Have you received something gift-wrapped from Amazon?


The option of gift-wrapping is useful when you’re shopping online – it’s a nice thought and can make things special. But on Amazon India, there’s a good chance that you will see gift wrapping paper like the two samples featured in this story.

The logo pattern treatment is a clear overdose of design intent. The quality of paper is good, so why am I making such a fuss about it?

When Zomato uses sticky tape (with their logo) on home delivery orders, I don’t have a problem with that – it’s not meant to be a gift. But when it’s meant to be one, I expect some creative thinking to go into the process. After all it’s meant to be “person to person” without commercial overtones.

< More on this story at this link >


Looking beyond life on four wheels

Insurance+Cabbie If you take a look at the cab aggregator market in India, drivers could have a challenging road ahead – with increased competition, narrowing margins, and work days that go into the wee hours of the night. (That’s if you only see yourself as a cabbie behind the wheel.)

The need to survive can sometimes lead to new ways of looking at the dashboard. Cabbies who are proactive and innovative manage to stay ahead of the race – the others fall by the wayside.

Not too long ago, I found a genuinely friendly person behind the wheel. He was armed with a flask of hot coffee, and the day’s newspapers which were tucked into a neat pouch behind the front seats.

In between sips of coffee and me catching up on the headlines, this chap managed to get through to me in an almost non-intrusive kind of way. And during the course of our conversation, he got to know everything about me. What I did for a living, what investments I had made over the years, and what I did with any surplus (if there was any.)

< More on this story at this link >


Here’s a travel podcast platform run by a young entrepreneur couple

The Musafir Stories (TMS) is hosted by Bangalore-based couple Saif Omar and Faiza Khan. Saif has worked in the software services and financial services industry most of his professional life, and was based in the USA. He quit about three years ago, moving back to India and joining the family business. Saif’s wife Faiza is the co-host on TMS and currently works as a Team Lead with a software MNC in Bangalore. Faiza is also an avid baker and inspired crafter of hand-made organic soaps.

Talk to us about your personal journeys, how did the podcast happen?
When we moved back to India, I was looking to consume local podcasts but the options were limited. That’s when we wondered about giving podcasting a shot – even though neither of us has any background in media/journalism, or even full-time travel for that matter.

As kids, most of us have grown up on the culture of listening to stories from grandparents and elders. We can fondly recall sharing first-hand experiences about travel and life in general, with classmates and friends. The culture of story-telling and listening is deep-wired in us.

Looking at TMS at an idea stage, we thought that there might be an audience for casual and informal conversations about travel experiences, especially when pro-travelers can add tips, tricks and hacks to their conversations. That’s how The Musafir Stories was born – it began as a passion project and continues to be so.

< More on this story at this link >


Have you heard of something called the “holiday hangover”?

Are holiday hangovers pretty much like Monday morning blues? Or worse?
I would say that they are much worse. Once you’re past the dreadful Monday, the blues fade away, and you count the days before the weekend starts. As far as holidays are concerned, you know that the duration between two holidays is much longer than just a week, and it makes you yearn for the next time you’re away from the laptop and the perpetual feeling of catching up. In fact, the only time I welcome a Monday with open arms is when I am at one of my favorite reserve forests – though it doesn’t really matter what day of the week it is, in a forest location.

What are your feelings like when you’re heading back home, after a really nice vacation? A good vacation rejuvenates me as nothing else does. No spa, no mall can come close to the feeling of absolute contentment I feel when I am away from the city and when I am one with nature. Of course, the moment I touch city limits after a good holiday, it’s a sinking feeling. The stress sets in immediately, and I know that until my next vacation I have to wake up to the sounds of incessant honking and traffic – rather than the melodious bird sounds and the pollution-free air that I miss so much. I call it the holiday hangover, and the only ‘fix’ that can help me get over it is another holiday. Most of the times, I cannot wait to simply pack my bags, load the camera, and leave.

In conversation with Travel Blogger Shama Ahmed A communications professional working at an MNC, Shama Ahmed is a travel blogger and nature-lover with a voracious appetite for travel. She loves to take the road less traveled to photograph and study animal behavior in the wild. Partial to the jungles of South India, her love affair with the denizens of the tiger reserves in India started ten years ago, during her first safari – when she was armed with nothing but a small camera phone and oodles of curiosity.

Being the kind of experienced traveler that she is, we talk to Shama about “holiday hangovers” – a topic that we have for long wanted to feature in our Q&A sessions. Shama helps us get under the hood of holiday hangovers in an attempt to understand post vacation blues, and how to get things into perspective.

< More on this story at this link >


Tell me a story . . .

Indranil Chakraborty is the author of “STORIES AT WORK” – an imprint of Penguin Random House. Indranil combines three qualities to pioneer business storytelling in India: a love for stories; the entrepreneurial bug; and two decades of experience in leading teams and driving change at top firms like Unilever, Tata Group and Mahindra & Mahindra.

His firm, StoryWorks, has helped organizations and leaders harness the power of stories to create and deliver impactful messages.

Since 2013, using the same approach outlined in Stories at Work, he has trained more than 2000 senior leaders in over thirty organizations, teaching them to be more effective in their communication. The firms he has worked with include Airtel, Accenture, Asian Paints, Barclays, Cognizant, GSK Pharma, HCL, ICICI Lombard, Infosys, PepsiCo, Philips, Roche, WNS and Unilever.

More on this story at this link on the AIRDA website

Bangalore businessman wants to make the city litter-free


Is the young generation concerned about litter-free environments? Is it willing to do something about raising awareness? Is it looking at innovative ways to get the message across?

You will find answers to these questions in this interview with Sandeep Tibrewal of Bengaluru.

In this #citizenconnect interview, we talk to Sandeep Tibrewal about his new awareness drive for Bengaluru – the first segment of which has just been launched with his enthusiastic team of supporters.

Sandeep Tibrewal is an experienced real estate professional, based in Bangalore. He specializes in Purchase and Contract related legalities and negotiations. Outside the portals of business and work, Sandeep is the President of an active wing of the Marwari Yuva Manch from Central Bangalore (MYMCB).

This interview is about that attractive car bin that’s being handed out free by his team, at popular traffic intersections in the city.

Read the complete article on Linkedin >

New horizons for people in wheelchairs

Amphibian Wheelchair #CanDo from Enable Travel on Vimeo.

Q&A: Conversations with Debolin Sen – Head – Enable Travel

Debolin Sen is Head – Enable Travel – India’s first Accessible Holiday platform. He is a media marketing & advertising professional with rich cross-category experience of over 18 years, having been associated with exciting start-ups and well-known global companies – including a long stint with J Walter Thompson.  Debolin has worked with Worldwide Media where he led business growth for three key brands in travel, auto and food as the Publisher of Lonely Planet, BBC Top Gear and BBC Good Food magazines in India.

In this interview with AIRDA’s editorial team, Debolin talks about one of his most inspiring projects yet –Enable Travel. This is India’s first digital platform for accessible travel, addressing the needs of inbound and domestic disabled travelers.

Over to Debolin.

How did your team conceive and roll out the “Enable Travel” platform? (Considering that there has been a long-felt need to give disabled travelers a whole new horizon to look forward to…)

Enable Travel wants people with disabilities to live a life of “equal opportunities” – just like other normal people who are bitten by the travel bug. They have the same desire to travel and to breathe in new experiences – only to draw a blank when it comes to accessible travel information, accessible transport and hotels planned around the needs of disabled guests.  Add to this, people’s indifferent and sometimes pitying attitudes towards disabled travelers – which only make things worse.

With a national footprint across 15 cities, we aim to address travel-related concerns of people-with-disabilities and provide end-to-end solutions.We curate itineraries to destinations that are barrier-free and offer services that help make travel and vacationing easier.

What were the primary challenges? (Planning facility support? Finding people? Training people?)

The primary challenge from the idea stage was to find answers to the four key questions that disabled travelers have on their minds. What to See? Where to Stay? Where to Eat? And How to Get There? It was important that we first addressed these gaps in every city that came under our expansion plan. Disabled travellers are as passionate about travel as we are, but have been denied a planned and organized support system that connects the dots. An end-to-end platform that can help them enjoy a hassle-free travel experience, managed by people specially trained for the job.

Launching a travel line for the disabled isn’t an easy task to undertake. You need to look into planning, process, logistics, as well as an emotional investment that comes into play to make the exercise meaningful and far-reaching.

Our panel of experts has travelled pan India to understand the requirements of travelers with disabilities across sightseeing points, hotels, restaurants, and transport solutions. It’s been through their observations, insights, and recommendations that we’ve been able to plan itineraries, provide services and stay geared to manage expectations.

Do you have disabled people actually helping you with the planning and logistics? (Can you tell us a little more about your support teams?)

When we first started working on the project, we found it useful to create a panel of experts across the disability profiles we would cater to with planned packages and solutions. Regular support teams without training can find it difficult to identify the hurdles and challenges that need to be considered – only a disabled person can understand how frustrating things can turn out to be on a vacation.

To really identify with this space, we went through multiple rounds of market mapping and research – generating market intelligence, observations and insights. We also looked for seasoned professionals to partner with –thereby creating a resource of disabled experts who bring in their own magic and expertise. These people are my super heroes – committed professionals who can seamlessly blend in with our teams.

They continue to be part of Enable Travel’s extended team as we look to rapidly expand domestically to include more cities, and eventually extend the network globally – catering to a larger universe of disabled vacation seekers.

When does your interaction start with the traveler? (Is it from their homes, to destinations?)

The brand’s interaction is at various touch points and not limited only to transactional experiences. We are in the process of partnering with various disability associations and bodies pan India. Continuous engagement and interaction with each one of them will be important to promote inclusiveness in Indian society and we want to continue contributing to this cause. Enable Travel’s community platform – Firefly World – will be leading this initiative.

As far as an activity map is concerned, our interaction with the traveler commences at the point of brand discovery via the website, call centres, our branches, or our franchisees. Depending on the itinerary selected by the traveler we roll out additional requirements as part of the travel plan. Enable’s service portfolio is comprehensive – and can include experienced caregivers, escorts, guides, sign language interpreters, wheelchair accessible vehicles and other specially designed assist equipment.

Everything from first aid and ambulance services, to hospitals enroute has been taken care of. For travelers and their families back home, it’s reassuring to know that help is always one phone call away.

What according to you is the prime-moving force behind this initiative? (What is your catalyst force?)

Firstly, I think it is the uniqueness of the idea that gave our project purpose and direction. What helped us get off the blocks was the active support of Cox and Kings.

Cox and Kings brought to the table its business insights and domain experience – adding a huge dimension of credibility and reassurance. And this particularly goes a long way in attracting the attention of key business stakeholders in the value chain. The long felt need for such an operation and the visible potential to grow has given them an opportunity to support and participate in a worthy cause. We would like many more stakeholders to come on board to make accessibility a reality and an enjoyable experience.

At the end of the day, I think we’re making dreams come true.

This interview done by me appeared on http://www.airda.org in June 2017