GoAbroad Interview

Ridhi Patel - Managing Director and Co-Founder

Rainbow VolunTours opened to tourists wanting a taste of India in 2013, after co-founder and managing director Ridhi Patel spent nearly three years developing her passion and ability to successfully set up high-impact volunteer programs with another organization. Rainbow exudes responsible travel, focusing programs on providing experiences that are close to India's traditions and culture, rather itineraries that mirror a list of tourist attractions. Each program strongly professes what the founders’ believe is most important, volunteer programs that impact both volunteers and local communities positively.

You spent a few years with GVI and learned more about volunteering and India. How did your stint with GVI inspire you to found and develop Rainbow VolunTours?

It was my passion for travel, volunteering, and love for India that led me to start Rainbow Voluntours. I  think its really important for travellers to get involved with the locals to truly understand Indian culture, Indian people, Indian society, and Indian history. India to me is an experience and I want to give individuals coming to India an experience of India – through which they can learn, and discover India differently.

Rainbow VolunTours is focused on programs in India. What potential do you see in India that makes it perfect for volunteer travel aspirations? What about the potential of Rainbow VolunTours?

Voluntourism is becoming really popular worldwide and especially in India it’s a great way to do something meaningful whilst traveling. People want to explore a different side to India, interact with locals, give something back, learn about the culture, and there is no better way to do it than through combining travel and volunteering.

My organization also offers regulars tourists, who don’t want to volunteer, bespoke tours that are not in touristic areas and off the beaten track tours that give an experience of the culture of India.

India to me is an ideal location for voluntourism. For volunteering there are so many options and opportunities in India and we vet projects via our local ground project managers who know the local areas and the social problems of the community. We tie up with grassroot orgs, local schools, and NGOs that really need support. Our volunteers are placed so they can contribute well, and at the same time the project partners can also benefit.

Your programs are focused on volunteer projects involving youth and children, sustainable development, and innovation. How do you share these goals with your participants?

We provide a lot of information online on our website itself. We also share our vision and goals to participants before they arrive via our communications with them. We also give training and orientation on arrival. During the program our experienced local teams are always on hand to ensure that volunteers are focused on the goals and we have regular meetings with them weekly/ daily.

What kind of training and orientation do your participants undergo before and during your programs?

Traveling in India can be daunting if one is not well informed about do’s and don’ts in India. We take care to make sure that all our participants get educated about India via training and we guide them as much as possible so they can enjoy India. We organize activities such as cooking classes, henna for hands, Bollywood nights, and of course our local staff team and partners are the best ambassadors of Indian culture. All our tours are unique and hand picked and we make sure we combine a responsible element to all our programs.

We tie up volunteering with tours as volunteering alone can be quite intense and if one is coming to India then its important to also see the place. Similarly traveling alone is not always smooth in India. Our programs are such that there is a minimum stay of 2 weeks which allows time to ease into India and really understand the place, people and culture.

Rainbow VolunTours has about 10 programs covering Education, Childcare, and Women Empowerment, among others. What is your most popular program and why?

The most popular program is the teaching and backwaters program. This involves a unique backwaters experience with volunteering in a local school or orphanage. This is the most sought after as such a combo is not offered by anyone else. It is also instantly attractive to those who want a taste of India, who seek adventure, want to do something different, and at the same time work with children.

What in your opinion is the most important thing participants should be aware of before departure to India?

The most important issue is that India is complex and nothing is simple. We inform and educate our participants about culture and the complexities that they will witness on a day to day basis.

What expectations do participants have before joining a program? How does Rainbow VolunTours fulfill these expectations or correct them?

Participants always expect us to match what we have mentioned on our website. We certainly do this and more, so that they are fulfilled. We pride ourselves on giving genuine service and authentic experiences. On departure we get feedback from participants and change things as we can if there is any way to improve our services.

We also have participants coming with a stereotype of India. They always get impressed with Kerala where our projects are as they never expect it to be so green, friendly, and easy to travel within. 

We give culture training on the second day of arrival where we talk about the food, religion, family life, history, customs, and so on. We also keep local staff who are the best ambassadors of culture, and participants learn a lot through interacting with them.

What makes Rainbow VolunTours programs better than other programs in India?

We give genuine service and ensure that our participants are getting what they have paid for. We are detail oriented, have hand picked programs, and work closely with all our clients giving them an almost bespoke and customized trip in the end.

Where do you think Rainbow VolunTours will expand their programs next?

It would be great to work in a few other regions of India  such as Himachal and Gujarat, where there is a huge potential for volunteering and travel.