Out of the Box: Sensory Indulgence

May 17 2024.

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Ask a group of people what they do for a living today and no two answers are the same. That’s the beauty of the job market in this millennium – new opportunities, new careers and a brand-new idea of what success can look like and from where. In this segment, we explore the stories of those who stepped off the beaten paths of conventional careers to take a gamble on the roads less travelled, delving into their experiences to ask the big question – is there a career in pursuing an out-of-the-box job?

BRINDLEY WIJESOORIYA & UDAYA WICKRAMAGE

With experiential travel poised to be the next big trend for the travel industry, Brindley and Udaya were ahead of the game when they started Sensory Indulgence –  a company hosting curated experiences aimed at travellers, whether solo or in group, to experience Sri Lanka in a unique way.  The experiences range from a food hopping tour around Colombo to experience the city’s vibrant food culture to adventures on misty mountain tops.  

Countries like France, Indonesia, and Mexico have already capitalized on this new market trend and Sri Lanka with a rich cultural background can surely offer the same. We ask Brindley and Udaya about what it means to offer hosted experiences and whether there’s an opportunity for more players in the industry.

Q WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START OFFERING HOSTED EXPERIENCES – WAS IT TO FILL A LACUNA IN  THE MARKET?

Udaya: Both Brindley and I were extremely intrigued about hosted experiences. We show the potential Sri Lanka has in terms of showcasing its inner fabric through storytelling. We quickly realized that we have an amazing bunch of storytellers from within networks we have built over the years. Through this realization, the inspiration came quite naturally and the rest was history. There was definitely a big lacuna in the leisure sector of Sri Lanka for hosted experiences and filling it was exactly what we did.

Q WHAT WERE SOME OF THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES OR BARRIERS TO ENTERING THIS FIELD? 

Brindley: Two of the biggest challenges were firstly, our fear of people not taking us seriously. We are both notorious for working hard and playing even harder and it took some convincing for people in the market to understand that we were set apart from anything the industry has seen. And that we were serious about what we were offering. Secondly was the massive financial hits we took year on year due to the Easter attack, the pandemic and then the economic crisis. Overcoming this was a strategy of what seemed like the world's longest waiting game. But we never lost hope that things eventually will get better.

Q WHAT SKILLS OR QUALITIES  DO YOU BELIEVE ARE NECESSARY TO MAKE IT WORK IN THIS FIELD?

Brindley: In terms of skills, basic computer literacy, being able to convince someone that you are the best (if not, the better option) and a hunger to want to be at the top of your game every step of the way.  The way I see it, the most important skill, I would say is being able to calculate your risk accurately. You have to know and understand what you are getting into and understand the repercussions if things don’t go your way.

Q DO YOU DO THIS AS A FULL-TIME JOB OR WOULD YOU RECOMMEND THIS LINE OF WORK AS A SIDE BUSINESS?

Brindley: Starting a business has to be a full-time job, if you start it as a side business, it will very rarely become your main income.

Q HOW LONG DID IT TAKE FOR YOUR BUSINESS TO KICK OFF AND BECOME PROFITABLE?  

Udaya: Due to COVID and the economic crisis that followed, I believe we need to write off the first 2 years of Sensory being in operation. In these two years, we are grateful that we survived, leaving aside being profitable. With the recovery of travel in 2022, we managed to recover the losses that we incurred through the difficult years. Then in 2023, the company started profiting. The name of the game is keeping the expenses at a bare minimum and running the operation with maximised efficiency. Brindley and I have always been cautious of over-the-top expenses and we’ve managed to invest our funds wisely in revenue-generating ventures for the business.

Q WHAT HONEST ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE WHO IS INTERESTED IN PURSUING A SIMILAR PATH?

Brindley:  Go for it! There’s only 2 ways you will come out of this. Either you win, or you’ll lose. If you lose, you can always try again.

Q THERE’S SCOPE FOR HOSTED EXPERIENCES ABROAD. WOULD YOU SAY THE SAME FOR SRI LANKA? Udaya: Absolutely. The future of luxury travel is where more than the demand for hotels, we will see a massive spike in demand for hosted experiences. Staying in a good hotel and travelling in a nice car, having good food is now more of a commodity. Experiences will define luxury as travel evolves. People will also crave more human interaction as AI takes over all aspects of life at an exponential speed. This is why Sri Lanka needs to market the destination on the experiences it has to offer rather than the other elements. Experiences are the common captivator for all types of markets ranging from backpackers, and digital nomads to high-net-worth individuals.

Q CONSIDERING THE EVOLVING NATURE OF THE INDUSTRY  AND THE NICHE ASPECT OF WHAT YOU OFFER, DO YOU FORESEE OPPORTUNITIES FOR GROWTH AND EXPANSION OR ARE THERE LIMITATIONS TO HOW MANY CAN OFFER THIS IN THE MARKET?

Udaya: I would say there is a limitless opportunity for growth. An experience is an idea that goes through a process of colourization. This could be replicated anywhere, and we can take the concept to other destinations. For example, Dubai, Nepal and Oman are a few examples. Locally there are opportunities for becoming hosts, as hosting an experience will only take 2 – 3 hours of your day. If you are a great storyteller, you can still get involved in your profession but spend a couple of hours sharing your passion with global travellers. In terms of agencies, I think there is space in Sri Lanka for a limitless number of companies as long as the quality of experiences and their shelf life is preferred. If an experience becomes a commodity and loses its exclusivity, we stand the risk of losing its value.

Pix courtesy - Sensory Indulgence


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Panchali Illankoon

Law Graduate, food and travel enthusiast and full time dog mom..

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