In conversation with Madhav Rathore
Senior travel consultant for the luxury segment
Madhav Rathore is a senior travel industry professional with wide-ranging experience in the luxury segment. In a career spanning 22 years, he has worked with leading multinational companies and best-of-breed professionals. In travel industry circles he is seen as a strong spokesperson for India’s Inbound Travel (IC) segment - which includes local DMCs, industry associates and foreign tour operators.
Having worked closely for more than two decades with Cox & Kings (in a client-facing role) Madhav has also acquired deep insights into culture, history, architecture, wildlife, photography, miniature paintings, textiles, and a political / historical canvas related to travel.
Madhav says his strength lies in his solutions-oriented and collaborative approach to meeting travel needs of discerning travelers - ultimately creating those ‘WOW’ moments for them. He says this has largely been possible because he understands the intricacies of inbound travel, MICE and private journeys in the VIP segment. He talks about an eye for the non-obvious – helping him steer towards core issues and quick solutions.
We now share brief excerpts from the conversations we had with Madhav Rathore on merging his passion for travel with a larger objective: to give his tourists and guests an India-experience like never before.
Here’s our first question to Madhav Rathore.
What was it like working for Cox & Kings - one of the oldest and largest travel companies in the world?
I worked with Cox and Kings for 22 long years. I started my travel career with them, grew with them and saw the big wide world with them. My only career switch was to start my own travel consultancy: The Indian Bucket List.
That’s a picture of long-service recognition from Cox & Kings, and I owe a lot to them because I got to represent India and its enormous canvas from a travel perspective. This helped me conceptualize, create and execute well-researched travel products.
Over the years, my responsibilities at C&K expanded to include key roles in Foreign Individual Travel (FIT) and Meetings Incentives Conferences Exhibitions (MICE). And the demands for doing things right under both heads were the same – because the process really tests your abilities in time management and organizational agility.
You mentioned being Tour Director on special assignment – what was it like being associated with two of the most celebrated luxury trains in the world?
During my years at Cox & Kings, I also got the opportunity to work on two premier luxury train projects – Maharajas’ Express & The Deccan Odyssey. I came in here as tour director, product specialist and operations manager - in addition to other key roles that got the wheels turning on these trains.
These projects gave me first-hand exposure to different cultures from across the globe in a very unique travel format. I also got to understand inbound travelers from close quarters – learning about their choices, interests, apprehensions and curiosity levels.
The most important thing for me on these journeys was knowing that my team members were excited to show up at work every day, and that they were doing what he or she loved. I once heard one of our team members say, “This is the best job I’ve ever had.” It humbles me and makes me feel happy to hear this from my people.
You have travelled with jet-setters such as Jonathan Oppenheimer and Reed Hastings – how do you handle VIP travel?
When you’re personally responsible for the comfort and care of important people, a different set of skills come into play. Many of these celebrities are game changers and business leaders in their respective fields. And you need to know your part of the story about India, like a travel historian. Jonathan Oppenheimer and Reed Hastings for instance, were instinctively curious about India and its many-layered cultural heritage.
To be picked for these VIP travel assignments you really have to be on top of your game and do your homework carefully. Every single moment calls for being predictive, preemptive and proactive (3Ps) – and that’s just part of the job.
As an India Specialist and story teller, you also need to understand why people look at India with curiosity, interest and respect. Especially when they travel thousands of miles to experience India from some very unique vantage points.
You also mention working as a Television Series Presenter – on a program directed by Michael Donnelly - Producer, Network 10. Talk to us about that.
It does sound strange to say that all my days of travelling on special assignment never prepared me for the camera. Talking to people is intimate, talking to a camera calls for elevated awareness - the presence of the camera would sometimes stop me dead in my tracks.
I was quite nervous initially but figured out a way around it – I imagined I was talking to a person in front of me, and not a camera. And that made a huge difference to my confidence as a presenter. The Network 10 series gave me the opportunity to share India’s vast timeline of stories with interesting anecdotes. Stories that millions of Australians found interesting - creating an interest in them to discover India as travelers.
Talk to us about your Phulkari project for the Royal Academy of Arts, United Kingdom – featuring traditional embroidery from India
I have been interested in art and architecture since I was a child, and was always fascinated by the flower embroidery art done by my mother. Interestingly, my mother was the one who introduced me to the magic of Phulkari art.
And when I was given the opportunity of being part of the Phulkari project, I was treading familiar ground. I knew the nuances of the art, and the canvas of creativity that could be showcased around it. I also loved presenting and showcasing art forms from India - the subject is very close to my heart.
Talk to us about your interest in outdoor & wildlife photography – especially since it’s contiguous with travel
I have always been interested in art, architecture and wildlife - I love to capture the essence of the visual experience around me within both still and moving frames.
The patience one needs to capture wildlife on camera is sometimes beyond the scope of endurance. You also need to be alert, focused and tuned in to the sights and sounds of nature as the day (or night) unfolds.
For me carrying my camera is second nature, it’s like carrying my mobile phone. And when it comes to taking pictures all the world is a stage - I take pride in the work I do and paying attention to visual harmony, framing and the smallest detail.
One last question, Madhav, tell us something about The Indian Bucket List . . .
We at The Indian Bucket List firmly believe in creating possibilities, opportunities and curiosity.
We think if you are curious, you create opportunities, and then if you open the doors, you create possibilities. The road less traveled is an insightful idea. It can relate to many things in life, especially when acknowledging that you cannot always do what is easiest. It can also be related to discovering new horizons when it comes to outdoor adventures and slow travel.
Each new year (sometimes, months back-to-back) gives me the excuse to reflect on what I am doing with my life and what I have achieved since the last milestone. Am I excited to do what I’m doing every day? And if not, is it me, or something else?
Images courtesy of Madhav Rathores
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