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.
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.
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.
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.
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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Connect with us in Twitter at @ExploreBastar