Vishal Tupper was the Head HR in a tea company. He was always an ‘outdoor person’ and never liked a 9-to-5 cubicle based life. It’s his passion for travel that compelled him to quit his job and start an out-of-the box, soft adventure travel company, CrossIndia, in Kolkata. Being from an HR background, he is people-centric and creating job opportunities for villagers, fishermen and others at grass root level. Here is his story.
Saikat: Tell us about your background.
Vishal: I come from a small town called Allahabad from Uttar Pradesh. I have done my schooling from St Thomas and graduation from St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata. While studying I fell in love with the city and decided to stay here although I had opportunities to work and settle in other cities.
Saikat: When did you start CrossIndia?
Vishal: I was working as head of HR for a large tea company. I had a good experience in the tea industry. I have always been an outdoor person and somehow the call to be out was more than to be confined in a cubicle in a 9 to 5 set up. There was always a yearning to go out and do something. Adventure tourism was a natural call that would also go on for a cause to accomplish something.
Saikat: Tell us about CrossIndia – what does it offer?
Vishal: CrossIndia is about people and the love that we have for people. It’s not just the intricately planned out-of-the-box soft adventure tour, it’s about rendering a personalized service to the people who choose to come for our tours. Pirates Party Tours around Sunderbans, private or corporate parties down river Hooghly and the walk down history upstream on our ‘little Europe’ Hooghly Heritage Tour are our primary offerings.
We at CrossIndia believe in serving people more than servicing them and in building relationships in true sense. I believe this serving attitude, beside the quality of our tours, sets us apart from the rest.
Saikat: What was the motivation behind starting Cross India? Was it only passion for travel? Did you spot any gap that you wanted to bridge?
Vishal: CrossIndia did start from a passion to travel but it eventually went on to bridge a gap in the need of a weekend getaway in true sense as a soft adventure tour. The closest opportunity for a soft adventure getaway was indeed the largest mangrove forest in the world, the Sunderbans, but it was disappointing to see the over emphasis on the Royal Bengal Tiger (which is almost impossible to sight) and not focus on the amazing terrain itself. Thus a soft adventure theme Pirates Party was born and it evolved overtime to give a balance of jungle tour and also the activities alongside to give it a more interesting appeal to it.
The Hooghly Heritage Tour was again a gap that we saw could be filled in. There has been a lot of focus on the regular British legacy that the Kolkata city entails but then what about the heritage that the Portuguese, Danish and the French have left in the vicinity upriver from Kolkata? We are glad that people now have been recognizing and appreciating that as well.
Saikat: How large is the core team?
Vishal: The core team consists of five people. Swarnendu De as IT Director, Ritesh Osta as Marketing Director, Sheriff Daniel as Finance Director, myself Vishal Tupper on Operations and Peter as Heritage Tour master mind.
Saikat: How did you meet your co-founders?
Vishal: Sheriff Daniel is my friend. We met Ritesh Osta in one of the business meets. Swarnendu had come to one of the cruise events that we organized down river Hooghly. All of our 4 founders have inherent love for travelling, Swarnendu is an ardent traveler and takes time to travel every month, in spite of his very busy schedule, Vishal Tupper and Sheriff Daniel have both been into adventure travels and love Cross-Country Driving/Riding, Ritesh Osta has also traveled a great deal around the globe due to his IT assignments across his career.
We realized that we make a perfect team with strengths that is required to take the company forward.
Saikat: How did you fund the business when you started? And how are you sustaining now?
Vishal: The initial funding has come from the partners themselves. Currently we are sustaining from the profits that we are making on the cruise. However we are looking for expansion and further investments to broaden our operations.
Saikat: With that said, what is the future plan?
Vishal: Our Short term objective is to be known and recognized around Kolkata region as a major Tour Operator with off-beat and out-of-the-box travel solutions and our long term objective is to become a major soft adventure/Heritage tour Operator in India and to come up with multiple Products across the country .
Saikat: Are you facing any challenges when it comes to run the business? If yes, what?
Vishal: The challenge I thought that would be the hardest was actually the easiest; finding right people at operation level from the villages to work as a team. We have seen a need and a strong willingness in them to do something for themselves. They have been a cornerstone in our vision and we appreciate them as much as the core team in the company. We hope that through our endeavours we can bring about an opportunity in rural areas where the youth can be empowered and be filled with their own dreams that they can accomplish through our operations.
Saikat: Most entrepreneurs have their ‘High’ and ‘Low’ moments. Did you also have similar experiences?
Vishal: Yes, initially more ‘low’ moments than ‘highs’ but the ‘highs’ have been good enough to keep us going. It is a bitter pill that all entrepreneurs have to swallow. I had a vision but I alone was not adequate enough to see it through. The highest point for me was finding the partners that we consist of today. We have become a family and together can face all the other challenges that come as a routine in the process to accomplish what we intend to accomplish. We can suffer with each other in our ‘lows’ and celebrate with others in our ‘highs’.
Saikat: Any suggestions/advice to the fellow entrepreneurs?
Vishal: One can dream but only teamwork can help you accomplish. It takes a lot of energy, team work to implement an idea to a solution, what I say is the escape velocity, just as it takes a lot of energy to break the escape velocity for a rocket to reach into the space from the excruciating pull of the earth’s downward gravity but once it breaks free the ride becomes much easier.
It’s very important for an entrepreneur to always be on a learning and adapting mode not just for the business but in terms of personal improvement as well.
Saikat: Anything else you would like to talk about?
Vishal: We are led by passion and calling into this business and work very hard on grass root level. Each sail is very meticulously planned and executed.
Working with the local people, the villagers and the fishermen, we have come to realize that there is a great burning desire from them to do something in the region. They just need help and assistance. People are very encouraging and have welcomed us with arms wide open to do something and have appreciated the fact that we have been trying very hard to do something that would bring about more employment and change in their region; that would give alternate scope of employment for themselves and their children. A lot of people have been employed who otherwise have been aimlessly loitering around. Lack of job and lack of direction leads them to do a lot of things which are unwanted and which can be completely avoidable in life. We hope that through our endeavors a lot of life is positively affected.
Saikat: Great! It was nice knowing about your journey Vishal. Wish you all the best!