Ishan's story

“One of the most important things when setting up your own social enterprise is to be patient and to understand your main reason for why you’re doing what you’re doing.”

Themes: Investec Beyond Business, Social Enterprise, Volunteering, Investec Beyond Business Winner, Enterprise, Community, Visually Impaired People

 

A group of people sit around a long table eating food. They are all smiling at the camera.

Ishan is one of our proud and incredible winners of the Investec Beyond Business Programme. His social enterprise, Travel Hands, is a charity that matches Visually Impaired People (VIP) with Volunteers to share wonderful journeys and make travel around London safer and more accessible.

The idea for Travel Hands, first presented itself to Ishan when he was completing his master’s thesis on how to increase employability for Visually Impaired People and volunteering with BlindAid. Whilst doing this he learnt about how VIP’s use technology, about accessibility, and the challenges that VIP’s face. This was a topic especially close to Ishan’s heart as someone with Keratoconus, and eye condition causing blurred vision and light sensitivity. Ishan commented, “Whilst doing my masters research at the charity I found that travelling is connected to a majority of the issues that visually impaired people face, so Travel Hands has always been my dream project.”

“Travel Hands essentially pairs a Visually Impaired Person (VIP) with a sighted and verified guide so they can go together outdoors to do their tasks. We try to make it easy for the VIP with comfortable, inexpensive, and safe travel end to end. Our Volunteer Model is also very flexible, fun, and convenient so we really try to ensure that it is enjoyable and accessible for everyone on both sides.”

Ishan first started Travel Hands in 2020 and was quickly faced with the COVID-19 pandemic and the unpredictability of Lockdowns and travel restrictions. It wasn’t until 2023 and Ishan’s acceptance onto the Investec Beyond Business Programme that Travel Hands was able to really start to grow with the funding he secured after being one of the winning enterprises. But the Investec Beyond Business Programme gave Ishan more than just funding, “The consultants from Investec we received support from where fabulous, they really helped us to work on the business model and gave me a lot of confidence. The business plan that I set up with advice from Investec is giving me a really good road map, it’s been really positive.” The Investec Team helped Ishan and Travel Hands refine their plan, with a special focus on the financial elements, and provided insight into how Ishan could start measuring and proving the growth that Travel Hands was experiencing.

Travel Hands does more than just supporting VIPs to travel safely round London, as Ishan said “There is a really important aspect that is connection building and friendship. We have created beautiful journeys, very beautiful stories. We’ve had people do some really cool things together using Travel Hands, like going on boat rides or to different places and activities around London neither person would have done before.” Travel Hands has also recently launched a new Corporate Volunteering Programme with different corporations in the area. This pilot programme encourages corporate employees, especially those working from home, to engage with the charity and help a VIP near them. It also gives the volunteer the opportunity to meet new people in their area and to give something back to their community.

Reflecting on his own experience of setting up a social enterprise, Ishan offered the following words of wisdom, “I would say one of the most important things when setting up your own social enterprise is to be patient and to understand your main reason for why you’re doing what you’re doing. There will be lots of ups and downs and you just need to keep sticking to what you’re doing and why. It’s all about the impact you’re creating really, not the money you might make, and I think that’s important to remember. The Investec Beyond Business Programme helped me a lot with my business model but it also helped me identify how we could measure and best highlight our impact and that has been invaluable. I’m really excited looking at the future of Travel Hands and where we’re going to next.”