Thursday, May 27, 2010

The magic of Steve Borgia - sans pep talk, advertisement






Coming back to the British Left-Behind Show booklet, it is not only a wonderful publication but also one that shows the care and passion that has gone into its production. Some lovely pictures of art, artifacts and, yes, attitude. Indeed, the trite saying on its cover is apt: “Whether in India or Vancouver, these gentlemen officers were bent on preserving their identity as British subjects living abroad. Their empire was portable, and they took Britain with them wherever they went.”

The booklet is a tribute to the British gentlemen officers and their families – some who joined the army, some who joined the civil services and yet others who invested money in plantations or farms. Charlotte Henrietta was one such. The first settlers married, raised children, drank tea at four in the evening and worshipped in churches with steeples and Gothic windows. Overall, by the end of the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, it was almost as if they never left home. They had created a Britain in India. And it is this part of Indian history that Steve Borgia wishes to record and highlight. In the Steve Borgia Indian Heritage Museum and at the INDeco properties in Swamimalai, Mammallapuram and Yercaud you will find long-lost treasures of old, all restored to almost perfect condition.

I remember listening to Borgia, chairman and managing director, INDeco Leisure Hotels, at a meeting of the Public Relations Society of India. He said then that it would take more than a lifetime to know a vast country such as India, while explaining how INDeco, without an ad agency or a sales team, was able to have 90 percent occupancy during the season at its Swamimalai property and how he never really believed in following set patterns.

The Swamimalai property was a 100-year home he had converted to an eight-room hotel; today there are 50 rooms, with more houses in the village being purchased over a period. Borgia repeatedly said he knew nothing about branding or corporate communications nor did he operate computers. But he knew one thing for sure – that when you don’t follow formulas and don’t walk on the treaded path, there are more opportunities to be had. The reason Swamimalai, a unique heritage hotel set in a village, was a success story. There are peacocks and deer, visitors are taken on a duck walk, and they love the aapam and fish curry offered. “Business is a lot of hard. You can’t sell just by advertising. Security and hard work should be the brand,” he had then advised a group of youngsters. Well, I have become a fan of Borgia after my visit to Lake Forest, Yercaud.

Have a look at the pictures:

- Memorabilia at the Lake Forest reception area
- Did this bicycle belong to Henrietta?
- An old cot, fully restored.
- Every pillar has interesting information relating to heritage found and restored.
- And the wondrous calm of the night in the hills.

1 comment:

Susan Deborah said...

Steve Borgia was a parent in the school I taught, Rishi Valley and so for one of the excursions we stayed in Swamimalai. It was indeed a lovely experience with traditional food, games, houses et al.

The children loved the place and so did we the teachers.

Went back to those memories after reading about Borgia.

Happiness always,
Susan