23 May 2017

INTERVIEW: Envago's Lujaina Kharusi

If you feel the need for an adventure this summer, read on. We grab five minutes with Lujaina Kharusi, creator of the Envago adventure travel app.

Hello. Who are you?

Hello, I’m Lujaina Kharusi. I’m an Omani with a passion for travel, technology and what I like to think of as my dual home countries of Oman and the UK. I was born in the UK whilst my father worked as an air traffic controller and my mother worked as a pilot - it was a given really that I would eventually make my way into the travel industry too! I’m also married and mother of four beautiful children.

And what do you do?

Quite a lot! I work full time as an economist in Oman and I am also founder of new adventure travel app Envago (www.envagoapp.com). Envago is a free app that allows you to find unique adventures around the globe - it’s the first marketplace for adventure. We are excited to have recently begun offering adventures from Green Wild Adventures with their unique twelve day Amazon jungle survival experiences, and Southcoast Adventures with their range of glacier treks, snowmobile tours and flightseeing in Iceland. Travellers search for adventures through the android or iOS app, compare, read reviews and book.

Tell us how you got started in that.

I was lucky enough to be offered a place at the University of Brunei in South East Asia and started my career as an economist in 2005. With a career like mine, tracking market trends and consumer demands becomes a way of life and after the explosion in smartphone technology I knew we had reached a new era that was poised to revolutionise the way we buy and sell pretty much everything. Travellers today don’t want a prescriptive package holiday, but to be able to create a unique itinerary with access to once in a lifetime experiences. Envago is about giving travellers that choice, freedom and power.

What is an average day like for you?

With four children, a full time job, and a start-up, my average day is quite busy and for that reason I have to manage my time meticulously. I wake up in the morning around 5am so I have two to three hours of quiet time to work on Envago before getting the kids ready to go to school and heading off to work myself. After work, and after everyone has gone to bed, it’s another couple of hours dedicated to Envago. It’s important to me that I give each of my responsibilities my full attention, and that’s why I have such structure in my day. What helps me enormously is the support of my husband and family, who take some of the responsibility off my shoulders. Meditation is also a big part of my life, as it helps me to stay focused and balanced.

Where do you see the adventure travel industry going in the near future, and how might you have to adapt?

The adventure travel industry is growing at such a rate that it could soon become the most favoured holiday type, eclipsing sun and sand. Our challenge at Envago will be in innovating within the experiences on offer to keep them fresh and dynamic. Virtual reality is a new travel trend with travellers having the chance to have a taster of a destination before they travel. For adventure, this is huge. Imagine taking a virtual trek up Jabel Shams, the highest peak in the Arabian Gulf or seeing the inside of the school in Nepal where you could be volunteering to help the community. Travel and technology are moving at such a fast pace, we’ll need to be nimble to be able to keep pace with trends.

What advice would you offer to someone keen to follow in your footsteps?

I’d say go for it! Whilst the tangible development of Envago was very much about the app, what actually drove me to start Envago was the vision I had for the company. For those independent adventure planners in Venezuela leading tours to the Lost World to be able to make money from their passion for adventure, for people to be able to pick up their phone and book an adventure whilst on the train on the way to work and for travellers to connect with others and experience adventures on the go. So think not about the product, but the company and what you stand for. Don’t worry about scaling when you start, just continue learning, get as much feedback as possible (not necessarily following all of it) and validate your product.

Thanks Lujaina!

Find out more about Envago at envagoapp.com

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