Mahatma Gandhi once said “India’s way is not Europe’s, and India lives in seven hundred thousand villages.” To know India one has to know it’s villages, the way of life there – the culture, the traditions and the festivals. The kind of diversity that exists is unimaginable. With the new wave of rural tourism, these villages have become accessible to the uninitiated urban folk who have never had a chance to see village life at very close quarters. A new initiative in this space here to give you a whiff of rural life is India Untravelled, an enterprise aiming to bridge the gap between socially responsible rural tourism offerings in India and travelers looking for indigenous and offbeat experiences.
TBI had a chat with Shivya Nath, the co-founder of India Untravelled to find out more about her venture:
TBI: What is India Untraveled and did you come up with this idea?
India Untravelled (www.indiauntravelled.com) was launched in January 2012, as a marketing initiative to introduce travel enthusiasts to socially responsible experiences in rural and offbeat parts of India. We work with partners who manage farm-stays, home-stays and village-stays, and help them raise awareness and generate business using social media platforms. These experiences let travellers discover the vibrant culture of India’s villages, indulge in delectable local cuisines, uncover ancient traditions, rejuvenate with the region’s folk music & dances, and explore centuries old indigenous art forms. Our revenue model is directly correlated to the amount of business we generate for our partners.
The idea of India Untravelled was born on the countryside of Punjab, where a family from the pind of Ghallu managing a farmhouse amid a 400-acre fruit farm really touched me. Tourism constituted a big part of their livelihoods, but due to lack of a significant online presence, the revenues pouring in were not nearly enough to sustain them. With my experience in digital marketing at the Singapore Tourism Board, I decided to start India Untravelled in an attempt to bridge the online marketing gap between travellers and countryside hosts in India.
TBI. We have heard about your plans to celebrate Baisakhi in Rural Punjab. Can you give us some more details about this festival and your itinerary?
Everyone in India has heard of Baisakhi, but almost no one knows how the farmers of rural Punjab celebrate it. Our Baisakhi trip to Punjab offers an exciting chance to immerse yourself in Punjabi culture, participate in the soulful festivities of the harvest festival, and savor traditional Punjabi hospitality and delicious Punjabi food cooked traditionally in earthen vessels using fresh-farm grown ingredients.
Highlights of the trip include staying on a countryside Punjabi farm in traditional mud & thatched roof cottages and farm tents, traditional folk performances on the farm, a day trip to Anandpur Sahib for the street festivities of Baisakhi, night walks in the forest surrounding the farm, and a visit to the Indus Valley excavation site at Ropar. This is the first trip of its kind and the revenues generated will be used to sustain the efforts of Prakriti Farms in organic farming and in supporting the livelihoods of artisans in the nearby village of Rail Majra.
This 3 day-2 night trip will leave from Delhi on the morning of April 13, and the total cost including stay, meals & transport ranges between INR 6,000 and 7,500, depending on the choice of accommodation. Bookings can be made at +91 8527 141 626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
TBI. Which are the places that you currently organize trips to? What are your future plans?
Our current focus is more on independent travel rather than fixed trips. Travel enthusiasts can browse through the experiences our destinations offer, call us to book their stay & seek advise on their itinerary, and set out on their own journey through rural India.
We currently have partners in Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Rajasthan, and are looking at adding new untravelled destinations throughout the year.
TBI. What do you mean by “socially responsible travel”? How does your initiative help others?
To us, “socially responsible travel” entails one or more of the following efforts, using tourism as the main driver:
– Providing livelihood opportunities to the local community
– Conserving the local ecology & environment of the destination
– Preserving the local heritage of the destination
At India Untravelled, we help our partners sustain their efforts in developing socially responsible tourism in untravelled parts of India, through a strategic approach to online marketing. At the same time, we hope to introduce travellers to a side of India that not many have explored before, facilitating their understanding of rural India and exposing them to the tenets of responsible travel. Finally, we reinvest the revenue share made by India Untravellled in new partnerships and in scaling the marketing efforts for existing partners.
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