How did you think of this idea?
Well. I am belongs to Farmer family born in rural area. Since my childhood I was very close to agriculture in form of culture. All the rituals regards to agriculture like sowing, inter culture operations, harvesting season, worshiping domestic animals like I have been experienced in earlier period. My academics also belongs agriculture field as did graduation and post graduation in agriculture. During graduation period we had our group of friends, we always used to travel at country side during the weekends. That time my friends asking me about the things observing in the fields like what is this crop? What is this weed? What is the use of this instrument? Etc…that time I realizes that in our society there is a certain class who do not have any idea about this agriculture and all; at the same time they want to know about it. With this I have dreamed this idea about agritourism where people who would like to know about farming, want to experience the life of farmer, want to stay, eat like farmer, they can experience it here.
When did you begin this journey? and where?
As I was lived at Rajuri, a small village in Junnar tahasil of Pune district surrounded by hills, forest and full of nature. I always used to travel in hills, in forest during my school period at village. Before starting this tourism also I used to visit these places frequently. I come to know during my collage time that my personal liking of travelling in nature is part of tourism. But as middle class family boy I focused myself on job for bread and butter only. After completing my post graduation in agriculture in 2007, instead of starting career in main stream I have selected to work in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra (India), in farmer’s suicide prone area with the thought that being agriculture student I can do something for them.
I started my career in one micro finance industry at Wardha. During that job of 2 yrs I have worked on a project of NABARD for The stress management of farmers in Vidarbha region. With my work I always used to travel many places nearby as Sevagram Ashram was just 5 km from my location and Vinoba Bhave’s Pawnar Ashram was at 7km. So many foreigners were come to visit these both places, I have started to talk with them to know why they are coming to India? What they exactly want to see? For me, that time was for developing thoughts, principles of life as all this was very new for me. For that time I started to write my observations to whom people called as poems. During my thought process I have decided to change location and move to Pune for further planning. For this I applied for another job which was in State bank Of India as an agriculture Officer with the thought of posting in Pune District. But I don’t know what I say it but fortunately or unfortunately I was again posted at Wardha. Where I had worked at micro credit, now at same area I was working at macro credit.
During the bank tenure of 2 yrs I had written down my notifications of 5000 yrs cultural journey of India by name “Bharatvarsha Darshanam” [near about 650 pages]. That day was very tough for me on which I have got the confirmation of my job in SBI. All my colleagues were celebrating that now we had got settlement in life but I was much disturb with reason of I yet to find may way of life.
After 7 days of job confirmation i had resigned my job and traveled for 2 months without any reason again I did onion trading activity for 6 months in which I have to take onion from Alefata market and took it to Cochin market in kerala. I was much excited to do that activity because I have planned to travel by road from Alefata to Cochin. And I did it for many times. Really it was very nice and memorable experience for me. During that journey I found the reason of my life. The wish of showing our culture to all was came very forcefully and my travelling without reason since my childhood gets the reason by tourism. Obviously I have select Junnar area for it. I did 1 yr detailed survey and rest of the things before you.
Why Agro tourism?
When I planned to start this tourism business, I compounded myself to a particular area that is Junnar. As junnar is my tahasil place, I have soft corner to it, not only to this reason only. During my research on Junnar for a year with several aspects and tourism point of view, I have got very valuable information about Junnar. Junnar has very huge potential of tourism like 2000 old prosperous history, strength full geography, religious background, highest number of caves in India, world’s largest radio telescope GMRT, 7 forts [Shivneri one of the list], 2 ashtvinayakas, India’s 1st forest officer Dr. Alexander Gibson lived here for 8 yrs his after death monument and many more heritage is in Junnar.
Economy of Junnar is depends on agri & agri allied activities. I thought tourism for Junnar will be strong source of an employment if we develop it. Then I started to work on it, did some strategic planning and start my work with forming Junnar Tourism Development organization, a NGO for R & D on Junnar’s culture, traditions, customs, heritage places and many through tourism point of view. At Second step we have established Hachiko Tourism an organization to invite guests [tourists] to see this tourism potential of Junnar. After travelling in Junnar for whole day, we have develop Parashar Agritourism a place for taking rest at night in rustic and rural feel with rural cuisine and folk dance for entertainment.
There is story behind it. When I decided to develop an agritourism project I have planned to study agriculture as a culture. I become more excited to know that how this agriculture is old as culture. For this I have made my research in Bhandarkar Research Institute, Pune. While studying it I have came across to a manuscripts written by sage Parshara by name “Krushi Parashara” that manuscripts was 1st such detailed analysis on agriculture, scientifically and culturally too.
In next step I came to know that Sage Parashara was living for some period in Junnar and Naga Sage are used to gather there during the Kumbhmela at Nashik. So we decided to fix this name to make aware about people, the pioneers of agriculture in India. At Parashar Agritourism we have designed all infrastructures with rural feel by using natural material. Parashar Agritourism is unique community tourism center as we have gathered nearby farmers and started this center on barren land. Through Agritourism center we have provided additional market for farmers to sale their agriculture produce. As agriculture is base of economy, we have keep this base for tourism development of Junnar also.
What kind of initial investment did you put into this business?
As discussed above I have planned strategic movement for tourism development in Junnar, at 1st step we have established Junnar Tourism Development Organization. Through JTDO we have searched tourism potential of Junnar. Hachiko Tourism is our next step through which we have invited to guests [tourist] to enjoy Junnar Tourism. While travelling in Junnar for accommodation we have developed Parashar Agritourism Junnar a rustic facility for overnight stay with provision of rural cuisine, rural atmosphere and many more things to enjoy.
The moment I thought to see this junnar tourism movement at business platform I did so many investments. According to me in all this, intellectual investment is much important. As this is service industry, our focus should be on better service and its continuous improvement. In terms of economics I have invested near about 30 lakhs in the development of Junnar Tourism Model and 1.5 yrs of time to do preparation for it.
On 9th April 2011 I have started it on field by organizing Maharashtra’s 1st grape festival. We have received fabulous response from the tourists. We became much confident and started to find a place to develop accommodation facilities. I have my own land which is suitable for farming. Being agriculture graduate I would like to utilize the land for cultivation purpose.
So I was in search of barren land where I can develop desired accommodation facilities. Secondly there was a common saying that all tourism potential of Junnar is at west side of Junnar and I was planning to develop these accommodation facilities at east side. So all had doubt about its feasibility. But I was confident on it. As I believe in seeing is believing I want set a successful example for others, then only other people can dare to enter in tourism as business in Junnar.
It was 3-4 months during which near about 40-50 rural artisans were engaged in the development of rustic look of Parashar Agritourism. While developing the location we have insists one thing that we should use natural material where it possible. On 4th Sept 2011 we have inaugurated accommodation facilities of Parashar Agritourism, Junnar with 8 rooms and single dormitory with large common hall.
As belongs to rural, average farmer’s family, arrangement of funds for development was challenging task for me. At that crucial time my whole family stands with me. My father allowed me to mortgage our home and all family members gave their gold to pledge it. I have arranged rest of the funds through my friends. I have invested all these funds to develop Junnar model of tourism by very unique way and in disciplinary manner was shocked by so many capitalists.
- How does it work?
After doing such huge investments [for me] all are thinking that now it will run commercially. But I was thinking different. I have established certain rules and regulations while running this tourism project. We have strictly banned non-veg meal, liquor and smoking at our premises. This made people to astonish. As this was very common idea for local people that they were more doubtful about its success. For me all conditions were adverse for me but I was firm on my concept of tourism as I know everything is possible but it takes time.
Our funds were come to end while development so we do not have any provision for promotion and marketing. At that time I thought to use social media for it. Initial 5-6 months were really tough for me. No any guests…we were dong only maintenance…people were whispering many times demoralizing me, still I was stick up with my policy. After 6 months we started to receive good response for enquiries and all. And after that we never have blank days more than 3-4 days. There was a continuous flow of quality guests at our center. People were used to access our website, facebook page, news article and all, then enquire about the facility and nearby places to visit. Then doing online booking.
Once we receive their online payments we will confirm their bookings. We are not running this tourism commercially but running on quality basis. Our view is to those people only visit Junnar who are interested and giving respect to heritage, culture and nature. So we are maintaining good class of tourists at out center. Here we are arranging so many programs for the visiting guests. Like after traditional welcome, breakfast and tea. Then visit to farm with informative guide, visit to cow farm to experience milking and taste fresh milk, tractor trolley ride, bullock cart ride, forest visit, camp fire at night and folk art for entertainment. On next day we are planning to visit several tourism places of Junnar according to the interest and available time with the guests.
Secondly we have our art gallery where interested guests can explore them while doing clay modeling, painting, making creative things from natural things and can take it with them as souvenir.
Who can avail this?
Those who want to experience rural life, want to taste rural cuisine, want to know about farming and farmers, want to trek in mountains of Junnar and conquer the forts, want to see ancient caves and temples. All those who loves nature, culture and adventure can visit our Junnar..our hachiko Tourism. For this we mainly focused on people belongs to urban area who are much far from rural atmosphere. My main objective behind this is to people should visit, to see the source of food and can realize how difficult is to produce food. It will results into people will respect to food and can be avoid to waste it. This is not only tourism but its giving values to live, for growing generations. Its second home to those who are busy in their routine life. Its home of their son for those whose children are living abroad and they do not have any one here. Its celebration point to those who do not have any reason to celebrate…and many more. In short this place is world of happiness…come..Experience…refresh…and live life.
How has the business grown? what is it worth?
To visit Junnar through Hachiko Tourism and live at Parashar Agritourism we have designed several packages from 1 days up to 7 days with different costs which are already mentioned at our website in packages www.hachikotourism.in but we are focusing to consider the time availability and area of interest of the guests and customizing the packages according to them. Like wise up till now we have received more than 10000 guests. And we are very happy with this.
What are your future ideas?
Within 10 yrs we have worked hard for developing “Junnar Model” of sustainable tourism where so many layers of rural are involved direct and indirectly. Though on small scale it is enhancing the rural economy. Now we have dream to take Junnar on world tourism map. I dreamed that when president of any country visit to India, he should have at least one day plan to visit Junnar. I have planned to create an employment through tourism on large scale for rural youth; it results into cut the flow from rural to urban area. Such so many plans are in mind and I am sure about it that I will complete it, see more dreams and also going to complete them also. Because I believe in journey for a dream instead of celebration after completing a dream. Once I will reach up to a gaol set, I will pause sometime and start to reach another destination.
How does it help promote tourism?
In broad sense to conserve our culture with accepting ongoing change and to make available this culture with its journey from ancient time to current one to all those who are interested to see it is tourism. It includes heritage, culture, monuments, traditions, customs, farming also. And absolutely through all this description you very well get an idea about how it helps to promote tourism. I have started to work in tourism filed in 2011, above write up was written in 2012. In last 8 yrs, my vision, my experience, my exposure & my life get changed with many angles. On positive note I would like to use all this in tourism development of India. In 2018, I have written a book on agritourism which is published by sakal publications. Since 2015, I am working as tourism advisor, trainer & consultant. I was a part of agritourism policy making for Govt of Maharashtra. Right now I am tourism trainer for directorate of tourism, Govt of Maharashtra.