SOMETIMES people spend their whole lives trying to become entrepreneurs; for others it happens almost by accident.

Pooja Katara falls into the latter category. The 28-year-old architect was studying for a masters degree in creative urbanisation at Glasgow School of Art when her thesis project turned into one of the most innovative tourist businesses in the UK: the country's first augmented reality self-guided walking tour.

SENSEcity uses cutting edge visualisation software to bring Glasgow’s past and present to life through archive photography, sound, audio commentary and Ms Katara’s own hand-drawn illustrations showcasing the city’s history and culture. Accessed through an app and used in conjunction with a booklet available throughout the city, the free tour also recommends places to eat, drink and visit along the way.

“I never thought of my thesis as a business until I won the chairman’s medal prize and lots of people in the creative industries told me I should turn the idea into a reality,” explains Ms Katara, who comes from Mumbai.

“That was the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey. I’ve travelled a lot and have always had a love-hate relationship with walking tours. Sometimes they don’t fit your schedule, or you can’t hear what’s being said. I worked with a close friend who is an app designer and really helped me understand augmented reality technology.

“SENSEcity uses sound and texture mapping to create a much more holistic experience for visitors.”

After putting together a business plan and getting endorsement from Glasgow University, Ms Katara was granted an entrepreneurial visa to work in the country. The next key step was being accepted on to RBS’s accelerator programme.

“As a working architect I didn’t plan on becoming an entrepreneur and just learned as I went along,” she adds. “Being in the hub with 70 other like-minded people facing similar challenges has really helped. Everyone shares their experiences.

“I’ve built some strong relationships there and ended up recruiting a key member of my team.”

Initially funding the business through savings, SENSEcity has since attracted grant and prize funding which has allowed it to grow and expand. Following a successful launch in Glasgow in April, Ms Katara is working to extend the app to Edinburgh and London, as well as her home city of Mumbai and India’s historic capital, New Delhi.

Not that the journey has been entirely smooth, of course.

“The financial rollercoaster of launching a start-up is always going to be really tough,” says the businesswoman. “But it’s all worthwhile when you get good feedback from customers and users. I was talking to one of our distributors in Central Station in Glasgow recently and they thanked me for creating this tour for Glasgow. That was such a special moment.

“One of the most important changes in my mindset came when I realised this product now belongs to the users, not me. Nothing beats the positive response from people who have enjoyed our tour.”

Ms Katara speaks highly of the entrepreneurial landscape in Glasgow – “It’s a really great and supportive place to start a business” – and she is full of sound advice for those thinking of taking the plunge.

“As an entrepreneur you have to wear so many different hats every day,” she says. “But the reality is we are not born wearing them. You have to learn. It’s vital to ask for help when you don’t know something. That really worked for me.

“Don’t be afraid to discuss your idea with others. Validate your product as early as you can by speaking to people you don’t know.

“When you find people that believe in you, it’s essential to keep them close. That will help keep you motivated when times are tough.”