An Electronics Engineering graduate from Goa College of Engineering, Ashwini Krishna, 31, founder of www.nativefolks.com has six years of experience in the field of supply chain management working with three different MNCs. After her short stint in the corporate world she quit her job to realise her dream of starting a social enterprise. She joined a 15 month Young leadership Development fellowship program conducted by ICICI foundation. She worked at grass route level at villages on skill development and adolescent education. She spoke to VIKANT SAHAY about this journey and her foray into the business of homestays in Goa
HERALD: You have taken up a unique business in Goa, what is your field of specialty?
ASHWINI KRISHNA: After observing that Goa has tremendous potential in building up homestays, I took up this challenge to collate and organise this sector. Our homestays are simply a way to mingle with kind hearted people amidst picturesque landscapes in places like Divar Island, Hollant, Morjim, Netravali etc which reflects the true charm of Goa. The natives are more than happy to accommodate guests, share their knowledge on places, food and culture at same time get to know something new from travelers in return. Travellers can look forward to a comfortable, clean and safe stay. We also promote local activities and festivals to make the stay at our locations more enriching. Trips like ‘Sunny side of Goa’ offers a 7 days 6 nights travelling trip covering the best and unique parts of North and South Goa while staying at our countryside homestays. ‘Art and Heart’ is again a special trip to Orissa where you spend time learning unique arts and handicrafts from residential artists.
HERALD: How does your enterprise help Goans and your customers?
AK: As the name suggests ‘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, drivers, artists, craftsmen, guides, folk dancers, SHG groups providing value added services like serving local food, selling local handmade produce. This initiative looks forward to tread the path of a cultural entrepreneurship, unique to each community. It will help to open up alternate livelihood opportunities for Goans, create more exposure to local arts, heritage and culture and in turn rejuvenate the local economy. Goa is usually known as a party destination. However, through our trips and homestays, we wish to bring focus to its people, nature, heritage, culture, food, arts and music which would eventually promote alternate tourism. Not only will it bring new opportunities, better infrastructure and communication facilities to the villages, but also bring the heart of Goa to the tourists who wish to see where true Goa resides.
HERALD: Who are your major customers?
AK: Our major customers are basically Geo savvy travellers who wish to experience peoples’ lifestyles and cultures very different from their own. Special interest travellers like art lovers, adventure lovers, nature lovers, people who want to learn something new on their travels or meditate are also interested in our product. Also, people who wish to spend some days away from everyday chaos of a city, to simply lay back and relax.
HERALD: What issues did you have to face when you thought of launching this enterprise? Any help from government /CIBA?
AK: Starting up Nativefolks was quite challenging, right from finding out how to register a company, to doing research, identifying villages, getting beneficiaries to believe in the project, putting up a website, putting up processes, managing finances, promoting a location and finally getting your first guest. A business plan presentation helped me get an office space at Goa IT Innovation Center at Verna. Forming strong bonds with the community has been a driving force to get this going further. Found a team in the community, friends and family helped me at various point of time; found mentors even in strangers and each of the locations were inspiring in itself. The happiness and love that community shared when we got our first guest is something which I consider as our first achievement as Nativefolks.
HERALD: What made you work as an entrepreneur in Goa? How did you get this idea?
AK: My journey through various villages of India left me amazed at the stark differences between urban and rural world. This led to a dream - to do something which works hard at changing hearts, minds and habits to bridge this gap. Maybe the world needs smart villages more than the smart cities. The thought to do something which helps in preserving and enhancing the dynamics that makes rural life special and sustainable gave birth to the idea of Nativefolks. My family has been based out of Goa for more than a decade now. I have a deep connection with Goa and wanted to give back to the society. Also adding to it was the fact that Goa having a ready tourist base made it easier for me to test the idea here.
HERALD: How do you see the Goan market? Is there a demand during off season?
AK: Goa has become one of the favourite tourist destinations. There is growing inflow of both domestic as well as international tourist in the country. This increasing trend suggests a huge opportunity for homestays as a means of efficient resource consumption of existing free space to stay. Emergence of eco and culturally aware tourists in market adds to the scope. Usually friendly and hospitable local population, high level of literacy of local population and some spectacular cultural events here are again a plus. Also, I see off tourist season, mainly monsoon, as an opportunity, as not only does Goa gets greener during those days but also we have some of our best traditional festivals like Bonderam and Sao Joao celebrated at that time.
HERALD: Where do you see yourself and your company in next five years from now?
AK: Our goal is to create new community led tourism projects as well as partner with existing ones to promote sustainable development and community benefits. To have one part of Nativefolks completely focus on project development and measuring impact on environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of community while the other part to focus on creating and marketing products. The idea is that when someone wishes to plan a getaway to offbeat location and is looking for some iconic and meaningful experiences, we want Nativefolks to immediately cross people’s minds. Personally, I see myself being proud of Nativefolks, travelling far and wide, and working on more ideas which spread love.