They poured in from many lands, with one destination in mind. They were the winners who had been handpicked for exemplary performances in their tasks. They arrived along with their able leader, their CEO, the man who inspired them to give their best.
She stood in regal splendor in the midst of the lake to welcome them with open arms. She was the palace that was waiting to welcome them into her bosom. They sailed up to her shores, they climbed her fleet of steps. She had laid out the red carpet for them. She showered rose petals from up above as they entered her royal precincts. She greeted them with folded hands and a smear of vermilion on their foreheads.
In the background, another group worked silently and seamlessly like little elves, magically stitching the 2 together as they prepared the setting for the winners to be serenaded by the pleasures of the palace.
The magic –
And the next 2 days witnessed a tapestry of events, a symphony of luxury, a rewarding of excellence with the synergy of the above trio, resulting in an exciting melange of the blending of stellar performers, an exquisite destination and the exceptional people who put it all together.
Welcome to the CEO club awards trip from Randstad India, and come with me as I showcase the gala where they felicitated their finest people at the uber luxurious palatial venue of the Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur, at an event orchestrated by the ace team of Travel Unbounded, the brains behind the coordination of this notable affair.
Udaipur, the land of the MahaRanas, the warrior kings, where the victors of Randstad became MahaRana’stads for a day !!!
About Randstad –
The 59 year old company is one of the largest recruitment firms in the world and its 25 year old presence in India has seen it grow and occupy 20 cities across the country, where it now stands as a leading HR services provider today, with over a 1000 clients in diverse industries.
About the CEO club and awards –
The CEO club of Randstad India, is a celebration of the best of the talent from across their offices in various Indian cities, based on certain performance criteria. The Club awards are conferred on these top achievers at extravagant venues as a token of appreciation for their outstanding achievements.
The CEO club was designed in 2016 to celebrate their ace performers and to honor those who live the values that Randstand stands for because they believe that it is a combination of high performance as well as ethics and standards values that define a member of this exalted club.
The commemoration spans two days at a chosen lavish destination, where the members are gathered together from different cities of India, their accomplishments acclaimed and where they are bestowed upon with the finest of experiences that are crafted especially for them.
Their hashtag #enjoythemoment aptly sums up the festivities, as they stop to smell the roses … or in this case, the bougainvillea 😀
This is also an occasion where bring a ‘repeater’ is commendable and their 2 and 3 time winners called 2peats and 3peats respectively, are a sign that they are getting stronger and that their graph is on the rise.
Paul Dupuis the CEO of Randstad, the man responsible for deeply motivating his people, accompanies the group and participates in the gala which ultimately culminates in a glittering ceremony where he personally extols each one’s success and presents the individual awards.
About the venue – The Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur –
When the pampering is of royal nature, then the setting can be no less than a palace and where better to seek out one, than in the Land of Kings ?
Padharo Mhare Des … Welcome to my land, said Rajasthan.
Rajasthan, the very word invokes visions of kings and queens and lifestyles of pomp and grandeur and it was at this apt destination that the CEO Club members were to be feted.
The Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur, truly a crown among hotels, was the regal venue bestowed upon the winners, where they basked in their triumphs and revelled in her luxury as she indulged them with the finest of experiences.
The Taj Lake Palace is not just any palace on earth but a very special one in the middle of the water. Her pristine marble white form rises out of the Lake Pichola, as she awaits sedately and silently to welcome her guests.
An erstwhile palace built by the Maharanas of Udaipur, she continues to maintain her regal demeanor and form, even as she dons the mantle of a hotel that plays host to innumerable guests from the world over, who arrive at her pier to be pampered regally, much like the royals who resided there in the days of yore.
With 83 uniquely fashioned rooms and suites, some of which are actually the chambers that used to be the residences of the Maharanas of the ruling dynasties, one is assured of no dearth of opulence, which makes its presence felt in every aspect of the hotel, be it in its surrounding views, its decor, its service, its cultural offerings and of course its cuisine.
Encircled by a ring of palaces, ancient temples, the old city and the oldest mountain range of the Aravallis, the exclusive 4 acre island of the Taj Lake Palace, is literally ensconced by history and geography and provides indulgences like none other.
About the event orchestrators –
When a CEO wants to treat his people to the best, he seeks the expertise of the masterminds who then forge links between them and their destination, as they curate extraordinary experiences for the connoisseurs of the exquisite.
The architects of Travel Unbounded, step beyond the well stepped path and work relentlessly to craft unique and bespoke adventures, affairs and escapades to delight their clients with the unusual.
With the expertise of those who have donned senior management roles themselves for over 20 years, abilities to manage large business units, an insatiable passion for nature and over 2 decades of travel experience, they are veritable specialists in planning corporate travel and team outings, training programs, offsite meeting, road trips and such like, at exciting and offbeat destinations in India and the world over.
The chronicle of the CEO Club trip –
Well the 2 days passed in a whirlwind of activities beginning with the arrival of the chosen ones from various cities of India. Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata, sent forth 67 of their champions to the shores of Lake Pichola, where they were greeted and welcomed by the staff at the exclusive Taj jetty.
Motor boats bobbed around excitedly, waiting to whisk them away across the waters into the precincts of the palace that awaited their arrival in eager anticipation.
A mere 5 minute sail brought them to the steps of the palace where the liveried doorman moored the boat and escorted them up the short flight of steps, under the canopy of his large red umbrella.
As they set foot on the front porch, the stillness of the summer day was broken only by the flutter of the rose petals that danced through the air as they settled down on the marble inlaid floor, in a sprinkling of red. A veritable red carpet that led them into the wide porch where were greeted in customary Indian fashion with a red teeka on the forehead.
They were welcomed with a refreshing drink, a check in process where they were granted the keys to their temporary kingdoms and a lavish lunch showcasing traditional cuisines and rich desserts of the region, which were a sweet precursor of sweeter times to come.
The crème de la crème of Randstad then went to briefly rest, with the lingering memories of the Malai (cream) filled Ghevar before they readied themselves for the rest of the day.
In the evening, a CEO talk heralded the start of the ceremonies at the Mewar Hall where Paul presented snapshots of his life and journey and imparted words of wisdom to his people. Valuable messages for achieving success in life, traits of kindness, humility, hard work and passion to forge ahead, striving to be better than yesterday, enjoying the moment, being strict but fair, seeking only the company of positive people to stay sharp and youthful in mind and body, celebrating success, learning to hit pause from time to time … and many other such thoughts, formed the basis of his motivational speech.
Urging the people via team games, to mingle and form new relationships with those they had not met, he stressed on the importance of moving out of one’s comfort zone and progressing in life by challenging one’s fears.
Every interaction bore testimony to his leadership qualities and everyone in the room absorbed the essence of his message and there was no one who was left untouched by the knowledge that he generously shared.
The session ended with the hashtag #JustWarmingUp ringing in their ears as Paul exhorting them not to merely return the next year but to inspire others to make it too.
The meet was followed by a Heritage walk within the property where a historian took them through the stories of the palace and revealed the secrets that lay in her jaalis and jharokas, her walls emblazoned with mosaics of glass inlaid Thikri work, her famed gardens and ponds that had witnessed many a royal celebration and her terraces from where she offered generous views of the other palaces like the City palace, the Jag Mandir and the Monsoon palace perched high up on the distant hill.
A High Tea followed the tour and they spent the evening gazing at the sunset and its reflection in the shimmering orange waters, nibbling on dainty tea cakes and pastries and sipping on piping hot tea, as they lounged on marble seats and tasteful cushions, much like … yes you guessed it … the royals of yore 😀
A cultural program was next, where highly talented artistes performed traditional dances, pirouetting and gyrating fluidly, as their audience sat enrapt, yearning for more and wishing that the twirling would be unending !!!
But of course nothing goes on forever and the day was soon going to end but certainly not without dinner. Once more the Neel Kamal restaurant opened her doors to them and brought forth her specially curated, culinary treasures and thus satiated, they ended their first day of the tour.
Day 2 brought with it the promise of sightseeing. Udaipur being a tourist’s delight, offers an inspiring range of historical sites and ancient temples, as well as natural beauty in the form of its lakes, gardens and mountains.
Obviously this place needs a few days to explore in detail but due to the limited time, only a couple of thoughtfully selected destinations were on the itinerary, presenting a glimpse of the best of its history, architecture and landscapes.
So it was the City Palace, Fateh Sagar lake and dam and of course the highlight of every holiday, the shopping spree, that was going to occupy the morning and even the rising temperatures failed to lower the palpable excitement.
The large group of 65 was broken up into smaller batches and escorted by the historian cum guides who gave them a grand personalized tour that began with the City Palace that lies a mere walking distance from the Taj jetty.
A hot but happy 2 hours at the palace gave them glimpses of the residence of the king Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar and his queen, the 2 palace hotels that belong to the HRH group and finally the old section of the City palace that is now opened to the public as a museum and also a venue for large celebrations like celebrity weddings and performances.
So they followed their guide through tiny passages, wide courtyards, past walls richly emblazoned with the signature, glass mosaic Thikri work and onto high vantage points from where they looked upon the Taj Lake palace on one side as well as the vista of the bright white city of Udaipur on the other.
From here they were taken to Fateh Sagar lake and dam which they gazed at from the shore and the highlight of that experience was not just the view but the tongue tantalizing chaat shops that lined the curve of the the adjoining road, which of course everyone made a beeline for, despite knowing that another meal awaited them at the Taj. Such is the power of this multi flavored tangy, sweet and spicy Indian street snack 😀
Shopping was thankfully in the air conditioned environs of the Shilp Gramodyog Sales Complex, where enjoyable purchases were made and jewelry, fabric, sarees and other treasures filled the bags of not just the ladies but also of the men, who were exhorted to buy gifts for their ladies back home 😀
Shopping has an effect of raising spirits even in rising temperatures and the near 40 deg c could not dampen the mood (though it literally dampened the skin) and there was singing and revelry in the bus, on the way back to the hotel.
Lunch was followed by a period of rest in preparation for the evening’s formal award ceremony where everyone would sparkle in their finery as they participated in a very momentous event of their life.
So it was out with the gowns and sarees and suits and the princesses and princes of the night, preened and posed and captured the moments with innumerable selfies and photographs and also the professional group picture.
Paul with his great sense of humor, of course had to point out the irony of him being clad in pure traditional Indian formal wear, while most of his Indian co workers were attired in spiffy Western suits and jackets 😀
The Bhairo was the venue for the festivities of the night and petal lined stairs led to this breezy, open air terrace with expansive views of the moonlit waters and the illumination of all the surrounding palaces, temples and other monuments.
The event began with a speech by Paul and a surprise cake cutting for Anjali from Bangalore, whose birthday it happened to be, making her the lucky beneficiary of a double celebration.
Every single one of the 65 people were personally handed their awards and of course every single one made a thank you speech. Paul exhorted them to double the numbers in the coming year (which would require a much earlier start to accommodate 130 speeches :-D).
Every member was felicitated with a garland, accompanying music from the resident musicians and an escort dancing to the beat of that music, the touch of the traditional being much appreciated by one and all.
As the trophies gradually made their transition from the side table into each winner’s grasp, the music was stilled and a lavish meal was served at the formal sit down dinner.
And as the candles flickered in the night, they cast the shadows of the drinking cups on the trophies, an apt winning form to grace the mementos.
The night came to an end after the wining, the winning and the dining and it was time to get back to the rooms and prepare to leave the next morning.
On Day 3, the Neel Kamal opened her doors to them for one last breakfast, showcasing their framed group picture in the center, which had magically been made ready and waiting for them amidst an encircling of a THANKYOU of marigold petals.
After breakfast, they congregated for one more group frame along the azure waters of the adjoining Lily Pond, all clad in their new, blue CEO Club tees, exhilarated yet feeling blue that they had to bid adieu.
The boat ferried them for one last time and waiting taxis whisked them back to the airport as they waved goodbye to the White city and her white palace.
They departed with their Goody bags filled with thoughtful gifts and their thoughts filled with wonderful memories of their remarkable experience.
‘Khamma Ghani’ say the Rajasthanis and while it is the greeting that they receive you with, it also aptly sounds like ‘Come Again’ and as they parted ways, they promised to be back again, bigger, better and stronger.
Behind the scenes –
Perfection does not come easy and every successful event owes its triumph to those who toil relentlessly in the background, planning, plotting and strategizing to ensure a faultless execution.
As I mentioned earlier, Travel Unbounded does not merely organize but also curates tailor made experiences in a discerning fashion, taking into account every intricate detail and personally involving in every critical facet of the arrangements.
They don diverse roles of consultants, advisors, problem shooters, organizers and so on, while simultaneously guiding with expertise built up of years of knowledge and thus bring in their special touch into every little aspect.
The making of the CEO Club trip was yet another feather in their cap. The seamless execution was the result of hard work that began weeks before the actual occasion.
A glimpse behind the scenes would be in order, to fathom what went into the making of the event.
Understanding the theme of the occasion –
An in depth understanding of what the event is about, forms the initial foundation of their plan, which leads to the selection of the appropriate venue. Venues are personally visited a month or two before the event and are chosen only if found commensurate with the theme.
With Randstand, it was a rewarding of its illustrious top performers who deserved to be treated like royalty and hence the choice of the very apt venue of the Taj Lake Palace was made.
Organizing the facilities at the venue –
A thorough analysis is made of the facilities that will be required at the event and only those places are chosen which can cater to the needs. They reconnoiter the resorts thoroughly and the conference halls, floor plans and other resources are scrutinized. Such is the attention to detail, that mock set ups of the chairs, tables and equipment are done, right down to matching the fabric (for example the seat covers) or any relevant part of the decor with the client’s official theme color if applicable. The set up is displayed via video calls, so that the client is aware of the features, size, installations and other amenities in advance. Arrangements are made to hire items that are not available at the venue.
At the Taj, they even had the dragonflies matching with the Randstad blue 😀 Ok I was joking about that but they did manage a red carpet from local vendors, for the occasion.
Dedicated dining areas are arranged so that the teams stay together and interact even during meals. This is not always an easy task to accomplish, considering that most venues may hesitate to reserve an entire section over a prolonged period.
At this event the Neel Kamal restaurant played host at most of the meals and the Mewar hall and Bhairo terrace were the exclusive venues for the various formal events.
Pre check-in –
One of the greatest conveniences that they provide, is the pre check-in service. Their excellent rapport with all the hotels and resorts that they work with, enables them to avail of several benefits like having the entire team checked in even days before their arrival, thus greatly reducing the time and effort on the actual day.
The Taj Lake Palace had the array of keys all ready and waiting and in a process that barely took a few moments, they were all done with the entry formalities that would have normally taken hours for such a large battalion.
Understanding client perspectives and individual personalities –
Much time is spent interacting with the core team of their clients and perceiving and grasping their sensitivities and mindset in order to design the framework of the plan accordingly. Team sensibilities, places of origin, cultural traits etc are considered in depth before creating sightseeing itineraries or curating menus or organizing entertainment or any of the factors that are an essential part of such an exercise. A lot of research goes into catering to everyone’s interests and enjoyment and creating a fine balance of business and pleasure.
Ensuring a mutual respect between the client and the resort –
Sensitive briefings with the clients as well as the resort staff, ensure that both sides know their obligations and boundaries, thus assuring an incident free experience which is critical for the success of such high profile affairs.
The impeccable and unobtrusive service at the Taj Lake Palace put everyone at ease and despite near full occupancy, they managed to project an aura of privacy, making each and every guest feel a sense of exclusivity even among the crowd.
Usage of quality equipment –
High end equipment is used for their photography, videography, presentation screens, projectors, lighting etc to guarantee a technologically superior experience.
Perfection in handling ground transport logistics –
They deal only with the best of transport providers whom they have done a thorough reference check on. The pick up and drop takes place like clockwork with no delays or confusion.
No compromises are made in the standards of the vehicles used and the cars are spotless and equipped with the basic amenities like water etc. The drivers are neatly groomed and well turned out in their uniforms.
They ensure that the cabs are labelled with stickers bearing the company name and a greeting of welcome at arrival and a thank you at departure. The cabs are numbered and guests are preassigned accordingly so as to avoid chaos and confusion and to enable a quick transfer.
At this event, every cab that was deployed had the Randstad sticker, the Travel Unbounded sticker, the cab number and the greeting and the transfers both ways took place in smooth sequence.
Value addition –
Not merely executing what is expected but going beyond the borders of commitment and providing extra value wherever deemed fit, is what makes them stand apart from the crowd.
They put great thought into fashioning the trophies and came up with the glass panel clad version to resemble a mirror that reflects the employees faces when they gaze at it. They also had a hand in choosing and styling the items that went into the goody bag and they offered practical solutions to some of the design issues that cropped up.
It is impressive to note that in every destination in India or internationally, they have an arsenal of well researched local vendors for various services, who ensure that all their immediate needs are taken care of smoothly.
The photo studio in Udaipur that they worked with, made sure that the group pictures were ready within a few hours.
Travel Unbounded themselves designed the Rajasthani art themed hand crafted wooden frames, got them produced by artisans in Jaipur, had them couriered to Udaipur and then also stayed up through the night fixing the pictures on the frames in order to have everybody’s individual copy ready by the next morning so that they could instantly take home a piece of their memory.
Such is their dedication to their clients and this is what puts them in a class apart and this is the reason why they have so many satisfied customers that repeatedly avail of their services.
Travel Unbounded is based in Bangalore and can be accessed online at –
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Please Note – This trip was made in collaboration with Travel Unbounded, a travel and tour planning company that curates bespoke experiences at both personal and corporate level. This event was organized for Randstad, a leading recruitment firm.
The narrative is based on the inputs that I received from various sources as well as my own experiences.
Apr 25th-27th, 2019