I think it was way back when, sometime in 2002 that I decided that the usual drag in Kerala was beginning to suffer from overtourism and I decided to venture north to see what lay beyond, I had to travel in August and it was wet! A couple of weeks in and a bedraggled and somewhat disgruntled PK arrived at Orange County, Coorg where the Ramapuram brothers were all gathered for a meeting and the rest, as they say, is history. Here we are, coming of age, 18 years later as Evolve Back.
- Who you are (naturally!)
After Pursuing my Bachelors in Economics (Hons) from St. Stephens College, Delhi, I then went completed my MBA – Marketing from Loyola Institute of Business Administration, Chennai. I then worked with Citibank for 2 years in the Wealth Management department after which I joined Orange County Resorts in September 2008.
I am now the Joint Director – Sales at Orange County Resorts (Now Evolve Back Resorts) and am responsible for Sales of our properties in Coorg, Kabini & Hampi.
With a strong focus on Experiential Tourism, Orange County Resorts caters to the discerning traveller who is more interested in local cultural and authentic experiences – this objective is articulately captured in our tag line – ‘Spirit of the Land’. With this unique positioning, Brand “Orange County” has redefined the term “Luxury Holidays” and gained national and international recognition for its outstanding hospitality and cultural values.
- What inspired you to create/join your business?
Well it’s a family business, so you could say it was inevitable to join it J. However, I always enjoyed travel and hotels so I was happy to take the plunge.
- An anecdote which epitomizes your India?
Haha had to think long and hard about this. One incident that I believe epitomizes India actually happened in London in 2017. It was at WTM 2017 and I was having a one on one meeting with one of my British Partners (Jane) at the Karnataka booth. All of a sudden, there was a lot of commotion and chaos at our booth, a lot of people walked in and both Jane and me were a bit confused as to what was happening. We were told that the Tourism Minister of India was due to visit the Karnataka booth shortly and his entourage of officers and helpers had come in advance to clear everything and ensure he was properly welcomed. I asked Jane if we could move out of the booth for a while as I was sure there would be a ribbon cutting and other shows of reverence and we were sitting right in the middle of the stall.
Jane was amused and adamant that she would stay where she was and continue our meeting. In India, we hold our politicians and Government beauraucrats in excess reverence, I believe it is due to the power they wield and their influence. I believe this is not the case in England or for that matter in most other countries. I believe that this anecdote epitomizes the God like status we give to our Govt Officials.
- One thing that you can’t live without?
Whether youre an Indian or not, that has to be my phone. Its unfortunate but I am so dependent, I feel lost and helpless without it.
- One thing that you hate?
Corruption, politics – people who can get away with murder (metaphorically speaking) just because they have the right connections.
- If you could change one thing about India what would it be?
Our “Everything is okay” attitude, it is not uncommon to see a vehicle going in the opposite direction on a designated one way. It is not uncommon and almost normal to turn up 20 minutes late for a meeting. Spitting on the road after chewing paan is accepted as well. I could go on, but I guess you know what I mean…….
- Who is your greatest inspiration?
I don’t have too many heroes. If I was pushed to name someone, it would be my father and his 6 brothers. They have built our company from scratch. They have always stuck to integrity and ethics over money and profits. We now have a world class hospitality brand which my generation and our future generations can be immensely proud of.
They say that in India, you cannot run a successful business if you don’t pay bribes to get things done (especially when dealing with the Government). There is a general reputation among Government officials and officers to not even bother to ask ‘Orange County Resorts’ employees for a bribe to get work done as they know that they will be outright refused. This is a reputation cultivated out of 30 years of ethical running of our hotel business and though we have had to face numerous delays and harassment due to the same, we can confidently say that we are the better for it.
- What is your favourite quote?
Again I am not one for quotations J. If I had to name one, here goes..
“Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.” – Elie Wiesel. We must take sides. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. The easiest and path of least resistance is stay out of uncomfortable situations so long as it does not affect us. I believe we have to challenge that mindset and get involved.
- I have noticed huge changes in India over the last few years but what is the biggest change you have noticed in India over the last 10 years?
It definitely has to be the economic liberalisation in India which was initiated in 1991 by Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao and his then-Finance Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh. Through this initiatve, controls started to be dismantled, tariffs, duties, and taxes progressively lowered, state monopolies broken, the economy was opened to trade and investment, private sector enterprise and competition were encouraged and globalisation was slowly embraced.
I believe this was the turning point in our lives when we opened ourselves up to the world and began to realize our dreams and potential as a nation.
- What do you think are the biggest challenges India faces over the next ten years?
Climate Change : My father is a seasoned coffee planter and he always believed monsoon flooding was a once in a 100 year phenomenon. He is still to come to terms with the fact that every year for the last 3 years there has seen severe natural devastation (floods, landslides) and significant loss of lives and livelihood during the monsoons.
Health Infrastructure : The recent coronavirus pandemic has been a wakeup call for the authorities to strengthen our health and medical infrastructure. However, we have been grappling with this issue far before the pandemic hit. There is a saying that “If you are poor person in India, it is a crime to fall sick and the punishment is death” – I think this aptly sums up the plight of most of our population that does not have access to quality medical care. India owes it to her citizens to take care of them when they are in ill health.
- Which is the destination at the top of your bucket list?
Africa was until last year when I travelled to Botswana and we actually acquired a lodge there! However, I still want to visit the other African coutnries like Zimbabwe, Namibia, Tanzania, South Africa etc.. and enjoy the high end lodge experiences they have to offer.
- What is the one place you visited that you have NO desire to return to?
Shimla for sure. My brother got married to a lovely girl from Himachal Pradesh and I travelled there twice in a span of a month to meet with the family and other obligations. I was shocked at what had become of Shimla. It is a hill station that has been so exploited for human inhabitation, I found it hard to believe that it used to be the summer capital for the British.
- Book or Movie?
I’d like to say book but I would be lying. With the advent of Netflix and the internet , my book reading has taken a far back seat. Need to get started again. Soon hopefully.
- Just for fun! I am doing a survey to find India’s most popular breakfast, what is yours?
Masala Dosa of course. Isnt it everybody’s? 🙂
- In retrospect, what is the one thing you wish you could have told your 20 year-old self?
Hmm nothing much, it’s not been perfect but am pretty content with how I lived my life & where I am at the moment.
You can find out more about hte wonderful Evolve Back resorts here: https://www.evolveback.com/