Where can I sit down and use my mind to create something? Maybe write a book? Build a cool product? Can I find a place that will foster innovation or creativity? These thoughts led Dipali Sikand to start MindEscapes at Ketty in Udhagamandalam. At the retreat, a picture-perfect property located on a hill overlooking a beautiful view of the seven-layered hills, individuals and teams can stay to focus on developing new ideas and strategies. The immersive platform includes mentoring by prolific thinkers, networking, and access to funding and investment options for start-ups and businesses.
Dipali reiterates that a nurturing environment, tools and mentors are prerequisites to foster innovation. She has roped in a panel of thinkers—called the guardians—like Sam Patroda for technology, Ashok Khosla for environment, Ramesh Manjrekar for CSR labs, to name a few. “I have been working in the hospitality and concierge industry for over 25 years, managing requests for thousands of Indians. I noticed that people were no longer engaging in civil society dialogues and that respect for institutions was crumbling. I wondered if there were clubs for golf, health, and sports, why couldn’t there be a club for the mind? And thus, the idea for MindEscapes was born.
Cerebro space at MindEscapes | Photo Credit: Sathyamoorthy M
A driveway and a sloping front garden bursting with colorful blooms, greenery, and native species of creepers, welcome guests to seven suite rooms that go by the names Tangerine, Sunny, Azure, and Lavender. The luxury suites, designed with smart use of technology (yes, you can ask Alexa to play music, manage lights, and curtains) and optimal use of sustainable solar power, promise a refreshing space for a buzzing mind. There is also a pond at the common bay where one can spend a few calming moments before proceeding to the sleek ideation rooms — Biblio, Novus, Cognito and Cerebro — that come equipped with a well-stocked library, lounge spaces, and fabulous sunset views . “Corporates can send in teams in small groups of four or six or a maximum of 14 people and ideate literally in Nature’s lap. If CEOs decide to use the space, they can also access our guardians physically or over zoom,” says Dhiraj Agarwal, director of accommodation and customer experience. A little ahead is an open-air fireside called Ikigai (inspired by the Japanese concept) that offers a panoramic view of the valley.
View from Ikigai or an open-air fireside | Photo Credit: Sathyamoorthy M
Rajeev Kumar, co-owner says the ideation center applies the theory of hyper focus that allows the mind to spark creativity. “Corporates, banks or IT companies can bring their teams, brainstorm, and access the think tank if they need to further an idea,” he adds.
Recently, MindEscapes has partnered with KPMG, a multinational professional services network, to bring their KPMG Innovation Centre. “As a knowledge partner, they will provide resources and support to entrepreneurs and start-ups looking to turn their ideas into successful businesses,” says Dipali drawing attention to the fact that the Nilgiris has always been a hotspot for innovation- it is where the The cure for malaria was found and where snookers, and gin and tonic originated. “Besides guardians, we have created a circle of Boffins (experts and leaders), sleep, food and bio fitness experts to provide services. We want to bring in personalities like Wing Commander (Retd) Rakesh Sharma, India’s first man in space, or Manoj Chakravarthy of IIM Bengaluru, who are here to share their thoughts on leadership,” explains Dipali.
Celeste Restaurant | Photo Credit: Sathyamoorthy M
Food at MindEscapes is sourced locally. “I have been coming to Udhagamandalam from the 1970s and the Nilgiris needed a standalone restaurant that offered gourmet food,” says Vikram Malhotra, F&B manager and one of the guardians adding that they started with Celeste restaurant that serves European and Pan Asian food , the Vino Bar, and have now added Nirvana, the Indian restaurant that offers North West Frontier cuisine, dal bukharas, kebabs and rotis. Vikram’s family has been in the hotel industry including F&B for over eight decades in Kolkata. The legendary prawn cocktail from their hotel Skyroom was so famous that it was flown in freezers from Kolkata to Delhi for the late Indira Gandhi. Over delicious, creamy mushroom capucino and chicken tetrazzini, Vikram says the menu featuring golden baked chicken, chicken Sicilian, chicken ala kiev, go back 60 years. “Nobody makes the old style dishes the way we do,” he says adding that the menu also has pastas, risottos, steaks, and the old-fashioned popular mixed grill.
While the restaurants are open to anyone, individuals can take up solo membership to stay and dine at the retreat. It gives them access to one-on-one mentoring with guardians, also network with as many as 3000 clubs around the world. Dipali says after the pandemic, people are consciously choosing experiential travel, and environment-friendly places that have a different story to tell. She adds, “We come under ’boutique niche ideation regime’. I wanted to leave behind a legacy, where people can come and think.
You can follow their Instagram page @experience.mindscapes or visit mindescapes.in to know more