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By Hitesh Shetty

The booming IT Sector in India has empowered many Techies and Managers to give form to their bright ideas which bring more balance and joy to our lives.  Meet Techie Ajay Reddy who got the bright idea of a ‘GoUNESCO’ travel challenge which has proven to be a big success.  As the name implies, it involves travel to the UNESCO world heritage sites in India in any 1 Calendar year.

Techgoss (TG): Tell us about your Educational Qualification? What kind of IT have you studied? Which IT companies and software did your work with?
Ajay Reddy:  I completed my undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering from NIT, Jaipur. After that I worked for more than 4 years at Infosys Technologies on various technologies and industries including EDI, ETL, supply chain and reservation software at Paramount Pictures and United Airlines. I have worked on open source software and web technologies such as Joomla, Wordpress, Python, etc while building the adventure travel website Tripnaksha . I currently work at Mojostreet, a smartphone app, in a managerial position.

TG: What prompted you to develop a travel portal centred around the theme of Unesco Heritage sites? Was 'GoUnesco' portal a result of your long cherished passion for travelling, which went unexplored over the years due to hectic corporate life?
Ajay Reddy:  GoUNESCO started as a travel plan for myself. I usually try to start and complete at least one travel challenge every year. In 2010, it was hitchhiking in the North East on a daily budget of Rs.150. In 2011 it was an attempt at riding an autorickshaw on the east coast of India. This time, I asked a few friends and they showed interest too. I felt that an online challenge with more people involved would be more fun. At the same time, I realized that even though I have a fair knowledge of travel and India, I myself did not know the significance of these heritage sites in India. I believed GoUNESCO would be a great way for me to learn and at the same time help others learn about this.

TG: How did the contest idea revolving around UNESCO heritage sites strike you initially? What is the challenge all about? Will a platform like this motivate people especially from IT/ BPO industry to take up serious travel plans, enabling them to unwind from their monotonous routine?
Ajay Reddy:  The idea of traveling to the UNESCO heritage sites initially came when I saw a tweet with a picture of a heritage ticket. I evolved this idea into a challenge when some of my friends expressed interest in traveling too.

The central idea of the challenge is that the participant should travel to all the UNESCO world heritage sites in India in one calendar year. There are 29 such sites and visit to each site earns them points. More points are assigned to the less popular and hard to visit sites. The participants who earn either the full 1000 points or the most points at the end of the year win the challenge.

There are 53 weekends in a year and if one plans well, this challenge is certainly doable. Most working professionals are bored on the weekends or spend their time at a mall or movie. This challenge encourages them to travel outside their city and experience the heritage in India first hand.

TG: What kind of gruelling activities the winner of the contest Jai Bharathi had to undergo, before she was adjudged the winner among the other contestants?
Ajay Reddy:  Travel in India, by itself, is hard. There is always the uncertainty of reservations for buses and trains. Travel for women in India is even harder as safety is always a concern. Jai Bharathi navigated these challenges by traveling with her own friends and friends made in the GoUNESCO community. The private mailing list for GoUNESCO participants is a great resource for travel tips and finding partners too.

TG: How many Unesco Heritage sites have you visited yourself in India and abroad?
Ajay Reddy:  I have visited 9 UNESCO sites in India last year as part of the challenge. I have visited 5-6 sites prior to the challenge

TG: Why did you leave the security of an IT job and start your own business?
Ajay Reddy:  Being an entrepreneur had been on my mind since I was in college. However, I knew the importance of gaining practical experience in the business world. After 4 years at Infosys, I felt I had a fair understanding of how business works. I thought it was the right time for me to take a risk and venture into the unknown.

TG: What other such innovative ideas do you have for the future?
Ajay Reddy:  You will know when I start them :).

Techgoss Note:  More details at the GoUNESCO website

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