Immersive Trails Co-founder and wife Chelsea McGill and I have been to several tourism meetings in the last 4 years about branding and marketing Bengal. The two topics of discussion were common in these meetings.
1. Branding and marketing targeted at the “inbound”
2. Tourism=Durga Puja
In our limited experience in building an experiential tourism company from scratch, I think this has been our Achilles Heel in branding Bengal.
I proposed something radical on a talk that I gave yesterday. Radical that is, in the context of Indian archaeology. I proposed that the government allow semi-privatization of archaeology with some level of government oversight.
A few months back the above message and the photo floated into the mailbox of a few of my friends and regular customers of Immersive Trails. I received a flurry of whatsapp messages and screenshots almost immediately from a majority of them expressing disgust at what they were seeing. The email sent by a certain Hukomukho Hyangla under the subject “Tathagata Neogi PhD Fraud” wanted to make a selected group of my close friends aware that I did not hold a PhD in Archaeology from the University of Exeter, and that while I did spend some years in the UK, I was actually working all of that time at a McDonalds. The drift, therefore, being that I was cheating everyone lying about my academic credentials, which many of my business competitions thought, lent me more credibility to the customers of Immersive Trails.
I was watching a talk on YouTube by Wow Momo founders Sagar and Vinod Kumar. The way they made momos (dumplings, sort of) into a successful fast-food chain in India, is really admirable. But what put me off in their talk, is something that seems to be a trend in the talks by many current generation startup founders in India. They proudly emphasized, like many others, about the caste/community they were from, which was portrayed as a reason for their success. Here, they are from a small, closely knit Sindhi community in Kolkata. For other similar talks, many other founders emphasize on their Marwari or Gujarati roots as a recipe to their startup success. My non-Indian readers must have gotten the drift by now. The Marwaris, Gujaratis and Sindhis, much like the Jewish community in the West, are known for their business acumen and ability to take risks. These communities and their caste networks made an enormous impact in the economy of South Asia for hundreds of years.
No, I am not trying to throw a Sashi Tharoor at you. This blog is not about teaching readers one complicated new word after another each day. This blog is a space to express my thoughts about the world. If they matter, if they help someone, GREAT! If they don’t- well I won’t plead for you to adopt them.