OF MICE AND MEN
Ever considered cutting wood with a lumberjack in Iceland as a team-building activity? Or holding a brainstorming session over a jeep safari in the Himalayas? Or even becoming a pirate in South America to gain some perspective on mergers and acquisitions? Welcome to new age off-sites, with companies looking for that extra something to get the most out of business trips.
“(A trip abroad) is something that people want to achieve and they put in a lot of effort to qualify for such off-sites. One, because it is a great recognition to qualify for a foreign jaunt and two, because it’s a great experience,” says Hemant Singh, chief executive officer at Modicare, a New Delhi-based direct marketing company.
This year, the company chose to take its distributors to out-of-the-way Scotland instead of the regular annual trip to Thailand. “They took us to a distillery and we saw first-hand the process through which Scotch whisky is made. It is not something that we could see just about anywhere,” says Singh.
Roughing it out: Isango’s head of partnerships, Jessica Butcher, at a white-water rafting trip in the Himalayas.
Video Story: An offsite with a difference
Ditto for Orangecross.com, an insurance consulting company, which is taking its employees to an organic farm on the Delhi-Jaipur highway for a team-building exercise. “We are going to cook together for better team-building. I think it’s a fabulous alternative to just throwing the usual games or going rafting,” says Prajak Raut, founder of Orangecross.com.
Travel companies are rising to the occasion and going beyond planning logistics and bookings or organizing events. Isango!, a UK-based online travel portal (www.isango.com) which set up shop in India three months ago, is looking to tap this market. “For us, reaching out to corporates who do a lot of MICE outings— meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions—is a great opportunity because we find companies are looking for that next level of inspiration. Enough of sending your employees to Bangkok for their incentive trips, people are looking for new things to do,” says Aseem Sadana, co-founder and COO of Isango India.
With the supply side of the travel market nearly saturated, the only way a travel company will be able to have an edge over competition is by differentiating in services. So, if you think an incentive trip to the hot springs of Iceland will get your employees all fired up, just make that call.
POSTCARDS FROM MY TRAVELS
For iconic cartoonist Mario Miranda, 82, every bit of travel is to be savoured and stored away, even interminable delays at airports anywhere in the world. “I can spend hours observing people,” says the Goa-based artist, whose work—sketches, illustrations, cartoons and travelogue art—has just been feted in a volume titled Mario de Miranda, brought out by Architecture Anonymous. “So I never get bored, not even if I’m stuck at an airport for hours.”
The artist chooses three places that never fail to stoke his imagination:
Once you get past their stiff upper lip, the English have a fantastic sense of humour. I spent a couple of years there in my youth and quickly began to appreciate their gift of laughing with people, not at them. I remember showing my work to cartoonist Ronald Searle, whose work I really looked up to, seeking his opinion on whether I had a future in the field. Without batting an eyelid, he said, “Your work is pretty good, but stop copying me.”
A bus tour of London.
England, especially in the countryside outside London, made me a pub-crawler. I could spend hours in the pubs, especially over the weekend, watching the English drink. The typical Englishman, with bowler hat, rolled-up umbrella and a pipe, has made an appearance many, many times in my work.
I love it for its history. Not the pubs; my haunt here were the restaurants. The Italians take their food very seriously and I enjoyed watching the Italian man—typically the Lothario, aware of girls, appreciative of food, a creature of the senses—tackle their evening spaghetti. I got lots of ideas, watching them quietly from my corner. (In the book, Vinod Mehta describes finding him “near the kitchen [of a French restaurant], hand cupped, eyes frenetic, pen busy… taking “notes”… the germ of a future drawing.”)
The history and architecture of this very atmospheric part of the world never fail to stir me. I found the steps to Golgotha, said to be the place where Jesus was crucified, particularly, very moving.
Not many associate humour with the Jews. As a people, especially the more orthodox among them, they can be dour and humourless. But for me they threw up a variety of characters. With their dark attire, long beards and black hats, they are a distinctive people and their culture and attitudes, too, seeped into my work—as has happened in almost every place I’ve travelled to.
A BALL IN THE JUNGLE
Unlike fish and chips, tigers and cricket are not an instinctive pairing. That, however, hasn’t stopped Naturetrek, a Hampshire, UK-based travel company, from offering specialized tours around India that bookend safari visits to Pench and Kanha Tiger Reserves with international cricket matches in Delhi and Ahmedabad. “We specialize in botanical and naturalist holidays,” says Rajan Jolly, operations manager, who first began offering this combination trip in 2006. “And we all love cricket, so we thought, why not?” The groups are capped at 16 participants, with a professional guide for every eight people. The tour starts from London on 30 November; tourists in India can join the group in Delhi on 1 December. Also on offer is the option to start off earlier, on 23 November, for an eight-day detour through Assam—a trip to Kaziranga National Park, and then onto Guwahati to catch the India-England one-dayer on 29 November. Prices for travellers within India start at £2,495 (around Rs1.99 lakh) per person, and include transfers, hotel accommodation, most meals, park fees and match tickets. Domestic tourists will have to pay the airfare to and from their home city. For more information visit www.naturetrek.co.uk.
Crouching tiger: Take a nature trek for £2,495 this year. (Photograph: Rajan Jolly)
SHOOT AT SIGHT
Fancy yourself as a photographer? Join enthusiasts and professionals across the globe for a unique event today: a worldwide Photo Walk. The brainchild of Scott Kelby, an American photographer and editor-publisher of Photoshop User magazine, the ‘Photo Walk’—an exercise, basically, in walking through a designated area with the purpose of taking photographs of a distinctive and/or trendy part of town—is being held across six continents, 24 time zones and 200-odd cities.
Not in Chattanooga, Tennessee, or Hilo, Hawaii? No fear: Mahesh Shantaram in Bangalore and Jagdish Agarwal in Mumbai are leading their packs from Residency Road and Kala Ghoda at 8am and 5pm, respectively. Though registration officially stops at 50 people, Shantaram and Agarwal both say “anyone who is interested can come and join us even on August 23”.
Caught on camera: The Photo Walk will last for 2 hours.
All you need are comfortable shoes, a couple of hours and your camera—the walk costs nothing. The best shots make it to Flickr (www.flickr.com) pages on the Web and there’s a grand prize worth $5,000 (Rs2.14 lakh) for the best single shot from anywhere in the world. “So if you log on to Flickr that day, you can see the world,” says Shantaram.
Participants in Bangalore enjoy a bonus: A free hands-on photo-editing session in the afternoon with Shantaram, a professional photographer, during which they put together a photo essay from the morning’s shoot and load it on to Flickr.
For a full list of the participating cities, start times and other details, log on to www.photoshopuser.com/photowalk.
GOT TO GO | BALI
If you are: A book buff or just like to rub shoulders with celeb authors
When: 14-19 October, for the Ubud Writers and Readers’ Festival
What’s the deal: The festival is expecting 100 writers from more than 20 countries, including the US, Egypt, Canada and Mexico, and will feature the usual rounds of book launches, workshops and poetry sessions. On 17 October, Amandari, Bali, will host Vikram Seth in an informal session on his travels and inspirations. Only 90 people can sign up to hear him talk (and have him sign your copy of his books), so you could consider the options the Aman Group is offering at its three properties in Bali.
Call +62361-975333 or email Jin Suphan at email@example.com for details.