SITE Young Leader, Ayesha Nageshwaran is Director of Strategy & Development for Incent India, an independent and original Incentive Travel Company founded in1982. Headquartered in New Delhi, India, Incent organises meetings and conferences, sources venues and operates incentive travel programs throughout the country. Along with co-chair, Nitin Sachdeva, Ayesha has taken on responsibly for officially launching the SITE India Young Leaders program this year.
"We are not travel consultants, we are not a DMC, we are Ambassadors of our nation"
SITE: What is your current role and responsibilities at Incent India?
Ayesha: As Director or Strategy & Development I manage the company’s business development strategies, as well as our quality control processes and systems. Looking after our quality control systems, in addition to strategy and development, provides a great advantage for someone in a marketing role as it creates a bridge with the operations team. When we promise a customer a service, we know we can deliver because we know the reality.
SITE: What is your educational and professional background and why did you choose the meetings and events industry as a profession?
Ayesha: I am among the highly-clichéd and rapidly growing high school drop out bunch! I was educated at Pathways World School till the 11th Grade and then joined Incent in September 2008. In 2009, I decided to apply to Hospitality Management School in Switzerland and, about 2 months before I was scheduled to leave, decided to stay back and continue in my role at the company. I have absolutely no regrets about not finishing my formal education, as I feel that this industry has provided me with education and experience that you cannot put a price to. Meeting new people, from different backgrounds, experiencing new cultures and gaining a general understanding of life that you get from travelling is education that most people spend their lives wanting to receive but don't have the opportunity to.
In response to why I joined the industry, my parents started Incent 32 years ago, and in India the concept of nepotism is highly prevalent! Our company is older than I am and my childhood was spent being shipped off every Friday to whichever destination my parents were organising an incentive in, so I was exposed to the wonders of the travel and hospitality industry at a very young age. I always knew I wanted to play a role in the company and carry my family’s legacy forward.
Having been present at many events during what I like to call " the golden years for Incentives" I knew I had a huge responsibility and a daunting task ahead of me. When I look back at some of the events my family managed, with the limited resources they had available back then, it really amazes me to think that, although we've come so far with technology, infrastructure etc., somehow we will never be able to do what they did. It's like trying to rebuild the Taj Mahal you just can't do it.
However, since I joined the company, my reasons for being in the industry have changed. With all due respect and gratitude to the masters, I am now more interested in creating my own legacy, which has to go beyond our family name at some point if we plan to grow further as an organisation that adds value to the industry and its people. My hope for Incent is to create an environment that will make everyone sit up and question the very essence of what they deem as " the best.” This isn't about competition; this is about creating an environment that is conducive for change and growth. We need to constantly raise the bar on all fronts.
SITE: What are your career aspirations?
Ayesha: Co – Chair, Nitin Sachdeva and I are very honoured to be officially launching the Young Leaders program in India, especially since we are hosting the SITE Global Conference 2015 in our coiuntry. We are hoping to make SITE India the chapter with the highest number or Young Leaders, which shouldn't be an impossible task, since 65% of our population is under the age of 35!
The programs we plan to offer through the SITE Young Leaders Program are designed to educate young professionals about the importance of good business ethics and give them an understanding of the endless opportunities for growth, and the value and rewards that come from working in the industry.
I feel that, along with many others my age, I have a unique perspective on our country that makes us more relatable to our foreign counter parts. As young ambassadors, we are the key to bridging the gap between modern and traditional India. It's more of a duty towards the future of our industry than anything else, because those who believe that these issues don't affect our business are barking up the wrong tree.
I am also extremely excited to launch our Impression India Campaign next year, which will help in addressing many of the issues and concerns that foreigners have when it comes to travelling to our country. When we first conceptualized the campaign we thought it would be a focused initiative by Incent and her brands only. However, I strongly believe that the more support we have from other players in the industry, the better our chances of making a real ‘impression’. We will officially be inviting other companies to be a part of our campaign in the first week of January, and I am positive that we will get the support we need.
"We are not travel consultants, we are not a DMC, we are Ambassadors of our nation", my father said this to me at a very young age and I never quite understood what he meant till we began work on the campaign. Going forward, I would like to see Incent take its rightful place as a game changer in the luxury travel segment. Our sister concern, Maven, which is a members only concierge club. has created quite a buzz in the 18 months of it's existence, so we definitely see this partnership as a redefining moment for us. We have to constantly "raise the bar", and I think those three words would best describe my career aspirations.
SITE: What do you feel are the most valuable benefits of being a member of SITE, specifically SITE Young Leaders?
Ayesha: My father was Secretary of the SITE India Chapter in 2011 and that was my first introduction to SITE. It wasn't till August of last year that I was introduced to the Young Leaders Program, which really was the motivating factor that got me to join SITE. The idea of being able to network with people my age who are future decision makers from different parts of the world is a huge opportunity in itself, apart from the various other obvious benefits of being a member of SITE.
Coming into the business as the second generation you're introduced to owners and top-level management at trade partners and counter parts. Although this can be a plus, and should be considered as a great start to a career, one is sometimes stuck in the "shadow" of your family name.What's great about SITE is that it is an equaliser, no matter who you are, what your legacy is or whether you even have one, every member is given the same great opportunity to learn and network. For “freshers” in the business, having access to the industry experts that SITE gives you is the best learning experience one can have.
I was told by someone on the younger side of old age at the SITE Conference in Rotterdam that meeting Young Leaders gives them a burst of energy and reminds them as to why they got into this business in the first place, and of course a platform to relive the old days in the form of war stories! So you see it works well for everyone involved.
More than anything else, I am grateful for the SITE Young Leaders program. It provides you with a support group of people who have been in your place or are in your place, people who are happy to guide you when you need it, motivate you when you need it, bring you back to reality when you've been riding on the fumes of your success for too long, or just people who become great companions to have on your professional journey.
So I wouldn't say that SITE has any "one" particular valuable benefit that should be highlighted, because the true benefit is in the experience. It is personal to each individual and it's what you decide to learn and take back from the experience is what it offers you.