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A transformation is under way in the travel industry as companies pivot from walking tours to 360 digital tours.

An integral aspect of every walking tour is the sensory experience acquired when traversing the unique geography it inhabits. Could such an offering be successfully ported on to the virtual realm? Or would the nuances be lost in translation?

Aayush Rathi, the co-founder/ storyteller of Roobaroo Walks, a walking tour company offers Zoom sessions ( which you can log in from the comfort of your living room. Roobaroo’s virtual tour of the ancient city of Varanasi reintroduces you to the city through 360 visuals, maps, videos, and evocative soundscapes. As with the physical tour, it starts at Assi Ghat, where the dancing flames of the multi-layered aarthi light up the early morning sky in the adoration of Ganga.

Rathi talks about the sacred river, the city’s origins, and its deep spiritual significance for a confluence of faiths. The forts, temples, and havelis that dot the landscape are all brought to vivid life through the visuals and meticulously researched vignettes. In a reverential touch visitors “collect” the waters of the Ganga to offer at the centuries-old home of the poet-saint Tulsidas. There is constant interaction among the group, there are quizzes to answer, tangential questions to explore, just as on the physical walk. The mood is lively, the chatter congenial. You will be immersed in the essence of Varanasi.

Rathi and his wife Anchal cofounded Roobaroo in 2015, and as travel ground to a halt this year, they decided to roll with the punches and reimagine their enterprise. Their pivot from operating in the fully physical realm to the virtual in just a few months tells a tale of quickly harnesses panic, and the consequent upskilling and reinventing to stay in the game.

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