[Startup Bharat] How Assam-based Nomadic Territories is promoting northeast tourism to travellers through WhatsApp

Guwahati-based startup Nomadic Territories has been able to create travel itineraries for those interested in exploring Northeast India.
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With verdant landscapes and natural beauty, Northeast India is a largely unexplored region. Nomadic Territories, a travel startup registered in Assam, hopes to change that.

Founded in August 2019 by travel enthusiast Ankit Chetry, Nomadic Territories aims to bridge the gap between the northeastern states and mainland India by providing travellers with the right information and making them feel safe and at home while they travel in Northeast India.

The Guwahati-based startup provides services like trekking, road trips, experiential tours, customised trips, and also has multiple campsites across different locations in Northeast India.

To make these adventures more sustainable, Nomadic Territories discourages its clients from using single-use/disposable plastic bottles and other disposable items.

“The mantra at Nomadic Territories is to not forget our roots. Mother Earth has provided us all with these beautiful places, flora, and fauna, and we need to start taking responsibility to help preserve the beauty that exists. We have a strict policy of "No littering" during our trips,” states Ankit.

In the last 2.5 years, the startup claims to have served more than 800 guests, including treks, campsites, hikes, and trips combined, and more than 70 percent of the number came after the first lockdown.

Nomadic Territories

The journey and challenges

Born and brought up in Silchar, Assam, Ankit’s love affair for the hills and mountains started very early. He moved out of Assam after high school and started travelling to different places and realised how people knew very little about tourism in the northeast. This is when he decided to turn his passion into a profession. 

“One of the biggest reasons why a lot of people choose other places to travel to over the north eastern states is because they have next to zero knowledge about the places around here and there are so many myths and misconceptions they have about the north east,” Ankit tells YourStory.

Twenty-eight-year-old Ankit is a certified guide, licensed under Assam Tourism, and a trained climber. Before starting up, he worked with Tesco in Bengaluru as an internal audit assistant and was also a business development manager in a travel company in Delhi. He was also part of a travel startup in Assam founded by his cousins.

Ankit Chetry, Founder, Nomadic territories

To begin with, Nomadic Territories organised a couple of trips a month. In December 2019, it organised a campsite for the Hornbill Festival, held at Naga Heritage Village, Kisama, which is about 12 km from Kohima.

Talking about challenges, Ankit says, “Soon after, due to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) in December 2019, Meghalaya violence in the end of January 2020, and then the Covid pandemic - the series of events hit us and the tourism industry really hard. After the second lockdown, the situation has been slightly better. We are now organising multiple trips a month to different locations. We have set up our campsites in a couple of locations in Meghalaya and also in Viswema, Nagaland.”

He says, post the lockdown period, the startup conducted 40+ batches of treks in multiple locations, among which Dzukou valley, Mawryngkhang, and Japfu Peak have the highest number of batches. 

“We have also been conducting trips in the Dima Hasao district of Assam, and treks to Sielkal Peak, trips to Haflong, Harangajao, and Umrangso as well. We had a campsite at the Falcon Festival 2021 and managed to host close to 100 guests in the course of two days. We have been conducting regular weekend trips to Meghalaya, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, and Nagaland,” claims Ankit.

Image Credits : Insta page - Nomadic territories

One-stop destination for travellers

Based on the requirements of the tourists, Nomadic Territories offers different services. 

“We are a one stop shop for travellers. All our trips are a perfect fusion of leisure mixed with adventure. We put a lot of emphasis on the safety of our clients. A large chunk of our client base are female travellers and we make sure we provide a suitable and a safe ecosphere for women and also kids. Apart from that we are constantly working with the local community in developing any new destinations in the rural areas.”

For those who want to learn more about the culture, traditions, history, and people of northeast, they have something called ‘Experiential Trips’, which are focused on giving tourists an opportunity to explore something offbeat.

Ankit says adventure travel is getting a lot of attention. With new trekking routes being added, everyone wants to explore those. He adds that most of the treks in the northeast still remain unorganised and the startup has been working on simplying the experience for their clients. 

YS Design team

“Starting from transport, accommodation, and food, to logistics, we take care of everything. We offer our clients a host of adventure activities to choose from and we have trained local experts at all the locations who, along with our team members, make sure that our clients get a complete experience during their trip,” adds Ankit.

The startup’s core team consists of five members, along with people from different local communities across NE, some working as guides, while others operate homestays. 

Connecting the community

With a vision to empower the local community, the startup gives first priority to homestays for accommodation. 

“Most of the trips are curated by us and we always choose a homestay over a hotel or a guest house.  This allows the locals to earn money and helps us to give our tourists an authentic and local experience,” says Ankit.

The startup arranges village tours for tourists and allows them to interact with local people and local artisans, so that they have a first-hand experience of arts and crafts. It also discourages travellers from using single-use plastic bottles.

“This is how we are aiming for sustainable trips by making them as environmentally friendly as possible and letting the people in rural areas make a living as well,” adds Ankit.

Business model and revenue

The startup works on a B2C model, where it connects directly with tourists and there are no third parties involved. 

“All our trips are curated by us and led by one of our team members or by a local guide who is trained by us. In case of trekking, we guide our tourists along with our four team members.”

The startup generates revenue directly from the bookings. Depending on the location and amenities, the stay costs start at around Rs 1,200 per person. 

Ankit says, “Our primary medium of connectivity with our clients has been WhatsApp as we are able to share our itineraries over WhatsApp within no time. It is convenient and seamless and the client can book their trips on the platform itself.”

“We have relied on social platforms for lead generations. However, word of mouth remains the major contributor to the growth of our client base. We can say that more than 50 percent of our client base comes from word of mouth and we are proud to say that we have a loyal client base who likes travelling with us time and again.”

Starting with an initial investment of about Rs 2.2-2.4 lakh, the startup saw a turnover of Rs 14 lakh this fiscal year, despite the second lockdown. 

Assam-based startups like Greener Pastures, Oddessemania and ChaloHoppo are working in the same space.

The way ahead

According to India Tourism figures, the northeastern region received 77.13 lakh domestic visitors in 2016, and only 0.47 percent of domestic tourist visits within NE states. There is an upward trend in the last few years, but due to Covid, NE regions have seen a lower percent of arrivals compared to pre-pandemic time. According to UNWTO, there was a 71 percent decline in arrivals of International tourists globally.

With proper intervention from the government in promoting tourism in the rural and unexplored regions, there is a lot that can be achieved in terms of rural and adventure tourism in the states, says Ankit.

Speaking about future plans, he says, “We are looking forward to increasing the number of campsites. Work is in progress to procure two campsites in Assam, and one each in Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. We are also increasing the trekking locations and offbeat places (within NE). In 2022-2023, we are aiming to add Nepal to our list of service areas."

Edited by Megha Reddy

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