“Three Idiots movie did more bad than good to Ladakhi people,” said a local from Leh while sipping a hot cup of tea with me. I always assumed that the movie made the state famous and Sonam Wangchuk - Amir Khan played a similar character in the movie. “It gave us business, but suddenly we had tourists from every corner creating immense environmental problems.”
As tourists we will never understand their problems, one needs to stay with them to realise the issues. Take a local bus and go to any random village or go for an early morning walk around the Leh main market. You will witness these problems if you keep your eyes open.
Last December, I was in Leh for 20 days. Trust me tourists coming from cities really don’t understand how to effectively use scarce resources. Even if it is written in bold letters to “use water with care” we will still keep the tap open and do our daily chores, including yours truly.
During winters when the average temperature goes down below -15, to begin with, the only thing you have and see is ice. Locals in Leh pay a heavy price for water and they use it with a lot of care. Another big problem is the use of plastic and dumping it everywhere with convenience. The Indus river right now is sheets of ice carrying our dumped plastic. Sane travelers don’t travel Leh in winters but visit Kasol or Manikaran during the Christmas or New Year. You will witness massive dumps of plastic waste in almost every corner.
What can we do? Educating the tourists is the only way and travel company Shoes On Loose has taken up the challenge with the Save Ladakh initiative. To begin with, the company started with a very simple and basic solution of providing LifeStraw bottles to travelers in an effort to curb plastic waste.
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Additionally, on Vijay Divas (16th December 2019) the company organised a drive to collect all kinds of plastic waste including chocolate wrappers, plastic bottles and Maggi wrappers. The team armed with support from locals managed to collect 100kgs of plastic waste.
Imagine what amount this would be if they do a similar drive in the summers when everyone comes to this beautiful town to ride a Royal Enfield and look cool on Instagram like SRK did in Jab Tak Hai Jaan.
In 2020, Shoes on Loose wants to carry forward the campaign. While they plan to have more on ground collaborations to stop the single-use plastic bottles, the focus is also to educate tourists about water scarcity problems and providing solutions for traveling responsibly.
Meanwhile, the company has made a 7-minute long video that showcases the entire campaign, focusing on the problem the newly formed state faces and how the company is doing its bit to solve the problem.
Finding purpose with Save Ladakh campaign
Supporting a cause or organizations coming forward to solve community problems isn’t something new. Even the problems of Ladakh are well known and there have been attempts in the past to educate tourists and bring change on the ground. But often we have seen a cause campaign loses its shine when it is a compulsion. One ends up supporting the cause only on social media with placards.
As of now, Save Ladakh campaign breathes a genuine attempt. The idea to carry it forward in 2020 is a positive sign. And finally tying it up with a decent video is a required step to get the word going. However, why not take this as a brand statement and highlight on the website. Right now there is a dedicated page for the campaign but one needs to hunt for it.
The Internet is filled with travel companies who are trying to make travel experience better. The consumer today, especially the GenZ and millennials, consider how instragrammable their next travel destination will be. How many likes my pictures would generate. The guarantee of taking beautiful holiday snaps is a prerequisite for 25.8%, revealed KLM Royal Dutch airline tech and travel trend of 2020.
There are enough demand and supply. So how do you stand out for a consumer? Your legitimate brand purpose will help you stand out. The consumer is spoilt, the choices are too many for her and it is also true that she looks at your brand along with the kind of services you provide.
According to some, the fifth ‘P’ (along with product, price, place, and promotion) is now your Purpose.
Patagonia, the American clothing company that sells outdoor clothing is a stellar example of purpose-driven brands. And they have been doing it for decades while making groundbreaking changes in society. This has not only made it a media darling but even loved by consumers.
End of last year Corley Kenna, Director of Global Communications and Public Relations, and Lisa Pike Sheehy, Vice President of Environmental Activism, shared with Forbes how their brand purpose has evolved and how they balance that with business goals.
Save Ladakh can be one such initiative that could change the future of Shoes on Loose but for that they will have to carry on the work, align the purpose with their business goals and the same should be interlinked across all mediums.
The strategy also needs to be tight and well thought through. Can the company have few smaller videos along with the 7-minute long video? There is a cost involved but one can think of ways and get it done. Besides, build a long term partnership with two brand advocates (not your social media influencers) who are experts and understand environmental issues for delivering the message on all mediums. The idea is to make consistent constructive noise and get the attention of people both online and offline.
Going forward the company can take up other such causes in India. However, it depends on the financials and business goals of the organization too.
Quoting the words of Sonam, “Leave nothing but your footprints.” Next time wherever you travel do make a small effort to just leave your footprints. The future generations deserve to see the beautiful nature.