Options: The summer holiday season is gripping half the world right now. Tell us a little about your company, Nomadic Road.
Venkatesh K S: Nomadic Road was founded in 2016 and our first expedition was planned just a year later. It was the idea of exploration that caught my attention. Exploring uncharted territories with our motoring concept offers a great sense of freedom and achievement, which is unfathomable.
You mentioned being in the automotive industry before setting up Nomadic Road. Could you tell us the best lessons you learnt that gave you the confidence to become a travel entrepreneur?
Having worked in the automobile industry for a decade, I started to appreciate the symbiotic relationship we humans share with automobiles. These machines have become an integral part of our society. For some, it’s about the convenience and mundane daily commute; for others, it’s the adrenaline rush; and for a few, it’s about the freedom of exploring the world. Navigating different types of terrains requires different skill sets. Motoring through a desert is not the same as driving through snow or ice.
One of the major initiatives I undertook during my corporate tenure was to set up the first ever off-road driving academy in India, where we trained people to drive in various terrains. This experience helped sharpen my own skills behind the wheel and to better understand how the machine (vehicle) performs in different driving terrains. It was during this time that I also learned how to build a brand as well as the various touch points to create a holistic consumer experience. Understanding the ins and outs of marketing and how to sell (and how not to sell) was crucial in the development of Nomadic Road. When it comes to selling a niche product like ours, a certain approach and finesse is required. You cannot follow the usual marketing methods that are being used to sell products to the masses.
What was the first overland motoring experience that made you fall in love with this way of travelling?
Driving in the mountains always helps me clear my mind and think straight. It was after having driven thousands of miles across the mighty Himalayas that I fell in love with overland journeys. In fact, the initial idea of Nomadic Road was conceived during a journey across the Himalayas while I was driving solo through the world’s highest motorable road.
The experiences on your Instagram account @roadnomadic look amazing. What have been your most memorable ones to date?
My most memorable trip to date is the first ever overland expedition we did in 2019 across Lake Baikal (in Russia), the largest freshwater lake on the planet, which typically freezes completely during the middle of the harsh Siberian winter. On this journey, we had strangers join us from all over the world, meeting each other for the first time. By the end of the trip, they had become such close friends that the same group of people travel with us every year to an uncharted place. It’s like an extended family get-together. When they’re not travelling on one of our expeditions, they also meet up socially in their respective countries.
What adventures do you have lined up for the rest of 2023?
In August, we will have the Road to Gobi, a motoring expedition across the largest desert in Asia, as well as the Road Deeper into Gobi, which involves extreme motoring across uncharted regions of Mongolia. In September, there’ll be the Road to Bolivia, where we drive across the world’s largest salt flats, and the Road to Atacama, an overland journey across Chile and Argentina into the driest desert in the world. October is a drive into uncharted Peru, where we will motor through the deepest canyons and the longest continental mountain range, while November will see us heading to Madagascar. The year closes with a December drive to Namibia, into the oldest desert in the world.
How do you choose the destinations?
Every Nomadic Road expedition has a superlative angle to it. That’s how we choose a journey. It is not based on destinations or choice of accommodation. Each journey should offer an exploratory feel and a sense of being remote and away from typical tourist trails. We look for routes and terrains that make the overland journey more interesting and challenging, where the client gets to embrace the wrath of Mother Nature face to face. We aim to push people out of their comfort zones, which allows us to get closer to landscapes that traditional travel have no access to. We travel to places never imagined in ways never thought possible.
Each drive is also carefully crafted with extensive experience, guaranteed to go well beyond the guidebook. As a result, our journeys come with a sense of bragging rights that elevate our clients in their social strata. We want every client to leave telling an unrivalled story that is quite different from the regular ones discussed during their usual social gatherings.
How big is the Nomadic Road team and what’s the pre-trip drill like?
The core team consists of just four people. We have a great vision for the coming years and are slowly scaling the team as the brand continues to grow and evolve. The pre-trip drill starts the moment a client shows interest in one of our journeys. Since our expeditions are small (groups generally comprise eight to 12 individuals maximum), it’s very important to have the right mix.
From the beginning, we invest a lot of time speaking to every client, understanding their persona, their likes and dislikes and their past adventures to see how they fit into our journeys. For example, the Mongolia trip we ran in 2019 was completely different from the one we did in 2022. The stories that emerged from each trip were completely different, though they were structurally the same expedition. Ultimately, it’s the people who make the difference. Once clients are on board, we start engaging with them on a regular basis to educate them on the expedition, keeping them informed about each aspect of the trip. From understanding their food restrictions to guiding them on how to pack and what to pack, we advise on what to expect during the expedition like weather, culture, things to do at leisure, connectivity and more.
Who is your target audience?
Our clients are seasoned travellers looking for new ways to explore the world. We’ve had clients from the US, Canada, the UK, Europe, the Middle-East and Asia. We believe there is a lot of opportunity in the Malaysian market and we’ve recently seen quite a bit of interest from here. So we expect some Malaysians to join our journeys this year.
This article first appeared on July 3, 2023 in The Edge Malaysia.