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India's inbound tourism numbers aren't impressive. Bringing in digital nomads could give it a boost, but the country would first need to address infrastructural challenges.

Skift India Travel Podcast

Skift Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia is joined by business leaders, and experts from throughout the industry and Skift’s newsroom, to explore the challenges, opportunities, and trends shaping the Indian travel industry.

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While remote work gains ground, a subgroup of professionals is taking it a step further — enter the digital nomads. These are individuals who leverage technology not just to work from home but to work from anywhere, exploring the diverse landscapes of a destination.

In this episode of the Skift India Travel Podcast, Mayur Sontakke, the founder of NomadGao, a co-living and coworking space for digital nomads, talks to Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia about the journey towards mainstream acceptance of remote work and digital nomads in India.

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Host: Peden Doma Bhutia
Guest: Mayur Sontakke
Producer: James Magallanes

Sontankke shares his journey from being a financial analyst to embracing the digital nomad lifestyle. His experience began in 2014 with a remote job for an American startup, leading him to travel and explore various cultures and landscapes.

He noticed a lack of infrastructure for productive remote work and communities for digital nomads beyond major cities. This observation led him to start Remote Explorers in 2017, focusing on bringing foreign digital nomads to India. The project aimed to address concerns about internet connectivity, safety and culture shock, initially attracting participants from six countries.

Sontakke observed that while running retreats helped build a community, the locations often lacked adequate co-working spaces and internet facilities. This led to the inception of NomadGao in 2019, just before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Discussing the rise of remote work, Sontakke notes its growing acceptance in India, even as traditional office culture remains prevalent. For digital nomads, important factors when choosing a destination include reliable internet, a supportive community and favorable weather. Challenges like power outages and internet issues still pose significant hurdles in promoting India as a digital nomad destination.

Sontakke addresses the preconceived notions about India in the West and the competition from neighboring countries like Thailand and Vietnam in attracting global digital nomads. He suggests that the Indian government could play a vital role in promoting the country as a remote work destination.

The podcast also explores the impact of Covid-19 on remote work trends in India. Sontakke notes a shift from a predominantly foreign digital nomad community pre-Covid to a balanced mix of Indian and foreign residents post the pandemic. He highlights the confusion among Indians between co-living spaces and alternatives like backpacker hostels or AirBnbs.

Government policies, Sontakke suggests, could further foster a remote-friendly environment by promoting India as a digital nomad destination and developing infrastructure like co-working spaces. He also discusses the concept of blended travel, which mixes work and exploration, and how NomadGao facilitates a balanced lifestyle for its residents.

Talking about the growing relevance of digital nomads and remote work, Sontakke highlights offering an alternative to traditional work routines and the potential socio-economic benefits they bring to local communities.

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Tags: asia monthly, digital nomads, remote work, skift india report, skift podcast

Photo credit: Promoting India as a remote work destination. Outsite / Outsite

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