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How travelling to offbeat places in India conceptualised our startup Unexplored Bastar

Travelling to unexplored places can transform life.

Blog by Jeet Singh Arya

While in my early days of school, we friends used to go by cycle to different places in Bastar to explore the region, that time it was more of the exploration, thrill and adventure. While exploring the beauty of Bastar and its tribal culture, slowly and steadily, it was making a huge impact on my curiosity and eagerness to know and learn more from rural India especially indigenous tribal people and that fuels my entire life to explore more and more unexplored places of India. I started travelling to different parts of India. In those years, I travelled to every nuke and corner of India, sometimes even the remotest corners of it.

Follow my map to know where I have been so far.

Travelled to these places so far – Jeet

My 10 learning from travelling:

I had not thought that travelling can change me so much. While travelling has increased my curiosity many folds, to know more about the world, it has also taught me many lessons.

  1. Nature has supreme power, so respect it in all possible ways.
  2. The world is full of beautiful places and people, especially in rural areas, are very down to earth, always helpful till the time it is not exploited by people.
  3. Culture is the best way to understand the science behind that region, lifestyle, food culture, people and their rituals.
  4. Every place has a distinctive identity which is unique to that place and community, it cannot be compared, so it is better to avoid putting your lenses. 
  5. Tribal people’s life is very scientific and in sync with the surrounding environment without harming the diversity of nature. A very balanced approach to living life.
  6. The inherent knowledge of indigenous people should continue to empower people; it should be the guiding force for the world.
  7. Culture conservation and knowing the roots is the most important thing for the younger generation.
  8. You know and understand yourself better; your thoughts, your strengths, your weaknesses, breaking your myths made by the society you live in.
  9. Rural people are the happiest people with limited resources.
  10. Tourism can play a pivotal role in understanding more about Mother Nature, learning the rural culture and also generating local employment. 

These learning have been the base for the conceptualization of Unexplored Bastar.

The thoughts behind conceptualization of Unexplored Bastar:

While travelling to some of the unexplored places in India, I realized that people are not having proper information about the places so they do not travel to places which can transform their lives. At that time, I was studying my Masters in Delhi and thought why not I start something with Bastar, my native place. In 2011, it all finally began with the support of my friends, Jitendra Nakka and Ashish Gadpole. Our aim was to create awareness among people about Bastar. On hearing the name of Bastar, people had the perception of a place where Maoism is a major force, men would be with bows and arrows, wearing minimal clothing, with little or no infrastructure development – a picture which depicted a society far from modern civilization. So, we created a Facebook page named Unexplored Bastar to let people know about the beauty of Bastar through pictures and videos and also breaking the myths about Bastar.

The journey from a traveller to an entrepreneur:

The Facebook page of Unexplored Bastar had grown exponentially; I realized that just making people aware will not solve the problem, as outside people negatively perceive Bastar like many offbeat locations, so they require somebody on the ground to help them to travel safely and let them explore maximum. Having reached a successful note in the corporate world, I decided to head back to Bastar to test the very concept of sustainable eco-tourism.

Trying to understand the lifestyle of indigenous people of remote locations

After leaving the partnership at a well-known startup of Ahmedabad based market research and business consulting organization, I thought to bring a change in the lives of tribal people of Bastar through tourism mode. Propounding this, I started a startup in continuation with the same name of the Facebook page UNEXPLORED BASTAR, with a clarion idea based on a social entrepreneurship model. Personally, I believe ‘tourism’ can be a positive force – a force which cannot be stopped by any counterforce.

Why I chose Bastar over many unexplored places in India where chances of success were evident?

Bastar is a major part of the red corridor. The term ‘red zone’ is pervasive only till the time ‘tourism’ gains ground. The coming of tourism is accompanied by greater demand for skilled manpower which calls for the formal means of imparting these in institutions. Here comes the crucial role of Arya Prerana Samiti, an institution that imparts training to tribal youths and prevails them with minute details related to the tourism and hospitality sector. This initiative at the grass-root level to impart training to the local youth in tourism sector enhances the opportunity of domestic livelihood. It was not just to be an ‘autonomous literacy’ where skills were acquired with no reference to values and context. So we tried to elevate these tribal youths with a critical view to connect them in a socio-cultural context to nature. Only then, the concept of eco-ethno-tourism can be held in a sustainable model. Earlier, learners were treated as beneficiaries but in our model, they are the actors and subjects. 

One of the training sessions of the local youth

These trained tribal youths are the service providers of Unexplored Bastar. Another organisation named Teamwork Creations also played a major role in the augmentation of documentaries, photography and videography of the places. Four years back, in 2016, it was indeed a momentous occasion on Earth Day, when we all came on a juncture to inspire a whole segment of Bastar.

In this small journey, we were fortunate to be featured in History Channel, Times Now, Times of India, Patrika, VICE, The Mint, Sahapedia, The Logical Indian, Dainik Bhaskar and other local channels. We also got the opportunity to speak about our journey at TEDx, DICCI-Regional Annual Meet, NRDA’s AWAAZ Youth Icon, Startup Conference by Alphapreneur, Global Tribal Entrepreneurship Summit Dantewada 2017, Living Library of Kathakar and many other forums.

In addition to it, we were among the Best Social Impact Projects in India by Outlook Traveller (IRTA) and recently won the National Entrepreneurship Award.

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