Want to See the Real Northeast? This Mumbai Man Can Help You Do It Responsibly!

Want to See the Real Northeast? This Mumbai Man Can Help You Do It Responsibly!

One of the tour packages Kipepeo sells is the Bhangajyang lakes trek, in which tourists will traverse through the border of Arunachal Pradesh and Bhutan and see stunning glacial lakes, as well as Gorichen and Kangto, the highest peaks in Arunachal Pradesh.

Promotion

Unfulfilled and dissatisfied with the corporate life, Mumbai-born Piran Elavia decided to take a sabbatical sometime in 2008. On a tip from a friend, he got an opportunity to do some voluntary work with a non-profit in the pristine climes of Lachen in north Sikkim.

It was a community-based tourism project, where he would work with locals and help them develop robust alternative sources of livelihood. From north Sikkim, he soon found his way to another similar project in west Sikkim.


With this unique, nine-day travel experience, traverse through the picturesque border between Arunachal Pradesh and Bhutan for just Rs. 39,350.
Book now at The Better India Shop.


“I liked the work these non-profits were doing on the ground and soon developed a network with other such organisations working in the region. This network took me to Manas in Assam, where I worked with the Bodo community. Subsequently, I travelled to Nagaland, where yet again I did some voluntary work,” says Piran, in an exclusive conversation with The Better India.

After travelling through the Northeast for nearly two years, he started his socially-inclined enterprise, Kipepeo, in 2010.

Piran Elavia
Piran Elavia

So, what is Kipepeo (the Swahili word for ‘butterfly’) all about?

“The venture promotes community-based tourism in Northeast India and believe in bringing about a more equitable society and a sustainable world through the medium of tourism. I primarily started this to address two fundamental concerns. For starters, in those days, residents of mainland India were apprehensive about visiting the Northeast because of many negative perceptions. Secondly, people in these parts are extremely warm-hearted and nice, but they didn’t have too many livelihood options,” he says.

Piran and his team wanted to get mainland tourists in Northeast India and show them what the area was actually about, while also providing alternative livelihood options for local communities.

“We promote local homestays, use local guides, market products that are locally made, and train them in operating these ventures, and have been doing this work for nearly ten years now. We conduct different kinds of trips—cultural, wildlife or festival-oriented. However, at its very heart, the objective is to employ local communities and ensure when the clients come, they’re learning about the local culture and understand the place,” informs Piran.

Essentially, what Kipepeo is looking to do is promote responsible tourism, in which local communities are closely involved in sharing the economic gains, and thus incentivised to preserve their own culture and environment.

Take in all the beauty on the Bhangajyang Lakes Trek. (Source: Kipepeo)
Take in all the beauty on the Bhangajyang Lakes Trek. (Source: Kipepeo)

Take the example of the picturesque Bhangajyang lakes trek, in which tourists will traverse through the border of Arunachal Pradesh and Bhutan and see stunning glacial lakes, as well as Gorichen and Kangto, the highest peaks in Arunachal Pradesh.

“Guides and porters from a village called Lubrang which is on the fringes of this trek will take us through this trail. They know the area very well as they are members of the native Brokpa community and are essentially herders. Paying them responsibly for their services will give them an alternative source of livelihood. Honestly, not many people in the mainland even know about this place or stunning trek. We are trying to open up a new avenue of income for the local communities by involving them and helping them understand tourism, its economic possibilities, the opportunities it can open up for them. As of now, they don’t understand the economic potential for tourism in these parts. We are trying to change that responsibly,” says Piran.

Kipepeo is also trying to promote another location called Wakro, which is located in eastern Arunachal. Once again, they are working with homestays and promoting tourism in those parts.

Along the Bhangajyang Lakes Trek. (Source: Kipepeo)
Along the Bhangajyang Lakes Trek. (Source: Kipepeo)

Piran spends half the year in Mumbai and the other in the Northeast. “I have been travelling through the region for the past ten years, and through this, I scout locations. If I feel the place has potential, I speak to the local communities and work something out. In most places, they are generally receptive to our proposal,” he says.


With this unique, nine-day travel experience, traverse through the picturesque border between Arunachal Pradesh and Bhutan for just Rs. 39,350.
Book now at The Better India Shop.


In many parts of the country, particularly in regions like Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh, which are open to commercial tourism, we have witnessed its devastating consequences on both local communities and the environment.

What are you waiting for? (Source: Kipepeo)
What are you waiting for? (Source: Kipepeo)

Kipepeo is not just trying to prevent this from happening, but also bridging the cultural gap that exists between these communities and the rest of India. There is no better way to this than responsible tourism.

(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)

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