Three sailing enthusiasts turned their passion for sailing into a business and now plan and organise yacht trips for Indian clients across Asia, Europe and Africa.
That great escape into the vast deep blues, feeling the splash of water on your feet and wind in your hair is an adventure for some and therapy for others. Whatever the reason may be, sailing vacation is a rage among the rich and the famous in Europe and the US.
But for most people in India, a sailing vacation is a novel concept. A new Indian enterprise, officially launched in May, Ocean Luxe LLP, a holding company of three offerings that provide sailing charters and bespoke yachting holidays in India and across the world, wants to make sailing holidays more accessible to Indian clients. “Our country has one of the biggest coastlines in the world, yet just a small population sail. I want more people to experience sailing,” says Shahid Basheer, one of the three Co-Founders of Ocean Luxe. A sailor with 30 years of experience, starting out as a young Sea Cadet, Basheer is now a Marine Surveyor, specialising in superyachts and commercial shipping, and is currently the Rear Commodore of the Royal Bombay Yacht Club and a member of the Club’s General Committee. “Also, most people think that sailing is too expensive. But honestly, there is a boat for everybody and every experience. My job is to make sure that people get the best, suitable yacht of the experience they are looking for.” So, if you want to host a sundowner, you must have a yacht with some open space and if you want to sail long distance, your yacht must be built to speed up.
Ocean Luxe has tied up with yacht owners and companies in Goa, Andamans, Kochi, Colombo, the Maldives, Seychelles, Mauritius, Greek Islands, Italy, Croatia. US Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands and Thailand. “There are so many options available out there and people usually don’t know which yacht to select, which one best suits their purpose and what is the best price available for it,” says Basheer. “This is where we come in. We do not just help you get the best yacht for the best price, but also help you chart out a good route, plan your entire itinerary and provide you with diving equipment, an experienced skipper and a hostess who can cook for you on board.”
The rentals start from $800 per person per day to $2000 a week for a yacht and can go up to a million-dollar for longer expeditions, depending on the client’s itinerary, number of people and the kind of yacht selected. “We also have superyachts on our roster and those are expensive,” says Basheer. His company offers ultra-luxury trips for which the clients are picked up from the airport in a helicopter and then transferred to a superyacht, which would also have a swimming pool on board.
Basheer claims that their asset-light business model ensures that clients do not have to bear any extra cost for their company’s services. “They get to rent the yacht at the price the owner would rent it out,” says Basheer. Ocean Luxe’s fee is borne by the yacht proprietor and renting companies.
Ocean Luxe, at present, doesn’t own a yacht and the way to connect with them is through their website, which lists all the destinations they cater to and the kinds of yachts available at each of these. “For us, our greatest asset is our knowledge and experience.” Thanks to the combined experience and knowledge of Basheer and his partners Zarina Elias, owner of a travel agency, and Rustom Mistry, who was instrumental in establishing and running Mumbai’s water sports complex H2O at Chowpatty, the trio has access to a huge itinerary of yachts across the globe. They are also the Country Managers of the Yacht Week, a global sailing festival. “Not many yacht owners have the kind of experience and expertise that we do,” says Basheer.
Right now, in the initial phase, they mostly rely on word-of-mouth marketing and social media promotion. “I think these two are powerful promotion tools that help us connect with our clients, which I think is crucial for building a great relationship with them and that, in turn, is the best way to get the word out there.”
Moreover, the Ocean Luxe team has also collaborated with online travel portals, companies and travel agents to offer, what Basheer calls, a new product to their clients. “I have been sailing for 30 years and have always had so many friends and family members wanting to go on a sailing trip.” There was a clear need for an organiser in the market and Basheer decided to fill this gap. The response to Ocean Luxe, he claims, has been great. They had booked six trips for Indian clients in Greece and Croatia in the first few months of the business launch.