We spoke to the legends behind the popular and much loved Explore India by Road. Here are a few excerpts from the interview!
Team WeNomads: Tell us about the three-man army that holds the fort of Explore India By Road. What’s your story?
Both Harmeet and Nikhil would meet often and discuss about the times spent outdoors and then came the idea of organizing road trips and here we are and as they say!
Both founders of ExploreIndia by Road are die-hard outdoor fanatics. Infact, Harmeet was only 10-year-old when he traveled to Leh by road courtesy his father, Late Lt Col PS Gill VSM who was in the Indian army. In fact not many know that his father was the first officer of the Indian Army to take a convoy of Army Shaktiman‘s on Leh – Manali road for the first time in late 1970’s. It’s not surprising that Harmeet followed his father’s footsteps and joined the Indian army and while in service he was involved in user trials of vehicles prior to their induction in army. Guess where Harmeet took all these vehicles for high altitude and treacherous mountainous terrain testing? Well, of course the same road that opened in 70’s. He has served extensively in these areas and for many years was instrumental in setting up army camps at Koshkar, Patseo and Sarchu during the time the road was open for travelers. His passion for motorsports comes from his father and now he is amongst top motorsport marshals in our country to have participated in Indian Grand Prix, National Racing Championships, Truck Racing, Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm and so many more events!
Nikhil too comes from Air Force background. His exploits in the rally circle are unparalleled. A true outdoor adventurer with an undying spirit. he is a veteran rallyist. He has rallied for more than 15 years now. He is an active motor sports organizer with a passion to drive and facilitate people to drive in a difficult situation.
Jagjit, an avid photographer and adventurer joined the band recently. With huge amount of corporate exposure he is a hardcore adventure traveler, who loves to take picture at tranquil and unexplored locales. Internationally acclaimed photographer, he is currently focusing towards transferring his knowledge to avid amateurs as well as professional photographers around him.
Team WeNomads: There are tour operators aplenty in travel domain. What makes you stand out in crowd?
Yes there are tour operators aplenty. But, are they experienced, well-traveled, safety-focused, organized, have support staff, vehicles and equipment and travel with the group every time they organize a trip? Well, there are many questions which will not be answered by those tour operators, but each will be answered in an affirmative YES by us! We ensure that nothing goes wrong so much so that last year we took a mechanic from Harley dealership with spare parts and equipments worth a couple of lakhs to warrant that every single bike was in perfect condition. When the rider didn’t want to ride we had flat bed at disposal to carry the bikes and guess what we even carried a spare vehicle for riders to sit in and travel when they were not driving.
Every detail no matter how small will be taken care of; of course we will always be a back-up!
Team WeNomads: Can you throw some light on safety measures you observe to ensure safety of groups you travel with?
What we do differently is we ensure that all of it is followed. This is made possible because we have manpower, vehicles and equipments in place. For every road trip we organize, we have a three-four vehicles working as support vehicles; the number would vary depending on the group size and cars that embark on the journey with us One will lead the convoy, second is a float which moves up and down and third vehicle is a sweep with a mechanic to help out in case of any vehicle needs immediate attention due to a puncture or any other fault. The fourth vehicle performs the role of a pilot and reports back to the lead car about road condition; it takes care of all logistics at the destination before the convoy reaches.
Lead, float and sweep cars are equipped with long range radio sets which ensure that convoy moves as a tight bunch and no one is left behind. Every car is given a hand held radio which has a range of 5 km to ensure that they can communicate in case of any emergency.
Before the commencement of trip there is a mandatory briefing of all participants over a cup of coffee. That also gives an opportunity for everyone to meet each other.
Before the start of the day’s drive and at the end of the day there is a mandatory briefing and debriefing session to be attended by all.
In case there’s an obstacle on road, first thing that we ensure is that all participating cars are taken and parked at a safe location. Only after the team is fully satisfied that the obstacle has been cleared and the area is safe do we attempt to cross it. We carry provisions (dry rations and water) to support everyone for 3 days should there be any road closure.
Team WeNomads: What’s the most common challenges you face year after year, trip after trip when taking groups on road drives. How do you manage to hold your ground?
Honestly the biggest challenge that we face is the countless questions about the cost of the trip! Everyone says we charge exorbitantly. Most people are a little apprehensive about all our talk and they often question whether we will be able to walk the talk we do. But, then their anxiety is taken care of the moment we hit the road. For example, on a road trip to Leh, , the moment we cross Rohtang La and people see how our well-resourced team responds to changing road conditions and when they see out staff standing at tricky water crossings to guide cars across they realize that it is the money well spent that ensures their safety and guarantees support at odd times.
How we hold our ground is by putting boots on the boots and walking the talk we do. We deliver what we promise on ground. Once people see it they truly appreciate it.
Team WeNomads: What are ExploreIndia By Road’s future plans? What’s next in terms of road trips you are planning?
We have successfully done Himalayan Getaway (self-drive to Leh) twice in 2104; , we have done a Jungle Getaway 2014 (Jim Corbett Park), and we plan two Himalayan Getaways in 2015 one is in June and the second one in August 2015. This year we’re planning a Jungle Getaway in October and in December a Desert Getaway.
We are quite delighted too because we’ve been invited by the Lama’s of Rumtek monster in Sikkim to organize a Sikkim Getaway which is under active consideration.
As for the next 3-4 years’ time we would be exploring road trip options down south in the Nilgiris. Do watch out for us!
If you want to travel with the Explore India By Road legends, don’t forget to check out the packages at WeNomads website.
Cover Image courtesy: Ankur Srivastava