CONNECTION: Airbnb has linked up with women in the Indian countryside and tiny villages in Japan

MOBILE apps that help women in the Indian countryside and tiny villages in Japan to open their homes to visitors from across the world are generating in­comes, revitalising remote communities and helping to curb migration to cities.  

A women’s organisation in Gujarat has tied up with Airbnb, the short-term home rental service, to train rural women to be hosts and list their homes on its site.  

A year in, the number of women earn­ing from home-sharing has doubled, ac­cording to the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), which has about two million members, mostly in villages.  

“At first, we weren’t sure how the wom­en would fare and if people would re­spond to homestays in these areas,” said Reema Nanavaty, a director at SEWA.  

“But once they began getting guests, the women invested in upgrading their homes and started using Google Translate to communicate with guests. It has become a significant source of income for them.”  

Guests to the colourful homes are treated to home-cooked Gujarati food, and can participate in kite-flying and garba dancing with sticks in traditional costume, she said.  

The partnership will extend to 14 more states, aiming to boost incomes of wom­en in rural areas and help boost tourism in otherwise neglected areas, she said.  

Cheap smartphones are also aiding those looking for work, with job-matching sites helping even illiterate job seekers from rural Cambodia to India find employers without middlemen who may dupe them.  

Airbnb also has partnerships in South Korea, Japan and Taiwan for rural tourism.  

In Japan, the Yoshino Cedar House, a collaboration with Tokyo-based archi­tect Go Hasegawa and the local commu­nity, came about as a response to shrink­ing rural populations in the rapidly age­ing country.  

It was inspired by a host whose listing helped rejuvenate her village, said Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia.  

Hundreds of villages and towns “will disappear in the next decade if we do not find ways to create regenerative and adaptive systems”, he said via e-mail.  

The Cedar House is run by a coopera­tive of about two dozen different com­munity members who take turns at being the host.  

Most of the proceeds remain in the community, with a percentage of profits reinvested in local projects, Gebbia said.