Till around 2010, the inhabitants of North-east India were not fully aware of the concept of homestay or holiday home. Travellers visiting the amazing states of the northeastern reason had to mostly rely on hotels and IBs. After the launch of Airbnb in 2012, the home-stay, farm-stay and traveller’s hostel saw a boom in the hospitality industry.
In last few years, North-east India registered close to 80 lakh domestic and international tourists. And the surprising fact is, most of them haven’t even seen 20 percent of the region. Reason being, lack of proper accommodation and accessibility.
OK North East is one of the popular travel accommodation and tour companies which is doing things differently.
“Rather associating with already set establishments, we are going from villages to villages, towns to towns and cities to cities, and help out the locals, who are willing to host, with setting up their homes or huts as homestays. These hosts have never had a paid guest or heard about something like this before. Once the setup is complete, we start with the marketing and help travellers reach the places which are considered most interior and unexplored.” Says Jim Ankan Deka, the co-founder of OK North East.
The company offers free travel tools and information to help travellers reach certain locations which are untouched and untarnished. The team at OK North East is headed by Jim and Debjani Hazarika, another co-founder. They give special attention to the needs of the tourists and while doing so, they are supporting and training the villagers especially, to be equipped with soft skills including communication, presentation, hygiene, teamwork and personal habits; thus empowering and encouraging them to be independent entrepreneurs.
The best thing about the services provided by OK North East is that these services are experienced first by the team, and only when they are satisfied, they open it up for the tourists and backpackers. The team maintains the connection with the hosts, as well as, the guests while they are staying at one of the homestays, campsites or any other alternate accommodations listed under the company.
Generally, backpackers are more interested in meeting other travelers while they love to travel in group to new places, explore different cultures, try various cuisines and stay at offbeat and rural locations. Keeping the same in mind, OK North East came up with various plans and ideas relating to adventure and experience tours to not very famous to totally unexplored locations in the northeast. From yoga, meditation and life-skills trips to community fishing to jungle safaris to getting an experience in cultivation, traditional music or folklore, the company has various fun-filled activity tours under their belt apart from the unorthodox accommodation services. OK North East designs educational and experimental camping expeditions to various wildlife sanctuaries for school and college students, as well as, teachers and professors. There are special tours for bikers and people looking for off-roading experiences.
“We know that travellers suffer a lot while they travel in India as many of the cheap guest-houses or hotels are often found to be filthy with untidy beds and stinky washrooms. The food at most of these places are unhygienic too. We care for our guests. That’s why we make sure that our hosts and caretakers are fully trained to maintain good hygiene. They keep the homes spotless and our team monitors the same regularly. We mostly serve home-cooked meals at most of our homestays prepared by the hosts themselves. This is the best way to taste the awesome food of different tribes and communities of Northeast.” Says Debjani.
OK North East is the brainchild of Jim Ankan Deka, who is also an award winning Assamese musician from Guwahati. He established his first company, the Eastern Fare Music Foundation in Bangalore in 2008. In the same year he created the first page dedicated to North-East India which was providing information about places, culture and people of the Northeast. He wrote close to 300 articles keeping North-east India as his subject. He left Bangalore in 2015 and after travelling through the Northeastern region extensively, he along with his friend Debjani came up with the plan of setting up different campsites and homestays for tourists in the rural areas. That was the beginning of OK North East. The company was later registered in 2017.
The whole concept of farm stay or traveler’s hostel was missing in India, especially in the Northeast. The founders’ travel experiences prompted them to come up with these accommodation facilities that could match the international standards of security and hygiene. Today with the help of OK North East, backpackers can travel to some of the most remote areas fearlessly and stay at one of the accommodations provided by the company without any hassle.
OK North East is currently operating in three states of North East – Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya. They have been adopting villages and commencing different projects like building special ethnic and traditional styled cottages and hostels and constructing toilets for tourists. They are recruiting people from the rural areas who are good at various skills and talents like cooking, music, storytelling, art, housekeeping, farming etc.
The wide array of services offered by OK North East comprise
- homestay accommodations with daily housekeeping, neat dormitories as well as private rooms, all facility common kitchen, local food, Wi-Fi wherever there is network, community fishing, local food and beverages, music, traditional dance sessions and other activities,
- campsites with all essentials and toilets,
- backpacker hostel with free breakfast,
- adventure and experience tours,
- and agrotourism – bringing visitors to a farm or ranch.
The team at OK North East is doing something exceptional and has brought a completely new style to the startup system in the hospitality business. So far, the response that OK North East has received from travellers has been tremendous. With more that 300 positive reviews by both Indian and international travellers, the company is surely progressing in the right track. The company has transformed the way people look at travelling when they visit North-east of India. Now the visitors can simply visit the magical land of Northeast and ‘live like a local!’