Isn’t the first image that comes to our mind when we say ‘travelling India’ that of a land of traditions and ethnicity? But do tourists really see that shade of a cultural country with camel rides and hand-crafted artwork or do they just see the India of metros?No worries anymore. Neil Armstrong may not have travelled to the other side of the moon - but with ‘Travel Another India’ he certainly can travel the other side of this beautiful and culturally rich nation!
Abhilasha Dafria for YourStory.in gets in touch with co-founder of ‘Travel Another India’ - Gouthami and finds out more about the venture.
Travel Another India- the name suggests tourism and travel. But unfold the mystery behind the ‘Another India’ bit.
Travel Another India aspires to bring a unique experience to the urban traveller, including guests with disabilities. While doing so, we ensure that our hosts, who provide this experience, have a sustainable, alternative income option.
The India that most tourists see is the one with ancient architecture, busy bazaars and sunny beaches. There is another India, simpler, but the more beautiful for it, where the traveller actually meets the real charm of India, its people. The experience is of the huge diversity of cultures, cuisines, music and a thousand other small pleasures. When was the last time you went on a bullock cart ride?
This is where we step in.
What led to inculcating this idea? Being associated with NGOs for over 15 years, I have travelled around India and often thought that tourism would be such a wonderful alternative livelihood source. I felt that we could create more social change by working on livelihoods such as what the UNDP’s Endogenous Tourism Project was doing. In Kutch, as part of the Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan, we had implemented the UNDP Project in the village of Hodka where it was a resounding success. I then accepted a consultancy with UNDP for the same project and felt that this is what I would like to do long term. Hence Travel Another India came up.
What according to you was missing in the existing communities then?
Well, I have enjoyed the hospitality of many rural communities during my travels. The only ingredients these communities lack are access to seed capital, channels into the tourism industry infrastructure, adequate exposure, and a collective organizational structure.
What were the challenges you faced while starting up? Tell us about your initial obstacles.
In the initial stage, the challenges were getting the right partners in the business, finding the right destinations and reaching out to the guests. There was also the personal hurdle of understanding all aspects of the business even if it was not my strength area.
So how did you handle the monetary aspect of starting up. Did you fundraise? If not, are you looking at getting funded now?
So far I have used money from my savings, my father, consultancies and award money. Over the next six months I will start looking for external funding.
Since how long now have you been operational, and where are you based? The company was registered in April 2009. Travel Another India is legally registered in Chennai. However, we are a network organisation and do not have an office anywhere. The team is spread across Bangalore, Chennai and Delhi.
How big is your team and are you looking at hiring?
Our team has two full-time people and six part-time people. We also bring in our network of consultants to provide expertise as needed. And yes, we are hiring!
Are there other players in the market doing similar things that you could name?
HELP Tourism, Ecosphere, Grassroutes, Village Ways, The Blue Yonder- would be few.
So what is your USP?
While there are others who offer tours off the beaten track, we are different in that we work alongside rural communities and ensure that they own, manage and control the venture. We also have an initiative called Journeys without barriers where we set up holiday packages for guests with disabilities. The hosts are also individuals or groups of persons with disabilities and their families. We do not own any of the properties. We provide all support for three years and are then available on a need basis.
Can you share with us some interesting trends about the market that you are trying to capture?
The market that we are trying to capture is interested in exploring the other – whether in food, climate, transport options, etc. While they are interested in seeing the sights, they are also equally interested in interacting with the host community and understanding them a little better. They are curious about India’s numerous crafts and would like to try their hand at them rather than just buy them
What were your highs and lows?Highs would be:
Guest feedback – whether positive or negative – the fact that they give feedback means that the holiday has made a difference to them.
The Sankalp Award in 2009
The Cartier Women’s Initiative Award in 2010
The launch of Himalaya on Wheels
Lows would be:
Ending partnerships with Destinations
What are your greatest challenges and how do you prepare to cope with them?
Our greatest Challenges are maintaining quality through continuous training and dialogue with village communities, ensuring that we maintain authenticity and don’t give in to poor copies, again through continuous dialogue with village communities, ensuring a smooth fund flow to keep setting up new destinations through a systematic fund raising.
And finally, where and how do you see yourself going ‘bout this?
We hope to have about 35 destinations operational by the end of 2013. We also hope to become part of a larger network of responsible tourism destinations so that guests have a real choice available to them in terms of spread and reach.
Do check out http://www.travelanotherindia.com/ for further details!