Airbnb plays digital inclusion card to get inventory in rural India

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The global homestay landgrab continues apace, taking in many twists and turns. The latest move sees Airbnb looking to secure inventory in rural India by linking up with a trade union which represents two million self-employed women.

The MOU signed between the mega-funded poster child of the sharing economy and the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) of India talks about Airbnb working with and training SEWA members to share their homes with domestic and international guests, all in the name of digital inclusion.

The initiative will start in the state of Gujurat but will be rolled out across the 14 regions where SEWA’s two million members are located.

The plan is to create a community of SEWA hosts who will share best practice with each other, while Airbnb will also look at partnerships to specifically promote the SEWA inventory.

The MOU talks about “giving travellers a unique and authentic experience of rural India” and “creating meaningful, productive and sustainable livelihood opportunities, helping SEWA members become powerful micro-entrepreneurs.”

The tie-up with SEWA in India is similar to an initiative Airbnb launched in China recently, where it linked up with authorities in Huizhou  to train and educate senior citizens about the economic and social benefits of becoming an Airbnb host.

The SEWA news may not be as attention grabbing as its recent launch of Trips or the fines in Barcelona, but it shows that Airbnb has a creative approach to partnerships and is serious about growing outside North American and European.

And while it is easy to be cynical about moves like this, if it can help two million women in rural India have a better quality of life then that is something to be applauded.

Related reading from Tnooz:
MakeMyTrip expands Indian business into Airbnb territory (Oct2016)
Tujia buys Ctrip’s homestay business, becoming more like Airbnb (Oct2016)
Airbnb continues to build presence in India (April 2016)

NB Image by Rudra Narayan Mitra/BigStock

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