Foliage promises to make you reminisce your date amidst the outdoors

Interviews October 31, 2018

Travel With The Better Amongst The Best For Great Experiences

In a time of competition where the travel market has been practically bombarded with destinations, offers to woo customers (travellers), add-ons and what not, there are hardly a handful companies in the travel business that make travelling a hassle-free and ‘not so complicated’ experience. Amongst those handful lot, established in 2000, Foliage Outdoors is dedicated to providing a wholesome and life-changing experience when it comes to wildlife, adventure and trekking holidays. In the past eighteen years, the company which is well-renowned in eco-tourism space, has aimed to provide exposure to its customers the real beauty nature has to offer and connect with the natural habitat to a whole new level. And mind you, they are not just any run-off-the-mill travel company, promising a whole lot of excitement and close involvement with its clients and patrons, they are out to deliver fine experiences, that are most likely to leave you asking for more.

 

Wildlife tours with Foliage are as much fun as adventure tours

Wildlife tours with Foliage are as much fun as adventure tours

 

Foliage Outdoors’ unique offering marked by organisational expertise has allowed them to cater to a wide range of diverse travellers, providing services (you name it and they have it) and specialising in ‘nature holidays’. On offer are destinations not just across varied continents, but  also tailor-made trips, namely- African Safaris to Kenya, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa; Birding Tours to Bhutan, and treks to Everest and Annapurna Base Camp in Nepal.

What’s in a name? The company vision!

The name Foliage comes from leaves, and greenery, vegetation, something the company’s founders were exposed to on their treks and regular rendezvous with nature.

Here is a story of friends, who gave into the temptations of travel and founded their own company after much exposure to the enchanting and encapsulating natural environment, something which makes their bond only get stronger. As they say ‘everything is planned’, the formation of their company was not.

After I completed my engineering studies, I joined them as a volunteer. We were constantly in touch with wildlife and would go for camps and outdoor trips. That’s where the founders thought the name foliage to be apt.

Mayuresh Borse, CEO, Foliage Outdoors

Borse, too has been with the company for over a decade now says that he joined them because watching birds, wildlife gave him a ‘kick’ and wanted others too to experience the unexplored elements in the natural surroundings.

Infinite Journeys and Foliage Outdoors both belong to the parent company Infinite Journeys Pvt Ltd. However, the former brand was formed later.

Our other co-founders had a good idea about wildlife, adventure trips and trekking so we decided to use their knowledge and incorporate a whole new company altogether

Rahul Bhusari, Founder Director, Infinite Journeys

Rahul Bhusari, Rahul Rao, Abhay Ghanekar and Gaurav Purohit - Partners, Foliage Outdoors

 

Bhusari and the other three partners Rahul Rao, Abhay Ghanekar and Gaurav Purohit got together and started Foliage. With a surging demand for adventure and wildlife travel, Foliage finds itself in the mix of providing exciting and real experiences to its customers.

Thriving in a time of challenges by building niches

Like it is said that children are the hardest to make happy and please, Foliage perfectly balances itself out as they have steadily grown and become a trusted name in delivering experiences to these young ones, who go on the trips that are essentially looked at ‘building their character’. Having become a household brand in conducting one of the finest and most well-organised camps for children, these guys are a name to reckon with.

Operating smoothly like a well-oiled unit and collectively with 200-250 employees (including 45 on their payroll and the rest as volunteers/ freelancers), the workforce is able to deliver up to the mark and even meet demands that trickle in.

 

A team of super enthusiastic and knowledgeable individuals_FoliageOutdoors

A team of super enthusiastic and knowledgeable individuals

 

Children are kicked by natural surroundings and history. The outdoor experience is necessary for them in order to grow and become compassionate. Every summer we conduct at least 120 trips and we have mostly children taking them,” says Borse.

 

The kids’ camp has children as young as eight years joining us. With their first memorable experience amidst the wild and nature, their confidence increases,” adds Bhusari.

However, it is no easy task to survive amidst growing competition and do well at the same time. In order to keep the cash flow consistent, the company began offering extra services as at times the demand is seasonal. The FITs (Free Independent Travellers) are fixed ones the company’s either division ends up catering to. The loyal clients receive highly customised tours. Since the people helming the company are equally well-travelled, they have an idea about planning, pricing and the options that can be offered.

The challenges are many, the travel scenario is changing and it’s hard to run a business where there is constant undercutting with pricing determining everything. In a bid to keep up with changing government regulations, the company has done fairly good to adapt to the industry standards and still carve out a niche for itself.

 

Costs have increased, but the profit margins are still the same. In certain cases, we are forced to take flights over trains and our cost escalates. Students are also price conscious and that makes the market even more challenging. For us feedback matters a lot. However, quality conscious people have increased and price conscious customers have reduced. Now that people know what we offer we don’t have to justify ourselves to anyone,” says the 43-year-old Bhusari.

 

The company’s Infinite wing specialises in providing offbeat and customised tours, allowing them focus in these areas besides Foliage where the aim is either only wildlife or adventure/ trekking.

 

Its a special treat for kids to be in open classrooms - FoliageOutdoors

It’s a special treat for kids to be in open classrooms

 

Having conducted over 5000 trips in these many years, the company management does not at any point neglect any aspect while planning the tours. Children coming for camps are as important as their adult patrons.

Move beyond the regular and experience variety, all under one roof  

 

We are a one-stop shop for those who want to travel and even if they don’t end up using our services for tours or when travelling to destinations, they end up availing the most basic things we have to offer. Because tours, camps and adventure holidays are not the only things we offer. We also book tickets, provide guides (to individuals or groups) and arrange visas. However, we cannot scale much in these aspects as we are already doing so many things. The company is ensuring its survival through not only quality offerings and services, but also by expanding and multitasking,” says Bhusari.

 

Birding with experts is a great way to know our natural surroundings - FoliageOutdoors

Birding with experts is a great way to know our natural surroundings

 

Foliage, a professionally managed organisation, has a team of experts who are well versed with the various aspects of nature. The resource persons, have expertise in various aspects of Natural History like mammals, birds, reptiles, butterflies, and insects. Our team dwellers, not only have a keen eye for flora and fauna but they also have a unique ability to impart information to special interest groups as well as beginners.

The leisure treks are for people who are on the lookout for a Himalayan backdrop but are also looking at luxury and comfort.

 

Safety is the priority when it comes to adventure with Foliage Outdoors

Safety is the priority when it comes to adventure with Foliage Outdoors

 

For raw explorers or FITs who enjoy bonding with the place they intend to visit and experience it, in its truest form, there is a provision of backpacking tours as well.

The working class too has a reason to cheer! There are outings organised for leading corporates as well. This includes, providing expertise, organising holidays, conducting induction programmes and offering a complete range of services related to all the corporate tourism needs.

Using tech to stay ahead and keep pace with changing times

Infinite’s quest to remain at the top of their game by ensuring a creative mix of offerings, the company largely attributes its success to technology, besides the expertise the well-travelled volunteers bring.

 

Borse says “we expanded our online presence three years back and technology has helped us manage trips and customer data really well. The software we have developed along with Vacation Labs is very effective and we find it useful. We use multiple softwares for different usage viz. when we have many children accompanying us on camps, their parents are generally the most worried, who feel a need to be kept updated about the child’s well-being. We use a specialised software to send photos from the field to their parents so they know what their wards are upto. That way they remain updated.

 

Nature is the best teacher and there you are with Foliage Outdoors

Nature is the best teacher and there you are with Foliage Outdoors

 

Tech ensures that the booking process and manual data management is eliminated and is not time consuming either. Because of time constraints it may not necessarily be possible for field leaders to interact all the time so tech ensures that the communication process is completed in one click. Online bookings are managed by Vacation Labs, allowing the company to dedicate it’s time, energies and efforts on development of other core and primary functions within their company.

During summers we have close 2500-3000 people joining us for camps and treks. This heavily customised software helps manage everyone’s details well,” adds Bhusari.

While innovation is the key to surge ahead of the other travel companies, here at Infinite Journeys they believe in providing end-to-end services, going for recce from time-to-time and scout newer locations.

Costing you heavy? Because safety, quality are anything but a compromise!

In order to get a good understanding of how things work in a team, the learning of group dynamics is very important. A six months first aid certification course is provided as volunteers need to know how to respond in case of any untoward incident or unforeseen circumstances.  

Volunteers are taken to the field and are taught about the ERP (Emergency Response Protocol) program. Besides that, the guide or field leader will also have awareness of primary health care, nearest doctor around and information on the local police station. The company believes in indulging in ‘responsible tourism’.

 

To be trusted on unknown waters takes time and hard work - FoliageOutdoors

To be trusted on unknown waters takes time and hard work

 

Most travellers only worry about cost rather than going to the right people, who are professionals at what they do. Our costs are slightly higher than the market price because we invest in safety and educating the clients. Some companies, who provide services at a cheaper rate, spoil the overheads that affect the quality. When there is undercutting, majority will go for only the best prices, neglecting the safety aspect. Today, anyone sets up shop without having adequate knowledge or idea of treks. But that’s not right; proper training is a must,” says Borse in a worrying tone.

Natural progression of the travel industry over time

Travelling is definitely no longer like the traditional means where one had to pick up a brochure and then select a place, which was a time consuming and lengthy affair compared to what it has become today.

Travel trends have changed, brochures are replaced by Facebook, Instagram, websites or Whatsapp. With companies having moved to videos that can be shown in a minute, the intrigue and interest levels among travellers have gone higher. In a minute-long video the potential customer knows whatever there is to know about the place, assisting in almost instant decision-making.

From a marketing perspective, one can schedule posts targeting a specific type of client. Masses have been reached, audiences have been targeted and there is more access to customers, making them believe that travel is not a task. This effective medium of marketing also helps keep the company’s advertising budget in check.   

 

Customer centricity and wellbeing is ingrained in Foliage team

Customer centricity and wellbeing is ingrained in Foliage team

 

A lot has changed in the travel industry but what has not changed for Foliage Outdoors and Infinite Journeys over the years is the passion for nature, utmost professionalism, an eye for creativity, concern about guest security, care for local communities, vision to create a model travel company and become an inspiration for others to follow.