Product Name: Indiscover
Logo (first draft):
Short Description: A community (web-enabled and physical) of college students across India, learning and sharing the history and heritage of India, and and then reusing that knowledge as part-time tour guides to make some money.
Indiscover marries three things.
a) The ignorance of youth about India’s heritage, culture and history. True for some, not true for others but definitely true for me. And yes I do give a damn about it.
b) The thriving travel industry is bringing in the tourists – sure. but is the ‘content’ matching up to the demand – are there any well qualified tour and travel guides – not Lonely Planets but real people? I had taken a trip to the Taj Mahal back in my college days – in our group were two firangs who decided to hire a guide to tell us what the Taj was all about. This man clearly seemed a lot more interested in urban legends and unconfirmed fables than telling us anything useful about the Taj.
c) We all need pocket money :)
Perhaps they can even meet some interesting new people in the process.
How will it be enabled?
It would make sense to start it as small local communities first in areas with thriving student populations (such as Delhi/Mumbai). Get some historians/teachers willing to participate and conduct “heritage trips” where students travel around learn about a city and “heritage sessions”(on topics where actual locational visits are not possible). Back it up with a web portal where these people can interact, share – not just with their own local community but with others as well. This portal also becomes the resource for travellers to look for “Indiscover Buddies” (that at least sounds better than part-time tour guide).
How will it make money ?
It may sound like a non-profit organisation, but it shouldn’t be (because I think those are inherently unsustainable). Also, unless it makes money – for itself and for the students – it will just fizzle out. It may seem all nice and patriotic to learn about history for a bit – but then everyone will find something else to do.
The question is that do we leech off a small fraction of money that the students get paid or take a different approach. It probably be worthwhile to explore the latter. Can the Indiscover portal provide paid content such as audiobooks, or video tours taken during the heritage walks? Need to give this a little more thought.
Issues: Mindset – The reservations that the youth has about “petty” jobs. While in western countries working at a McDonald’s is probably the first job youngsters do – here such jobs are inevitably for the lowly. Limited Availability and Accessibility – This is a BIG one. Part-time automatically implies limited availability. Accessibility will become an issue as soon as we try and expand beyond the student rich areas. Will a tourist ever find an ‘Indiscover Buddy'(am I overdoing the buddy bit already?) in Khajuraho? Or even in popular places like Agra. Can Indiscover be that grassroot? Perhaps vella college students might be more than willing to actually travel all the way – which poses more problems – who pays for their travel – and whom do they travel with?
Around putting a layer of content on travel. Vertical Social Networking services like OkTataByeBye (A MakeMyTrip initiative), Geobeats – a service with professional travel videos from around the world.
Around learning about India. The only organised thing I can think of are the India Habitat Centre walks (none of which I have taken – but have heard about them).