Asheesh Melaney and Nikhilendra Singh met when they were 12 years old at boarding school in North India. Several years later, and spanning 3 continents of travels, they have combined their experiences to become the Directors of the highly acclaimed specialized travel and events company called Natural Mystic South Asia. As these members talk about India and the rest of the South Asian countries, they sound off a sense of patriotism that is uniquely and infectiously theirs. No wonder international celebrities and business VIPs give them full trust as event and tour planners for this part of the globe. Read on as Asheesh and Nikhilendra reveal more of how they work, the Natural Mystic way.
FULL NAME: Asheesh Malaney
PLACE OF BIRTH: Bombay
CITY OF RESIDENCE: Bombay
EDUCATION: Wharton Undergaduate / Insead MBA
FULL NAME: Nikhilendra Singh
PLACE OF BIRTH: Bangalore
CITY OF RESIDENCE: Jodhpur, Rajasthan
EDUCATION: St Stephens's College, New Delhi
You talk of a difference between a Traveller and a Tourist, what is it?
NS: I think travellers like to dig a little deeper on their holidays - its not just about lavish hotels or the lying by the beach. India has so much to offer and often the more you are willing to steer of the main routes the more you will see of India and that doesnt mean you dont get to stay at some of the greatest hotels but just means you plan your trip with the perfect balance and get the best of both worlds. AM: Travellers are willing to take risks and time when visiting a new place, espicially one like India. Basically they are coming for a full on experience. Tourists tend to go for the quick fix, cliched and often safe bets. Luckilly most of our clients are more the traveller type and we go back on forth on e-mail or skype to customise their experience, which often includes doing the luxury thing, camping in the desert of jungle and heading off to remote village we've recommended.
NS:I think the traveller chooses his destinations more carefully and then takes the pick of hotels and the tourist might give more importance to the hotel ! I think both are perfectly fine and thats why India is a great destination now as it offers both.
What are the best customized adventure travels you offer?
AM: Most of our trips are combinations of luxury and adventure. We've created all sorts of adventerous trips for clients including trekking in the Himalayas, wildlife trips, diving in the Lakshadweep Islands, Horseback riding safaris in Rajasthan, Rafting and camping. We offer all those well!
Who comes up with the itineraries and how are they made interesting to your clients?
NS: We all do! After some brainstorming with the client we see how we can add just a little more so its a little more than the client expects - i think suprise is an important element so the client is always wondering whats round the corner.
AM: We start of by getting an idea of who the clients are and what they are looking for. We then send them a sample itinerary or two and then go back and forth until we get it perfected. NS: I think you need to anticipate your clients needs by putting yourself in their shoes - if its a young unmarried couple they surely would want private time in beautiful settings or if its a hard working banker with three kids he might just be content to sit by the pool and read a book or if its a small group of older people you got to make sure they dont get exhausted in the sun but yet get to see the best picks. Thats why we encourage our clients to speak to us over the phone , its amazing how much you learn about them from just that !
AM: We've now created hundreds of trips over a period of 10 years for about 4,000 clients from around the world and we're pretty good at reading what each client wants. Some clients just want to do their own thing and take it easy, while others want some pretty unique stuff. We've organised fashion shows in old forts, created sit down dinners in the middle of the desert, organised a 1930's jazz night in a 1930's palace and done some other interesting stuff.
In the shortest statements possible, what in your opinion makes these South Asian countries incredible travel destinations?
AM: 5,000 years colours, sounds, sights, nature, history and culture. Very full on or super relaxed - often in the same trip
NS: Hate to sound like a cliche but its simply unique...
AM: Beautiful and peaceful. Makes you stop and wonder why we're sprinting through life in the manner we are...
NS: Its nature at its absolute best which is sadly getting rarer.
NS: The Himalayas, i stood at Mt Everest Base camp and it was the most humbling experience of my life.
AM: Nepal is Bhutan on steroids (but still pretty peaceful by any other standards) and the adventure travel capital of South Asia.
AM: A tropical and colonial gem that packs in a lot for a little island.
NS: Culture, wildlife, spas, beaches, tea estates... Maldives AM: Think Robinson Crusoe with great diving. NS: Luxury and more luxury and probably yet more.
How large is Natural Mystic in terms of number of employees? What is your regular travel service team composed of?
AM: We're a small team of 6 people. We mostly organise the trip without going on it. If the group is large enough or if the client wants, we send our head of Travel Operations on the trip.
From those customized trips you've personally joined, can you tell us one very memorable experience?
NS: The 1930's Jazz night in a secluded 1930's art deco palace really worked. It was one of the clients 30th birthday and most of the group was European. Each of them came with 1930's outfits from their own countries and we had a jazz band flown in for the night.
AM: The 3-day wedding of Elizabeth Hurley and Arun Nayar was a major highlight too. It was in Rajasthan and we managed that from end to end. It was one of those nights that just worked....you had to be there kind of thing.
As individuals and Directors of Natural Mystic, what do you think are your strengths that allow you to successfully handle such a business?
NS: I think we are both very quality concious and pay attention to every little detail and experience we provide - if you are in the service industry thats the most important factor which decides if you are good or not !
AM: When we started, both of us had lived abroad for quite a while , so we had a unique perspective when managing luxury/adventurous experiences for clients from overseas. We spent 6 months travelling and hand picking all the places we liked and continue to do so 10 years later. NS:Also we are very respectful of India and think it very important that people go back home with a true experience of our country whether its the quality of service or the quality of the things they experience. Too often i find tourists being misguided or misinformed. AM: I think our biggest strength now though is our 10 years of experience in creating unique experiences. Its hard to beat experience!
From travel, you've branched out into other areas, what are these and how did it happen AM: We have a few travel related services and each one was a natural extension of our original plans. First we branched off into destination based events as some of our early clients wanted pretty loaded trips, which were in effect mini events. Then we branched off into Private jet trips as some of our clients would come in their private jets. Finally we branched off into locations for film crews as quite a few friends of ours work in the media sector and would contact us for photo or magazine shoots. So it all happened sort of randomly, but made sense as we went on with the company.
How do you want your services to grow in the next few years? Would you ever increase scope to outside of South Asia?
NS: We'll remain in South Asia as thats what we know best. AM: Also, we're a small team that enjoys keeping things personal and intimate. Small is big in our case... We started off as a boutique lifestyle business and will always be the same way.
For more information on Natural Mystic, visit their official website at www.natmystic.com or email email@example.com