Exclusive Conversation:Saurabh Sabharwal-Founder & Director-Volunteering Solutions
Volunteering Solutions (VolSol). VolSol provides affordable, quality and safe volunteering programs and projects to the volunteers from around the globe. Saurabh invests all his time nurturing substantial contacts, branding Volunteering Solutions, travelling to different countries to establish VolSol and guiding his team towards success. He has studied Hospitality Management from William Angliss – Melbourne and has Bachelors in Applied Science – Hospitality from RMIT, Melbourne. Before coming back to India he worked with Hilton in Melbourne and Crown Casino. Soon, he started to work for an international organization based in US to host their volunteers in India and from there the idea of VolSol came in. The site was launched in March 2007.
1) What was the idea behind starting the venture?
I picked up the idea of establishing Volunteering Solutions while studying abroad for 7 years. Taking a gap year and doing volunteering work is very common abroad, that is where I first got to know about this. Before I decided to open my own venture, I worked for a company which used to send volunteers to India. After that experience I was ready to start my own venture.
2) Please brief us about your business model and revenue model?
We work like any other travel company, connecting people to NGOs and projects in need. We arrange for their travel, flights, accommodations, airport pickups, food, travel Insurance etc, that is how we earn our revenue.
3) What are the major offerings?
Right now we offer volunteer programs abroad, internships (medical, healthcare and other skill based programs) abroad, summer programs and group volunteering programs. Our volunteers get to work in orphanages, with NGOs, wildlife sanctuaries taking care of the children, feeding them, teaching them and also helping with the construction work in and around the site.
4) What is your current focus and plans for Indian market?
The idea of going abroad and volunteering is not present in the Indian culture. It is very rare that one would send his/her kid to a foreign country like Cambodia, Peru, South Africa to volunteer. Till date we have received only 2 customers from India. However, a lot of NRIs, who live in Singapore, Canada, UK and US have joined the programs. In future we plan to tap Indian universities to send student groups abroad for a cross cultural experience. Also, the corporate group volunteering is our target.
5) How are you planning to escalate your business?
We plan to add more destinations and emphasize a lot on making new partnerships with universities overseas. We are also investing in digital marketing mediums to enhance visibility and branding.
6) How big is India, as a market, for your business? What is the number of users currently?
Potential is there; however, we have to educate everyone here. Indians are still skeptical about volunteering abroad or investing in volunteering at all for that matter. Currently work is in progress. But again 2 customers till date!
7) What are the challenges and your strategy to overcome them?
Getting the concept into the Indian market needs a lot of time and long term effort, for us India as a outbound market is not big at present and we will concentrate on getting business from key markets like US, Canada, UK, Europe.
8) What has been your learning so far as a company?
It has been tough to compete against companies from conventional markets such as UK, USA etc. However, VolSol (http://www.volunteeringsolutions.com/volunteer-abroad) has been able to carve a niche in the market and are happy at where we stand today. It is always pleasing to know that people count you amongst the industry leaders. The road ahead is tougher as competition has increased with new players joining in the game. We have to keep evolving as a company and change with the times.
9) What are your priorities for next 2-3 years?
To grow our customer base to more than double in 2 years. I aim to generate a revenue of 5 million by next 2 to 3 years.