Startup Spotlight: TheGreenerPastures – Travel With Them To Conserve And Sustain Northeast India
India is a country of 28 union states and 7 union territories. But, how many states have we visited as part of tour / vacation / holiday? Among this 28 states, there are definitely tier-1 / most-popular states for tourism. At the same time, there are some states that are least explored, least travelled, least known. Wouldn’t it be great if you could live in the rural Assam for a week and experience the ground life of locals? How about a great north eastern wildlife tour? But, who knows the North East India the best? Meet TheGreenerPastures. They are a travel company that offers travel package products for 7 North East states that are least travelled, least explored, least known. We had the opportunity to discuss with Vaivhav Todi, Co-Founder & Director of TheGreenPastures. Read on to know what Vaivhav has to say about Greener Pastures.
What’s “The Greener Pastures” into and what problem are you trying to solve?
There are two objectives of Greener Pastures. One is to bring people to Northeast India and show them a fascinating world in fascinating ways, a world which is different from what the media portrays northeastern India to be. The other is to preserve the region’s precious natural and cultural diversity. And this is where travel comes in, as it provides a source of income which is an alternative to the exploitation of natural resources, and at the same time, it encourages the indigenous population to not leave their culture and migrate to urban areas.
Tell us about your founding team.
Greener Pastures was founded by two of us – I and Neil Barooah. We were living in Bangalore at the time and there was this urge to return to our home, to contribute something, to preserve the richness. Accordingly, we left everything in Bangalore and moved to our home in Assam. Greener Pastures was the obvious result, as more than everything else, we are passionate travelers first. But yes, we did spend time researching on the benefits of ecotourism before we started, and that’s where we began to believe.
(In Pic – Left most: Vaivhav, Right most: Neil, Center: A traveller from Bangalore)
Your products are off-beat / has an adventure angle to it, how secure are the travellers on their expedition?
Security is our top-most priority. For the question of safety in northeastern India, we’ve ensured that all our tours and expeditions are to places which are approved by the government as safe, and which we personally feel are safe. And for all our adventures, we use the best of guides, porters, equipment and experts – be it our wildlife tours, white water rafting expeditions, trekking expeditions or any other activity that we offer.
Do you offer customized tours, group tours?
Until now, customized tours have been our most selling product. In-fact, we love to customize tours for our guests. It gives us a better understanding about their wants and helps us deliver them a memorable vacation.
As for group tours, we are currently not offering any. But the good news is – We’ll soon be launching some really interesting group tours and adventures, which is something to look out for.
Tell us about your community initiatives.
As of now, we support a number of community tourism initiatives in the region, which we thrive to promote to the best of our efforts. These initiatives are rural & tribal areas which have developed ethnic infrastructure to promote their culture and at the same, benefit from a sustainable and healthy source of income. A great example is the village of Mawlynnong, which prides itself in being the cleanest village of Asia. Tourism gives them a source of income, and at the same time, encourages them in their passion for a clean environment. Our aim for the future is to support and encourage more villages, provide them training so that they can have their own operational self-sustainable unit.
What’s “Let The Tree Live” project? If customers pay more than $100, they own a tree with their name carved on it? That sounds great.
We wanted to play a part in conservation, and then we read about Jadav Payeng, a man from Assam who has single handedly planted an entire forest in a span of many decades. We got inspired by him, and started “Let the tree live” – a fundraiser for Jadav Payeng, so that he can plant a thousand more trees in his forest. We have also offered a little exclusiveness for those who donate extra; we carve their name and a quote from them on a tree, and whenever they visit Northeast India, they can spend time with their tree.
How many trip products you have in total?
As of now, we have fourteen exclusive trips in our website. And in the coming few months, we plan to launch many other awesome products.
Which product among others sells like hot cake?
The wildlife and general tours are selling a lot. Then there is rain-forest trekking which has been popular.
What are the typical age range of your customers?
There is not much of a defined age range. Till now, our clients have ranged from 20 to 60 year olds.
What profile/segment of customers you target at?
We are targeting both domestic and international travelers. And since we offer varieties of specialty tours, the scope of our niche market is quite broad.
Did you receive any funding? or you expecting in near future?
There was no funding involved. We started out on our own. But in case a good opportunity arises in the future, we’re open to consider it.
Did you get any setback in the initial months of operation?
I’d say any start-up will face a few setbacks. Especially in the tour operating business, where you’ve to compete with so many other well established organizations. The start has been much motivating for us, but it should take a few years to properly establish ourselves.
Who are your competitors?
There are many out there. One search in Google reveals hundreds of travel companies.
Why do you think travellers will book their holiday trip in Greener Pastures than booking through Thrillophilia, 78mmAdventures, MakeMyTrip etc?
The other companies are all based outside northeastern India. But Greener Pastures is a product of this region. We always try to customize a tour, providing our guests with the best of in-depth knowledge about northeastern India, taking them to secret and exotic destinations which only a local will know. I’d say it is the personal touch and expertise in our tours that makes us different from others.
What’s your USP?
We provide the hospitality of a friend, the knowledge of a local, the service of passionate experts and an escape to an unexplored paradise.
What’s the goal of TheGreenerPastures for next 18 to 24 months?
The next 2 years are going to be very crucial for us. We aim to launch a lot of new products in the coming year. Group tours will be started soon. Spreading awareness about us, to both travelers and industry members, is another area we are planning to focus on. And once we get a little more established, community development and wildlife conservation initiatives will follow.
How are travellers reacting towards TheGreenerPastures so far?
The guests we have received have been the most wonderful part of our journey so far. It has been a pleasure meeting each one of them. They have encouraged us, supported us, and have appreciated what we are doing. Without the motivation that we received from them, Greener Pastures wouldn’t exist today.
Author: Karthick Prabu