CHENNAI: The millennial population’s urge to spend more on travel and leisure has given rise to a gambit of new businesses in the tourism sector. In an industry where companies like Airbnb are thriving due to an increasing number of people exploring the concept of homestays, IIM Bangalore-incubated start-up Nativefolks is taking the less trodden, yet promising, path of ecotourism.
The company has received seed funding from IIM-Bangalore’s launchpad programme and has taken up ecotourism projects in Odisha, funded by Jindal Steel.
The start-up, founded by 31-year-old Ashwini Krishna, ties up with residents in rural areas across India — native villagers who would be able to provide an authentic dining and cultural experience for tourists .
“Nativefolks is all about local folks — the natives, their culture, their way of life, all the drama and the stories. Our beneficiary list includes host families who receive 60-70 per cent of the charge that customers pay for home stays, drivers, artists, craftsmen, guides, folk dancers, SHG groups providing value added services like serving local food and selling local handmade produce,” said Krishna.
“We’ve already spread roots in Goa, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Sikkim, and have entered Maharashtra and Assam this year. We’re looking to expand to newer locations. Goa is known to be a party town, but we look to provide service around less-explored places like Divar Island, Hollant, Morjim and Netravali,” he said.
Even as volunteer trips, sustainable tourism is at its nascent stages among domestic consumers. Recent studies by the US Family Travel Survey reveal that 72 per cent of tourists from the United States reveal that they will repeat volunteer trips, while 22 per cent said they will take one in the near future.
“Foreign tourists also contribute to our revenue. However, currently the mix between domestic and foreign tourists is 80:20. This year, by expanding reach and footprint in terms of tie-ups with native villagers, we’re looking to bring the mix to 60:40,” said Krishna.“We’re eyeing government grants as well as funds from corporates as part of their CSR initiatives. Our homestays will not only help open up alternate livelihood opportunities for rural folk, but also bring better infrastructure and communication facilities to villages,” he said.
An experience of life in countryside
Nativefolks ties up with residents of rural areas across the country It has already spread roots in Goa, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Sikkim, and has entered Maharashtra and Assam this year