What if you could get opportunities to explore offbeat places across the country for free? And while doing so, you could help small businesses in rural areas thrive!

In 2021, Delhi-based Aakash Maan co-founded Volunteer Yatra to tap into volunteer tourism to help small businesses flourish and prevent rural migration.

Aakash says, “Several small businesses are dependent on travel agents to attract tourists. As they cannot afford skilled marketing experts and content creators to promote their works, we shortlisted volunteers to address this gap.”

After developing the right marketing strategies, he assigns volunteers from diverse backgrounds to visit small business owners.

“During their brief on-site travel, they assist them in promoting their work through content creation, graphic designing, optimising social media, creating murals on walls, connecting with right partners, and much more,” he adds.

Aakash informs that most of these volunteers are freelancers, on sabbatical, or those working from home.

“This also enables them to embark on meaningful journeys while they save on accommodation and food expenses and contribute to community development,” he says.

So far, Aakash has established an army of 2,000 active volunteers who collaborate with hosts for a period of six months to one year.

These volunteers have assisted 170 hosts — mostly hostels, homestays, and self-help groups — in states like Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Jammu and Kashmir, Goa, and Sikkim.

Aakash charges an annual fee of Rs 2,000 from volunteers to sustain the for-profit business.

While he charges Rs 5,000 per month from revenue-generating businesses, he claims to take no fee from non-profits and low-income businesses.

Commenting on making a positive difference through volunteer tourism, he says, “We have solved the organisational problems of our hosts in the most affordable way. One of our hosts could pay for his son’s tuition fee as his business took off after connecting with us.”

“We have experienced so many stories already, with many more to come,” adds Aakash.