top of page

People  Design  Business

problem space

How might we excite and acquire travellers seeking new and unique experiences for a startup engaged in sustainable tourism in rural India


It was important that solutions created are both, socially and economically sustainable: in line with the client's philosophy, This project was an experimental application of a course by IDEOU and Acumen. 


Individual, with inputs from the client


Rural Odyssey, a start up working for sustainable tourism in rural India

Engaging new customers for a startup in India.

This project was done before Design school

re-framing the problem
How might we tap into the huge customer base of travellers wanting off-beat travel for a startup working for sustainable tourism in rural India, having limited funds
first attempt
Create a “how might we” (HMW) statement to which a solution is sought. Keep in mind that a solution is not prebaked into the statement, and sounds exciting enough to get you going
course learning
Get specific about the "What" -- what does "tap into" mean? "Who" and “Where" to keep it manageable
Leave viability out of the "How might we" statement - it can be limiting and keep you from coming up with lots of crazy ideas that might actually be viable with some tweaking
  • Noted different possibilities of each of “what”, “who” and “where” on post-its. Ex. Engage, Excite, and start conversations with, as possible “Whats”

  • Tried different combinations of “What” “Who” “Where” till I got a succinct statement bursting with ideas

  • Colour coded the combinations under green, pink and orange to categorise definitions under just right, too narrow, and too broad respectively.

  • Noted different possibilities of each of “what”, “who” and “where” on post-its. Ex. Engage, Excite, and start conversations with, as possible “Whats”

  • Tried different combinations of “What” “Who” “Where” till I got a succinct statement bursting with ideas

  • Colour coded the combinations under green, pink and orange to categorise definitions under just right, too narrow, and too broad respectively.

A very narrow definition would limit ideation, and a very broad one would inhibit focus

How Might We excite and acquire travelers seeking new and unique experiences for a startup (Rural Odyssey) engaged in sustainable tourism in rural India ?
ideation for solutions

Mash up with other entities – Gaining inspiration from other entities and tweaking it to suit yours

Brainstorm with a group

E-storm (over e-mail / text if you cant meet in person)

Shoe-storm - Walking in someone else’s shoes

methods suggested by course
Visiting travel websites to understand which elements excite travellers

Each person writes their ideas and passes it to a neighbour who enriches the idea,and so on till the idea has been all around the table;

Team - I involved the two co-founders, and 2 friends from different fields to bring diversity of thinking

Different mashups to ensure diverse ideas -
- With scenarios that included similar components of creating memories like photography and family
- Words associated with 'exciting'
- Words associated with 'acquiring customers'
methods followed

Sixteen discrete ideas were generated, a number of smaller ideas were combined to reach these final sixteen

top 6 ideas

TRAVEL PORTALBringing together different travel providers under one roof. This portal would have different categories or experiences to bring travellers with diverse interests. Rural Odyssey would be one such experience.

STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS - Collaborating with other niche travel planners which have complementary strengths, like adventure sports (experiences that we don't offer)

BENEFIT - Increased visibility through leveraging customer base of other providers


SECOND INNINGS : A fun trip for elders to meet lots of people, live with families, see children play and feel all the warmth of a home


VIRTUAL OR ACTUAL EXPERIENCE : Helping people imagine what they would encounter beforehand via a virtual or actual 1 hour session, similar to training for scuba in a swimming pool, to increase familiarity.

This would include simulating sights, sounds, feel, taste of food, experience


EDUCATIONAL TRIPS FOR SCHOOL CHILDREN : A fun way to teach about culture,  our country, crops, seasons, etc – rather than learning solely from books. It would be a good way to sensitise children to other people’s way of life, and to be respectful of others.


NIGHT BAZAAR : Organising events where locals bring together food, culture, folk music, dance and traditional art of their villages.

DUAL BENEFIT - Additional income for locals while introducing travellers to new cultures


SUBSCRIPTIONS WITH CROSS BENEFITS : Collect points on each trip to redeem at different partner companies. Example - Collect cool miles by helping the environment – redeem for petrol worth INR. 500 at Indian Oil; collect smile miles by doing something for the community – redeem for 4 mugs of beer at Beer Cafe

idea prototyped

The founders desired to open Rural Odyssey to senior citizens. This initiative tied well with social inclusion (therefore sustainability) while having the business advantage of an unsaturated market

THE UNMET NEED: Often times elderly people get stuck, and are unable to travel. This could be for lack of company, or apprehension about requiring long walks, or uncertainty due to health condition. This inhibits new experiences, makes them lonely and increases dependency on others.

IMPORTANT CONTEXT: India has traditionally been a collectivistic society, and joint families have been the cultural norms for decades. While there is a steady move towards nuclear families now, elders of these families still conform to traditional beliefs, it is an emotionally unpleasant experience to separate and live in an old age home.

video explanation
Part 1
Part 2
step wise process

1. Reach out

A rural odyssey representative (hereafter referred to as rep) reaches out to old age homes (OAH) and second inning clubs(clubs for the elderly)

the rural odyssey app
user feedback


  • Some did not immediately understand the icons on the screen of mobile app.

  • Icons and the help they offered to people with disabilities was appreciated

  • Co-design - Users also helped with the semantics of some words - for ex, "Click here to know more" was suggested in place of "view" once explained, 

  • Some users were only comfortable in Hindi, while app was in English


  • I observed few people had to go close to the laptop (I showed screens on a laptop, before printing) to read.

  • With paper prototypes, kept at the distance they normally hold phones, this problem was less

For this phase, I wrote down questions we still needed answered under desirability, feasibility and viability, then prioritised them from high to low and worked on our high priority questions


Q1. How should we get elders comfortable with travelling with their physical constraints?

Q2. How should we make their guardians (children / other relatives) desire their charge to travel with us, some of whom might be paying for these trips

Q1. How might we make these trips more comfortable for elders with different constraints

Q2. How might we handle medical issues that may arise during the trip

Q3. How might we enable elders to use mobile apps for booking with us

Q4. How do we cater to elders who do not have smart phones that can support apps

Q1. How do we make the trip more affordable for the elderly (who might be living on savings / pension)

Q2. How do we make it more cost effective to go to different OAH and second inning clubs to present and train elders?

way forward

After coming up with the questions for each of the heads above, I started ideating on solutions for the questions that were most important to the client. Simultaneously, the client and I worked on forming partnerships with other small companies / individuals working for senior citizens.

bottom of page