Birla in the pink with Jaipur

Incentive travel programmes within India can be just as effective as overseas destinations, as Birla Cement demonstrated. Shekhar Niyogi reports.

When MP Birla Cement, part of the Birla Corporation, looked for a destination to motivate their 535 top dealers to grow sales by 15-20 per cent, they needed an incentive that would engage the participants.

They chose the Pink City, Jaipur, famous for its pink stone palaces, forts and villas instead of a destination overseas. The management felt that given the profile of its dealers, a destination in Rajasthan would be more conducive to its goal of motivation, through immersive experiences, during the trip. In July this year, they sent back-to-back groups of 40 delegates to Jaipur.

Nikhil Agarwal, tour manager of Just Holidays, who anchored this large incentive group, said: “We chose Jaipur as it is a fabled city, alive in the folklore and history of India. It is inspiring because of the tales of heroism, struggle and eventual victory which our clients felt would be a good ambience and experiential excursion for its high-performing channel partners to motivate to them greater performance and to create bonding with the company’s sales team. The company management puts faith in these trips to Jaipur, believing they will encourage better performance, motivate their dealers and grow sales significantly in the next year.”

The groups travelled from Kolkata to Jaipur on IndiGo Airlines, arriving early morning on day one. After checking in and breakfast at Hotel Pak Ocean, they visited Amer Fort (also known as Amber Fort), a 16th century Rajput fort situated on top of a hill. The history of the era and its battles, challenges and how they were overcome was awe-inspiring for the participants. The group returned to the hotel for lunch. In the afternoon they visited Jal Mahal in the outskirts of the city and Hawa Mahal located in the famed jewellery and gemstone market in the heart of the city. The former is a palace built in the middle of a lake and the latter known for its unique engineering feat of ventilation and cooling using building techniques in an era when air-conditioning and cooling equipment were non-existent. Dinner and overnight stay was at the hotel.

On Day two, the groups were driven in coaches for about two hours to Ajmer and Pushkar. Ajmer is famous for its Muslim shrine, Dargah Moinuddin Chshti, revered by people of all religions with no bar to visit and pray. It is considered a pilgrimage for many to ask for their fondest wishes to come true. Nearby Pushkar is famous for its lake and adjoining temple and is considered holy by Hindus, where new-borns are often dipped during their infancy to invite purity in their lives. Lunch consisted of a seven-course vegetarian meal of local delicacies, flat breads layered with pure white butter and various vegetable dishes and sweets. After a long and exciting day, the groups returned for over- night stay at the hotel in Jaipur.

On day three, after breakfast at the hotel, the group checked out, loaded their bags in the coach and were taken to the City palace of Jaipur where a portion is occupied by the current Queen and the Prince and Princess of Jaipur. The palace building is fascinating with museums depicting the history of their rule and of Rajasthan, illustrating the opulence and the riches as well as the benevolence of the royalty of this famed kingdom of the erstwhile Indian state. One among many treasures of note is a Lalique table, only two of which were made, amid rare pieces of art from across the world adorning the room where royal guests are entertained.

Polo is still played with gusto and reverent enthusiasm during winter and many polo players from England, Argentina, France, South Africa and Australia visit these hallowed polo grounds to take part. A unique diversion is the polo played on elephant backs in the palace grounds with the elephant decked in finery with costumed mahouts leading them, amidst trumpeters calling the beginning and end of chukkers (rounds of play).

Later the group was transported to the Jantar Mantar, an ancient clock dial designed to tell time by the shadows that the structure creates and then to the Birla Temple. Some time was spent for shopping for specialities of Jaipur, before departing for the airport to board their flight back to Kolkata.