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The Wanderers: Going places

August 21, 2004

A chance meeting at a personal development course between two strangers, Rajinder Singh and Abhik Dutta, led to the beginning of The Wanderers -- a travel company that focuses on lesser known exotic destinations.

Unsure of what to do with their lives, Dutta and Singh realised they shared two interests -- travel and Sikkim. Dutta roped in college friend Ashis Das, who was also drifting along in a job he didn't like.

With less than Rs 10,000 as capital, two offices were set up Mumbai and Kolkata -- one in Singh's garage and the other on the ground floor of Dutta's residence.

Their first client was a honeymooning couple, after which business took off through references and a promotional tie-up with the Crossword bookstore. Today, the company, an equal partnership, has a turnover of Rs 3 crore (Rs 30 million), which will double by year end.

Rajinder: I was an above-average student and was expected to follow in my father's footsteps and become an engineer. But I had an individualistic streak.

After doing my BSc in Physics, I joined a small ad agency as a media assistant, earning Rs 800. I quit that to do a diploma in management, after which I joined an Indo-Japanese joint venture company ACN Enterprises in their electronic typewriter division. The training was great, but I wanted more.

Without giving it much thought, I started my own computer business -- Asteroid Computers. My initial capital was Rs 5,000. The computer industry was doing extremely well, so the going was good. At its peak, my turnover must have been Rs 60 lakh (Rs 6 million).

Then the slowdown happened. A partner cheated me and I was totally disillusioned. That's when I joined the Landmark Forum course and met Abhik.

We started talking and realised we both loved travelling and Sikkim. A vague idea germinated about selling Sikkim as a destination to Mumbai-ites. I wrapped up my computer business, Abhik spoke to a friend of his and we set off to explore Sikkim. We came back and set up The Wanderers -- named after us since we were, in a sense, wandering.

Abhik: My father was in the army and because of that I did part of my schooling at a boarding school near Darjeeling. I met Ashis soon afterwards and we became good friends.

After graduation I worked with the Calcutta Yellow Pages briefly and then with Graphics India where I earned Rs 3,500 a month. After a year and a half there I sat for the Indo-Burma Petroleum nationwide exam for sales executives. After training I was posted to Nagpur for three years and then transfered to Mumbai.

It was in Mumbai that I got coerced into attending the Landmark Forum programme, which is where I met Rajinder. Getting our first client was a big milestone, deciding to quit our other jobs was a huge risk and all of us faced opposition from our parents who came from middle-class backgrounds.

Though we started The Wanderers in two offices we soon realised that all the business was coming from Mumbai and that we didn't really need an operational base in Kolkata since most hoteliers and contacts were Internet connected. So in 1999, after I got married, Ashis and I shifted to Mumbai and moved on.

Since then we've never looked back. Initially, the lack of money was a problem; we didn't have a computer so we would-hand write proposals and fax them from neighbourhood stores.

Ashis: I come from a family of businessmen. My father and uncles are into distributorships for consumer products, construction and exports.

I was tired of being known only as someone's son or nephew, which is why I joined LIC as an agent in 1991. I used to advise clients on financial planning as well. After six years I joined my family business.

In mid-1996, Abhik came back to Kolkata and we went to visit the annual travel and tourism fair.

Then, after meeting Rajinder, one day Abhik called me and we discussed the idea and I agreed to it at once. After a lot of hard work, we have reached where we are today.

We are looking at growing the company by focussing strongly on lesser-known destinations like Bhutan, Peru, Chile and New Zealand to Indian families and corporates. We do not offer budget travel but luxurious personalised travel packages.

As told to Arti Sharma



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