HerStories: Zaira Syed

In an exclusive interview with Zaira Syed, the co-founder of Ghoomo Phirro, ElleTech discusses how Zaira began her tour company in an otherwise male-dominated industry. She speaks candidly about the challenges she faced and how she has overcome them.

Ghoomo Phirro is a tour company and an adventure shop, based out of Lahore, Pakistan. The aim of the company is to introduce the raw beauty of Pakistan to people; beauty that has remained largely unexplored and still remains elusive to a large part of the world.

The motto ‘Explore like a Local’ signifies a form of travel that is authentic, where the team strives to introduce localized experiences to its clients.

“The aim is to introduce Pakistan to the world in such a way that the traveller experiences its uniqueness in the form of local food, home stays, raw nature and outdoor experience, as well as the immense hospitality of its people,”

The Start

Zaira Syed: I love travelling! Since we had travelled extensively in Pakistan and knew a lot about it, people frequently turned to us for travel advice.

Seeing that there were very few tour groups in Pakistan that were catering to the increasing demand of travel related activities, we decided to address the gap, and Ghoomo Phirro was formed. We felt it was important to introduce a reliable travel service that provided authentic experiences whilst maintaining a certain quality standard. 

The name ‘Ghoomo Phirro’ was chosen because we felt it captured the free spirit of Pakistanis quite well!

Curated a year after the launch of the travel company was the Ghoomo Phirro Adventure Shop, to provide a one-stop solution to all hiking and adventure equipment needs.

As of now, Pakistan lacks proper adventure stores despite having some of the highest peaks in the world. The idea of Ghoomo Phirro Adventure shop was to address this shortcoming, and equip people with quality gear to facilitate their adventures.

HerStory: Challenges & Opportunities

Zaira Syed: The Pakistan travel industry is largely a male dominated industry, so much so that you barely even see women travelling, let alone be in the travel business. So the biggest challenge was for me to break that barrier and be taken seriously.

“In the start, I would constantly be reminded of how it’s unsafe for women to travel. The industry is also made without keeping women’s needs in mind, so on a typical trip, instances like no access to workable bathrooms, no access to sanitary products (most rural areas in Pakistan do not keep women’s sanitary products at stores), or going through crowded areas with not a single woman in sight, were many. When they see a woman travelling between crowds of men, people do have opinions they love to share. I learnt over time to ignore them and continue with my business.”

There’s something about a powerful walk that can deter people, so I had to work on that.

When arranging for trips, I had to first prove my competence to vendors before they realised that it is I who was going to deal with them, not any male guardian. Once they understood, however, they started respecting me.

Even on trekking trips, local guides would try to push the notion that it’s not safe for women, or that it’s too difficult for women, thereby implying that I should sit it out. So I really had to be forceful about these things, and insist on going despite the constant negative feedback. Once they see that you mean business, their attitudes change.

On Female Entrepreneurship

For me, seeing women take the wheel and paving their way to success is really exciting. It is a massive movement that has accelerated exponentially in the last couple of years.

There are so many avenues in Pakistan where there is hardly any representation of women. For Zaira, the most exciting thing is to witness women breaking those very barriers and going into fields they haven’t gone in before.

It’s exciting because I know for a fact that women have a lot to contribute, and they will improve things exponentially in all fields if given the chance and taken seriously.

“I’m proud to see that in the last 5 years, we have seen a boom in women entrepreneurs, women in science and technology, sports, finance, economy, medicine, engineering, everywhere. I see a positive future for Pakistan, and I hope that more women join the tide and help create an equal society.”

Parting Thoughts

Zaira Syed: If you’re passionate about it, go for it! Experiment, work hard, and have fun. The journey will be well worth it. And don’t ever underestimate your contributions to society. We are an integral part of the social order, and our contributions will be the change this country needs.

If men can do it, women can do it 2x better 🙂

Interview conducted & edited by ElleTech.
If there’s a story you’d like to share with us, please feel free to reach out to us at team@elletech.work.