How Oken Tayeng founded Aborcountry Travels & Expeditions, a leading tour operator company in North East India
#travelplanner - Arunachal-Pradesh | Assam | Meghalaya | Nagaland | Sikkim | Manipur | Mizoram
YC - Tell us about your background - educational, personal & professional. We would also love to know about the team.
Oken - I graduated from the University of Delhi in English Literature. Never wanted to get into a regular job despite my parents wishing me to be an “officer” or a lawyer.
I worked as Assistant Director AND Production consultant in Sanjay Kaks “In the Forest Hangs a Bridge” IMDb rated 8 - A documentary on the process of making a 300 metres traditional cane and bamboo suspension bridge by the village community. The film won the (Swarna Kamal) best non-fiction film in the National film’s award, Asian Gaze Award, Pusan Film Festival etc.
Oken Tayeng - Founder, Aborcountry Travels & Expeditions
YC - What motivated you to become an entrepreneur – especially a travel planner?
Oken - I always wanted a life and career full of adventure and travel, encountering exciting people, culture, places, so started Aborcountry Travels & Expeditions (ACTE) in 2002. It has been quite a fun ride since.
I am really happy to share - ACTE has been featured in CONDE Nast Traveller magazine, India Today, Wall Street International, Washington Post, Outlook Traveler, NAT GEO magazine, Travel and Leisure, Business Standard, Economic Times etc.
ACTE actively advocates and practices sustainable and eco-tourism. Runs 2 successful eco-lodges in Siang valley :
The Abor Country River Camp - https://aborcountrytravels.com/abor-country-river-camp/
Yamne Eco Lodge - https://aborcountrytravels.com/yamne-abor-eco-lodge-2/
Aborcountry River Camp is listed as one of the top 6 places to stay in North East India by Lonely Planet Magazine.
YC - Starting something unique or creating a niche is always challenging- what challenges did you face in your early days?
Oken - Firstly to garner the support of your family for such a non-linear profession at that time, even to make them understand was difficult. Also despite selling adventure and expeditions to people the infrastructure was really poor. There were hardly any good hotels in most places and the road condition was really bad. So we had to compensate and innovate in many ways.
YC - As a founder what primary functions are you responsible for, basically how do you typically spend your day in the office?
Oken - I love being on the field rather than in the office. In the beginning, I used to lead every trip myself, but as the business grew I had to spend more time at the desk, handling correspondence, monitoring and managing ongoing trips etc but I do go out at any opportunity I get to be on a trek .
YC - Do you use social media platforms (like Instagram, Facebook etc) to promote your travel company? Which channels have been very effective for your business?
Oken - We are mostly active on Insta - aborcountrytravels and FB - Aborcountry Travels and Expeditions. It helps to show us as a veritable outfit by regularly posting our activities and also they work a memory store box for us. We always relish reminiscing what we were doing in the past years and how far we have come and evolved.
YC - Our readers would love to know which are the most popular top 5 destinations for a vacation that you have planned?
Oken - Top 5 destinations, would be :
The Siang valley for a treat of nature and exotic tribal culture and rafting on the Siang river.
The Nagagigi Trek to see mountain flowers going very close to the Bhutanese border.
The Torgya festival at Tawang celebrated at the 400 years old Gaden Namgyal Lhatse Monastery.
The Hornbill Festival in Kohima Nagaland with Chalo Loku festival of the Nocte tribe in Arunachal.
Meghalaya in monsoon Scenic drives and treks in the abode of the clouds
YC - What according to you is the USP of your company, for which your customers come back to you?
Oken - We conduct bespoke and very personalised trips. We prepare the itineraries for an experience of a lifetime for every guest. And we consider our clients as our brand ambassadors.
We are active in all northeastern states and Bhutan, conducting cultural, educational and adventure trips. ACTE is also pioneers in creating a number of trekking routes in remote areas of North East India.
YC -What new trends are you seeing in the travel industry due to the pandemic?
Oken - People don’t want to go to crowded places and destinations, they want to travel to pristine locations and choose boutique properties close to nature rather than big resorts and a hotel in town.
YC - COVID 19 has immensely affected the tourism sector. How are you coping with it and what would you suggest to your fellow colleagues?
Oken - It’s a good time to rebrand ourselves and also renovations going on in our lodges. I advise the same for everyone and be prepared for the post-pandemic boom, better be positive!
YC - Based on your experience so far, do you have any advice for new Entrepreneurs?
Be clear on what you want to achieve, it takes a while maybe 2 to 3 years for an enterprise to take shape, so focus, patience and perseverance are the basic ingredients one needs to put in to achieve.
Get in touch with the Aborcountry Travels & Expeditions the next time you visit to get a real experience of this authentic North East at firstname.lastname@example.org or feel free to call Oken at +91 8414069777
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