Sanchit Malik from MIT Pune, Ish Jindal from NIT Warangal and Saurab Jain from IIT Delhi were in Russia for a youth conference during college. Like many others, this group of students was also excited to go around and see the country. Unfortunately there were no English sign boards for them to tour the place without help. Luckily, they decided to call one of Russian friends who came to their rescue and took them around and they had a great stay in Russia.
The experience of feeling lost in a foreign country made the trio wonder about the plight of many foreign tourists visiting a country like India with its diverse cultures and languages. In a moment of epiphany, they decided to start a greeter service for foreign tourists visiting India.
“We connect locals to tourists prior to the visits. If someon has to come to some place in India then we connect them to our greeters who are educated, good in English and other foreign languages,” explains Sanchit Malik, Co-Founder, Padhaaro (the only student Co-Founder in the team).
When tourists come to India, a different greeter from Padhaaro native to the city meets them and takes them around the city. The greeter and the tourists decide their trips. Padhaaro doesn’t get involved with the schedule. Most of the greeters are students from NITs and IITs. The idea is to give the traveler a local experience through the eyes of a person native to a place. There are some greeters who are older but most of them are young. Some of the greeters are also working professionals. Operating with 40 greeters in 20 cities, the greeters of Padhaaro are currently concentrated in cities along the golden triangle apart from the ones in Bangalore, Kochi and Hyderabad.
Launched on January 26, 2012, Padhaaro takes its role in improving India’s image seriously for the greeters are selected after a tough selection process. The applicants are expected to perform different tasks like writing a blog post on India that will fetch them a minimum of 30 points. The applicants who managed to accumulate the 30 points will be further interviewed before being appointed as a greeter. The idea is to select only candidates who are serious and passionate about what they want to do. So what’s in it for the greeters? Greeters get Paadharo goodies; work on improving India’s image and a chance to make a friend from another country learning about a different culture. The tourist clearly instructed beforehand to pay for the greeter’s expenses (like food, travel) while they travel around. “The experiences of the greeters have been awesome. Once he meets a tourist, they have built good relationships and continued to stay in touch even afterwards,” says Sanchit
Though the greeters are not getting paid at the moment, Padhaaro (which is currently free of cost in its beta) will start paying them once they start generating income. As for the revenue plans of this startup, they have planned to monetize through other services like hotel booking etc and keep the greeter service one that will always remain free.
Like most startups, these guys are also sticking to simple social media like presence on Facebook and Twitter. Being a travel tour service, they also answer questions on quora and travel blogs as thought leaders in the area of travel. Since their service involves both foreigners and Indians, they are working on appointing ambassadors in other countries like Russia and Indonesia to spread the word around about their service.
“We want to make a solid base in India. We would make it international some day as well,” says Sanchit optimistically about the future of their company.
To know more, see Padhaaro