different things.” This encouraged Shakya to expand his horizons not just in sports but in everything that was to follow.
He recalls his engineering days and chuckles. “My friends used to call me hajurbuwa, because I was always involved in multiple projects and was never short of advice to hand out.” Glimpses of this active mind are seen throughout his projects. Be it his senior project for an automated menu system or his initiation of Nepdroid, a company that focused on studying the market for android phones. In his limitless optimism, he shares, “They might not have panned out for one or the other reason but I figure it is all a learning phase. I harbor no regrets.”
Back home, his dad was not happy with his impromptu travel plans. “You’ve got no other work, and just keep going here and there,” his father would repeatedly call him out, “jaile dulera basne”.
His ever-diversifying journey also took him into teaching. With five years of teaching under his belt at Future Stars school, he believes teaching taught him a thing or two about himself. In 2016, ruled by his trusty gut, he packed his bags and went off the grid to Ghandruk for 10 days. During his travels, he reflected a lot. “There were so many inconsistencies in the travel environment of Nepal. Lack of proper maps and an abundance of unnecessary information over anything important.” Even after he got home, there seemed to be a nagging feeling in the back of his mind.
Back home, his dad was not happy with his impromptu travel plans. “You’ve got no other work, and just keep going here and there,” his father would repeatedly call him out, “jaile dulera basne ” . That night, Shakya found himself deep in thought. His father’s words ringing in his head, pinching at his heart. In a moment of pure unexpected spontaneity, he bought the domain Dulwa.com.
The next morning, with only a vague recollection of the previous night as well as a small loan owed to a friend, he woke up realizing he had no clue how to proceed. “So, I started traveling,” he explains. “I met locals. I met tourists, at Thamel, Bouddha, anywhere I could get somebody to answer my eager questions. Most of the people confirmed my doubts. Lack of information was the biggest hurdle for travelers along with a lack of infrastructure.”
“For 18 months, I collected my data. I pitched my raw idea in 2016 itself but I couldn’t attract any investors. So I went back in 2017, to the same platform: Udhyamsil.” By this time, he was already a family man. He recalls the self-doubt he had regarding whether it was time for him to settle for a regular reliable job. “But my mom and my wife,” he says with a smile, “they encouraged me to go and try to achieve what I set out for.”
This faith along with a tourism statistics book published in 2017 that closely resembled his own findings, revitalized his passion. In 2018, he started building the Dulwa app as well as the website. Since he had no mentor, he was having difficulty finding investors. “I was almost on the verge of giving up,” Shakya admits, “But right then the Social Business Challenge of 2019 came up. So I applied and was one of the 157 participants. Every 15 days, they would filter people and I watched in absolute agony, wondering if we would be cut out next! But then slowly, I got into the top 100, top 50, top 25 and then top 10. Winning this helped confirm that I was headed in the right direction.”
“I realized that some enterprises aren’t meant to be run on a corporate level. They exist with the intent of giving back to society.”
With that, Dulwa has now been running for 4 months. When asked about his unending enthusiasm to throw himself into new opportunities, he says,” My energy depends on how much positivity I can induce in other people. Which is why you’ll always find me giving advice.”
The question remains though, why travel and why with Dulwa. “Travel is a very emotional thing. There is so much love and feeling mixed into it,” he elaborates, “Which is why I’m offering people the actual Nepal. I only promote Nepali products and I’m a strong believer in providing an authentic Nepali experience.”
“Talking about why Dulwa, it’s because we believe every Nepali is a storyteller. People think foreigners aren’t interested but that’s not true at all. We want people to travel with us and enjoy these stories, we also want to work on building a platform for such travel stories and of course travel information.”
Setting his sights on 2020, Shakya concludes, “It might seem ambitious but our goal is to attract 1000 international tourists from our side. We want to be creating tourism jobs by 2030 and grow exponentially in team size as well as economic growth.”
“My message to young people is that you’re free to travel and experience everything in the world. But be wary of your national identity and try not to lose it. Because Nepal has much to offer in terms of both travel as well as stories.” Incredibly put, we too would like to add ‘Dulera ta hera’ (Wander and you’ll see).