Steve Jobs of Apple recently came back to work after a long break for a Liver transplant. He received a standing ovation at the annual Apple show. I wasn’t there but I rooted for him too. For he represents what I think are the two most desirable characteristics for a modern businessman – Passion & Creativity.
Jobs wasn’t standing there because that would light up Apple stock and make the bean-counters happy (which of course, it always does). He was standing there to transmit the excitement that he has for his products. And since he makes insanely great products, the excitement does get transmitted.
If you love what you do, two things are likely to happen. First, you are likely to make good stuff, because you want a lot of people to enjoy what you have made (for Hollywood directors, these people constitute an ‘audience’, for most businessmen, ‘customers’). Secondly, you are likely to make a lot of money because that is, for you personally, a vindication of your own creative efforts. Once agan, the parallels to a successful movie director are obvious.
Remember, we are transiting to the Experience Economy. And it was not by accident that Joseph Pine the creator of that phrase titled his book – ‘The Experience Economy : Work is theatre and every business a stage”
Don’t have enormous Passion & Creativity for the business you do? Move on – right away.
The biggest luxury in long-distance travel is the possibility of a fully flat bed to sleep on. I have done too many bus & air journeys to now crave for this in quiet desperation, everytime I have an overnight trip. So when flat-beds came along in the business class of long-haul airlines, I was an early adpoter, scrounging around for any loose mileage point to get an upgrade. Later, I found flat-bed configurations in inter-city buses in India. But since most of them are crummy, unkempt buses, I am not too enthusiastic (although the idea is fundamentally appealing).
Yotel is a chain of hotels that combine the virtues of business class flat-beds with those of Japanese capsule hotels. Dreamt up by Simon Woodroffe, the founder of Yo Sushi!, these hotels promise to give the weary long-haul traveller a decent & inexpensive place to sleep while in transit. The first hotel opened in Gatwick. The next is due to open in Heathrow. Eventually they plan to open these hotels all across London. Will they work away from an airport? I dont know.
Kaati rolls (or their cosmopolitan cousin, the Bombay Frankie) are getting ubiquitous in big-town India. At is simplest, the Kaati (or kathi) roll is just cooked pieces of meat or paneer or vegetables wrapped in a roti. Fast to make and simple to eat, they have the potential to to do to Indian food what the Salwar-Kameez did to Indian women’s clothing – provide a simple, functional, albeit not-so-attractive option to the beautiful, but elaborate Indian saree (actually I think the salwar is a deeply inelegant garment – but that is another story).
There are efforts on to try to develop a major brand in Kaati rolls (something on the lines of a McDonalds for Hamburgers). Will it work? Ok, let me ask you another question. How many major brands of Salwar-Kameez manufacturers do you know (similar to the positioning taken by Levis for blue jeans)? None. Does it mean that the opportunity for branded Salwars has not been exploited? Or does it mean that branded kaati rolls could be very tough to do? I dont know – do you?
Just finished reading a recent post from a Kuwaiti blogger. The lady is evidently western-educated, most-likely western-reared and the post was about watching Indian movies. She does not like Indian movies and is forced to occasionally watch them, because all her friends in Kuwait do. Here is a classic case of the western sensibility at odds with the new, increasingly confident, Asian ‘feel’. As many of us have heard by now, Rajnikant, the Tamil movie superstar has a loyal following in Japan – another instance of an Asian-Asian cultural nexus that bye-passes the west.
I have noticed a similar dichotomy in user opinion on travel. On HolidayIQ, a lot of traveler comments are from Indians. I now find it really interesting to compare these comments with stuff on predominantly ‘western’ sites such as Tripadvisor & Igougo. The difference is palpable. For the same destination and often for the same hotel, reviews on HolidayIQ are quite different from the traveler views in these other sites. The sensibilities are different & therefore, so are the opinions.
More than anything else, this brings home to me the reality that the world is no more west-centric; the multi-polar globe has arrived. The old certainities built on a hierarchy that puts everything ‘western’ on top is clearly under threat. Young, confident & well-off people across vast swathes of Asia & (eventually) Africa will increasingly determine a new set of realities.
It is in this world that Indian films and Indian tourism stand to gain. After all, the sensibilities of the billion (largely young) people of India seem to find a resonance in many parts of the globe. All we need to do is to conscientiously service this demand.
For HolidayIQ, I think the opportunity to create a pan-Asian viewpoint on travel is, I believe, very real.
Two separate items in this morning’s Economic Times caught my eye. One was a news item announcing a massive road infrastructure project in Orissa to carry iron ore to the new Posco steel project. Anyone who has spent some time in Orissa (I did my time of about 6 months, 20 years ago) understands the criminal neglect of this state that is hopefully now getting slowly rectified. Another was an advertisement by the Orissa government inviting developers for luxury hotels on Shamuka beach in Puri. Seems Orissa is waking up.
It is my firm conviction that Orissa is one of India’s jewels in tourism and needs lots of attention. Is there any Indian (or for that matter anybody interested in India) who can ignore the land of Ashoka, the Konark temples or Lord Jagannath? But more to the point, Orissa’s virgin beaches & multi-hued landscape can be developed into buzzing centres of water sports and other holiday activities – important to all those Indians below 35 years of age, for whom activities on a holiday are important (going by activities offered, all other Indian destinations except Goa, seem to think that tourists are geriatric, has-beens who need only peace & quiet – sorry, this is a pet peeve of mine).
So, is Orissa finally going to happen? Wait and watch..
Ever since I started a company I have been asked various questions about “entrepreneurship”. Stuff ranging from the usual “how-to” to “what-does-it-take-to” to ‘leadership attributes’. Here is my current answer to most of these questions : I have no clue.
This is what happened to me. I was at the top of some kind of a totem pole that circumstances had set up for me. I got there after a climb of 15 years, sometimes fun but sometimes not. I needed a break. Since I had always loved travel (as in the non-business kind), I decided it was time I gave myself a break and do something I like. The most cursory glance around told me that the only way I could do that was to initiate it myself. Nobody had a job for me that would allow me to do what I liked and get paid for it. So I decided to do it myself. One thing led to another and here I am, an entrepreneur.
So in my limited experience, the biggest catalyst required for entrepreneurship is serendipity. Having got into it, what do I think? I think entrepreneurship frees you from the shackles of “always running somebody else’s race” and allows you to “run your own race” (wonderfully wise words I got from one of my first investors, himself a successful first-generation entrepreneur).
I had’nt thought much about this thing called “entreprenuership” when I started; I still don’t. I want to do what I like& if the only way to do it is to start it myself, so be it.
Sorry guys – can’t really help you on this one. But I found 12 videos in Youtube with the tag ‘entrepeneurship”. So, if you still need to know, maybe you should click here.
These 3 words were written recently to describe both Adrian Zecha, the founder of the Aman Resorts chain and Steve Jobs of Apple. If I have benchmarks, they are it. Their businesses revolve around building lifestyle services created out of a wonderful personal aesthetic.
Obviously, neither of them run the biggest businesses in their chosen fields. Apple is so much smaller than Microsoft – but, given the Mac, the ipod & the iphone, can there be any comparison? Similarly, all the rooms of all the resorts owned by the resolutely niche Aman Resorts can probably be fitted ito a large chain hotel in one place. But again, no product in world hospitality can be easily compared to an Aman.
Sorry to gush – but that is the way I would want to make products – as things of beauty.
Gates vs Jobs : check out this cool animation video
Finally. I used to often wonder why we never have a city bus tour that goes beyond the mundane. Here it is (or at least that is the promise). The Royal Time Machine is a tour operator that has started luxe tour coaches for sight-seeing in Delhi. They have pulled out the usual 50 odd seats from the bus and transformed it into a 19 seater with interiors done in Mughal/Rajput motifs. All of this does not come cheap. All their tours cost about Rs 7000/- per person. The good news is that they offer booze (including cocktails) as part of this price. They promise to soon roll out this service in all other prominent Indian tourism destinations.
Now, we need to see whether they can deliver consistently on their promise.
Earlier this week, I found myself in a small village about 20 kilometres from Trivandrum, the capital of Kerala. What took me there was the rumour of a small group of people trying out the concept of ayurvedically treated, organic cloth : Ayurvastra. I found its source and the rumour turned out to be true.
A group of Ayurveds have teamed up with a co.op spinning mill to explore options for creating yarn made from purely organic natural produce and then dyed with various ayurvedic formulations before weaving this yarn into cloth meant for different uses.
I do not know whether these weaves are effective. But one thing I do know – these weavers do spin a great tale. Satish Kumar, one of the members of the Ayurvastra team held us spell-bound with his explanation of why Ayurvastra was an idea whose time has come.
Starting with the political economy of world oil and mixing in the intrigues of “Iraq” & “Iran”, Satish added the public-budget imperatives of the French Healthcare system and the unique composition of Kerala’s air to weave a compelling rationale as to why we must take Ayurvastra seriously.
If you ever find yourself in Trivandrum, I suggest you visit Satish & his team at Ayurvastra. I guarantee you a half-day well spent. Incidentally, while there, ask for the “well-being collection” which is cloth perfumed with traditional herbs. They smell very invigorating : a must-buy.
What is common to Basmati rice, Darjeeling tea, Kanchipuram Silk saree, Alphonso mango, Kolhapuri chappal & Bikaneri bhujia? Answer – these are all Indian products or produce closely associated with a particular place and are all patent protected as Geographic Indications (GI). Which means chappals made other than in Kolhapur or Silk sarees made outside Kancheepuram cannot pass themselves of as the real thing. Now, what does this have to do with tourism? Continue reading →
This morning I saw an Ad in Times of India. It was for the sale of exclusive holiday residences in Mauritius. If there is a better proof of the growing wealth in India, I cant think of any. Most of our parents toiled most of their lives to be able to afford a decent education for their kids, a minimum standard of living and one house. How things have changed. Continue reading →
Richard Branson has set up a company that plans to extend the frontiers of tourism – literally. Virgin Galactic proposes to give space flights (sub-orbital flights) to tourists from late 2009 onwards. Prices per passenger for this 2.5 hour flight start from about Rs 90 lakhs.
Virgin Galactic is in the process of appointing Travel Agents across the world. To my knowledge, nobody has been appointed so far in India. Seems an interesting opportunity for someone enterprising.
(Here is a video showing the features of the recently launched iphone)
To me, the newly announced iphone from Apple signals the first serious move of travel content on to mobile phones. I daresay that in 24 to 36 months, rich interface mobile phones such as the iphone will become the way most of us access, most of the internet, most of the time. Given the high leverage that rich content plays in Leisure travel, it is quite likely that content on leisure travel will become one of the most consumed elements of the internet on such phones.
It was sometime in 1996 or 1997 that I got an opportunity to anchor Television shows on ABN India (TV18′s pre-cursor to CNBC). It was early days for TV 18 and Raghav Bahl was game to try out a part-timer to anchor shows. The primary lesson I learned then was that News TV was all about creating controversy. I remember Paranjoy tearing his hair out to ensure that he got two appropriate guests for his daily show – the big criterion being that the probability of a fight or at least a heated debate between them should be high!
All this passes through my mind whenever I think of creating a Travel TV outfit – which these days, is often. I think Travel TV is a definite opportunity in India. Here is why. Continue reading →
(Promo video from Kerala Tourism, directed by one of Kerala’s successful cultural exports – ace movie director Priyadarshan)
We all know that Kerala has done a great job of marketing itself as a tourism destination. Goa is pretty good at it too. So is Rajasthan. Unfortunately, most of the other states have floundered. What is up? Here is my take on tourism destination marketing in India… Continue reading →
Here is a tourism business idea – this idea comes courtesy Naresh Malhotra, MD of Cafe Coffee Day who has as fertile a project ideation mind as any I have come across. Why doesnt somebody start a bespoke train service from Mumbai to Goa and back. The idea will be to get a few glass topped aircon coaches (such as the ones in Switzerland), attach them to the regular train that runs between Mumbai & Goa. The timings should be re-arranged to reach Goa by mid-day and return from Goa at about 3 pm and reaching Mumbai late in the evening. The ticket price should include 2 meals, accommodation in a select set of hotels and sight-seeing. I have been doing a fair bit of thinking on this and would look forward to more ideation on this. With the railways gettng gung-ho about PPP and Goa continuing to be a red-hot destination for Indians, the time is now for such a project.