Entrepreneur: Prachi Khaitan
Business Name: Project Northeast
Welcome to Entrepreneurs of India #startupstories episode 115
Northeast India is a paradise for travellers who seek new heights in experiential travelling. But the region has hardly been explored by tourists. Project Northeast, founded by Prachi Khaitan, is an initiative that helps you explore the unexplored beauty of northeast. A trip to Meghalaya when she quit her corporate job instantly made Prachi fall in love with northeast India. The trip changed her perspective towards travelling and gave her the idea of Project Northeast.
“We are an experiential travel company that focuses on giving an honest taste of Northeast India, make one experience the region in its rawest and purest form,” says founder Prachi who adopts a social entrepreneurship model to carry out her business. She hires native people as tourist guides to give a seamless experience for travellers.
Project Northeast is not just another travel company that gives you just a glimpse of destinations. It really walks you through every unique element of northeast India – from culture to food. “We ensure that our travellers are well informed and aware of the places they have visited before they bid goodbye,” says Prachi. Project Northeast is also at the forefront to create an awareness about the extensive biodiversity of northeast. What it took to build a unique travel company? Prachi speaks in length about her initiative.
1) How did you get your idea for this business?
It’s quite the quintessential millennial story I would say: Right after leaving my corporate 9 to 5 job in Gurgaon, I went for a trip to Meghalaya to explore the great outdoors with a few friends. I went trekking, boating and spotted beautiful waterfalls and landscape across the region.
The more I explored, the more I fell in love with the place. Before this trip I was unaware of the wonders, that Northeast India had to offer, realizing there was lack of awareness about this natural biodiversity hotspot.
This sparked the idea of starting Project Northeast which was amalgamated with my academic/work background in sustainable development and human rights to create a sustainable model that would help create an impact in the region and promote its natural beauty and culture.
2) Can you elaborate on Project Northeast?
Project Northeast is an initiative that promotes northeast India’s diverse geographical landforms and rich heritage. We curate experiences that take our travellers off the beaten path, introducing them to the culture, heritage and beautiful people of the regions along with unravelling the regions scenic beauty.
We wish for our travellers to live the adventure with us. And hence you will often find them showering under waterfalls, picking fruits from farms, exploring caves with the most phenomenal limestone deposits, hiking to the mouth of Asia’s tallest plunge waterfall, learning about tribal cultures, enjoying family picnics in the most scenic of places or living in the most quaint cottages.
Whether you’re looking for a romantic escape or a group getaway, we provide all of the professional and personalized services to cover your needs. You can cover the northeast the wild-way or the family-way with us.
3) Why is ‘now’ a good time for this idea to exit?
The recent trend have shown that travellers have become more experimental with their choices of destinations, they are all craving for experiences. It’s even more rewarding for them when they get off the far beaten track to explore places that didn’t even know existed.
Due to the lack of awareness and overly commercialization of Northeast India, the region has remained raw and pure giving one an authentic experience. Which is in fact the tagline of Project Northeast ~ Experiencing the Northeast in its Rawest and Purest form. We want our travellers and trekkers to experience northeast in its entirety and completely fall in love with the place before they say goodbye to the least acknowledged part of the Indian Subcontinent.
4) What was the reaction of your family when you first decided to become an entrepreneur?
I come from a family of entrepreneurs, so it wasn’t a surprise when I chose this path. It was in fact my mother who pushed me to start Project Northeast and my father has given me complete moral support on this journey.
5) What is your biggest obstacle in the next 12 months and how will you overcome it?
Northeast India is a seasonal destination because of the heavy monsoons the region faces. We are going to try and promote monsoon tourism in the region to have more travellers come in, to witness the beautiful waterfalls in all its glory.
6) What habits contribute to your success?
I have a really long path to walk to success. However, one’s attitude towards their work leads to success. Firstly, don’t consider any work to be big or small. I have broken my back to self coordinate trips, gone from cafe to cafe to put up posters about upcoming trips, personally answered every email and call, basically been a one man army running the entire show.
Secondly, love what you do, always remember your purpose and (try) never complain, treat every obstacle as a challenge. My work is my temple and I make sure to have fun while working.
Thirdly, and most importantly treat your crew well!
7) If you had the opportunity to start this business again what would you do differently?
Maybe believe in myself more and have lesser self doubts.
8) What is your favourite inspirational quote?
The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honourable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well. – Ralph Waldo Emerson.
9) Where do you find inspiration?
I draw inspiration from strong women in history and really enjoy reading their biographies. What I have learnt from these women is the purpose behind their work. For instance, Princess Diana was an advocate for creating awareness about HIV AIDS and Gayatri Devi broke all shackles of the patriarchal society while perusing her political career. What drives me is the purpose behind my work, to create opportunities for the youth of Northeast India and to create awareness about this beautiful region.
10) What advice would you give to someone starting off?
I would urge you to have a strong purpose behind the your venture. Social Entrepreneurship is the way forward, our country is in dire need for young entrepreneurs who look beyond monetary gain and really want to create an impact on society through their work, even in a micro level.
There is a big misconception that one needs to have a sizable investment to become an entrepreneur. I strongly disagree to that. I started Project Northeast from scratch, with just a laptop and wifi. Social Media has been the greatest tool to spread the word about project northeast.
It’s very important for your brand to reflect your personality. One needs to put in their heart and soul into the work that they are doing and create a unique identity. Draw from your knowledge, experience and education.
A business won’t sustain unless it serves the right segment of customers. Prachi unlocked an opportunity in travel industry by catering to people who sought unique travelling experience within the country. Their experimental choices of destination helped her position Project Northeast properly.
Moreover, her initiative goes beyond the scope of a regular travel company. It provides native people of northeast with job opportunities. As a social entrepreneur, she put her heart and soul into building Project Northeast as an initiative that helped people. She built her business through smart and reliable social media strategies. So it does not matter how you start. What matters is how you take things forward. A big thanks to Prachi for sharing her inspiring startup story.
Click here to follow Project Northeast on Instagram.