Community-driven hospitality

Airbnb Partners With Times Group

Satyan Gajwani, Managing Director, Times Internet and Nathan Blecharczyk, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer, Airbnb join hands

In a move to have a greater penetration in the ever growing Indian market, world’s leading community-driven hospitality company, Airbnb, has joined hands with India’s leading media conglomerate, The Times Group.

Airbnb, which is already big elsewhere in the world, has only a small presence in India. By partnering with Times Group, the San Francisco-based company aims to spread awareness about its accommodations and have a more localised presence in the emerging Indian market. It is being reported that Times Group will also invest in the sharing economy platform, though the amount has not been disclosed.

Times Global Partners, that focuses on partnering with established and emerging global digital companies for building their business in India, is the entity that has brought about this collaboration. Their digital arm Times Internet will help Airbnb expand in India by growing their audience, adoption, distribution and monetisation.

“We are excited to partner with Airbnb to transform the way Indians travel”, said Satyan Gajwani, Managing Director of Times Internet. Talking about the strategy, he added, “We will provide support on operations, hiring, strategy and advertising, to make Airbnb’s entry and operations in India as effective as possible.”

A sharing economy platform like that of an Airbnb can penetrate the Indian market more effectively with a partner like Times Internet, which was reported to reach more than 200 million Indians across its digital, print and TV channels a year ago.

Similar thoughts were echoed by Nathan Blecharczyk, the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Airbnb as he said: “We are excited about the opportunity that India presents, and to have one of the most respected partners in The Times Group. We are working on adapting our product for the Indian market so that Indian travellers can live like a local anywhere in the world.”

Recently, United Nations and WTO (World Trade Organisation) reported that by 2020, the number of Indians travelling abroad will increase up to 50 million. It is this travel market that Airbnb eyes to capture, as it believes that outbound travel from India has grown by almost 185 pc in 2015.

The company that was founded in 2008 has already reached a milestone in Europe with the continent alone representing half of company’s business. It would be interesting to see if it can capture the opportunities offered by the Indian market and its fast growing number of clients and travellers.

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Business Jets

Sky Luxury

Business Jets, Sky Luxury

The market for charter jets in the country is going through a rough patch, thanks to high maintenance cost and stringent government policies. However, innovations and a change in import duty can bring in the much needed respite.

Nearly eight years ago, when Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries, India’s richest man as stated by the recent Forbes report, gifted his wife a private luxury jet for her 44th birthday, it indeed made headlines. The Airbus 319 Corporate Jet was reported to cost over INR 4 billion (USD 60 million) having a sky bar, fancy showers, master bedroom and what not. Such is the allure of billionaires in India and business jets alike. Riches and private jets go hand in hand. Having a private jet is a sym- bol of the wealth you own. And for a country having nearly 100 billionaires, the love and passion of owning jets as personal toys never goes unnoticed.

India and its business jets

According to the list compiled by Forbes, China almost has double the billionaires than India, however, when it comes to the number of private jets, India still beats the former. Ambani is the unprecedented hero in this fragment. He owns three private jets – Falcon 900EX, Boeing Business Jet 2 and the Airbus 319 Corporate Jet (the one he gifted his wife). While Falcon, designed by Dassault Aviation of France, is more compact, Boeing business jet can fly up to 78 passengers. Then there’s Ratan Tata, the ex-chairman of Tata group, a Mumbai-based conglomerate. Though Tata’s philanthropist work speaks volumes about his low profile lifestyle, he doesn’t shy away from keeping a personal jet at his disposal. He’s known to fly his Dassault Falcon 2000 himself and make a statement in the sky. Chairman of engineering and construction group for energy and infrastructure Punj Llyod, Atul Punj, is another Indian business tycoon who owns a Gulfstream IV that is powered by twin Rolls-Royce Tay 611-8 engines and is said to cost him nearly INR 2 billion (USD 33 million). Likewise there are a handful of other businessmen who own private jets to fly in the luxury of sky and time such as Reliance’s Anil Ambani – Bombardier Global Express XRS, Raymond’s Gautam Singhania – Bombardier Challenger 600 and DLF’s KP Singh again with a Gulfstream IV.

Apart from owning private jets, there’s a commercial market for this segment, wherein private jets are provided by companies as a luxury service. In India a couple of such companies are TajAir, Business Jets India and Deccan Air. These companies can work on two models – aircraft management company or a fractional ownership one. For example, TajAir provides only the aircraft it owns, maintains and operates. So far it has Dassault Falcon 2000, Dassault Falcon 2000LX and Piaggio P.180 Avanti II in its fleet of aircrafts. The fleet of private jets offered by these companies can fly you anywhere depending on the parking space and refuelling of the aircraft. Most of the charter jets can fly upto 6-9 hours non- stop before getting refuelled. Anybody who has the luxury of unlimited money at his disposal can choose to take these services for a number of events – corporate meetings, marriages or simply a luxury holiday.


For the Indian business jets market, infrastructural limitations pose a great challenge. As David Vellupilai, managing director, Airbus Corportae Jets, adds “Today, India like many countries is little constrained by the infrastructure. For example, it doesn’t have enough landing and takeoff slots. Like in the UK, London Heathrow is already busy, it is almost impossible to get a landing and take-off slot.” Emphasising the significance of good infrastructural facilities Vellupilai says, “Aviation business is a little bit like chicken and egg. It needs the infrastructure – the airports, the business aviation terminals, and the maintenance facilities. If it exists then it attracts corporate jet customers. Vice versa, if the customer demand exists, the infrastructure develops.”

Not only infrastructural challenges, Indian private jet market also faces a downturn because of the heavy import duty levied since 2007, which is a staggering 21 pc. In the recent past the market of business jets has been witnessing a slowdown. What is being touted as the first plunge in 25 years, the market dwindled by 2 pc in 2015. Similar is the case with China where the business jet fleet grew only by 6 pc last year – slowest in 10 years, as stated by Embraer SA, one of the largest business jet manufacturers.


Metro Jet Gulfstream G650: A favourite steel bird of the riches

Industry insiders report that Business Jets India owned by Tata sons is planning to wrap up its operations in the country. Club One Air, India’s oldest and largest air charter company that offers both fractional ownership and charter services, has also witnessed a negative net worth for the year 2015 as per the documents filed.

In comparison to the heavy import duty, when a plane is imported for charter operations under a non- scheduled operators license (NSOP), it attracts a tax of only 2 pc. This entices individuals and companies to buy aircraft under NSOP and then divert it for personal use. To tackle this prob- lem government plans to put a cap on NSOP and also lower the wide variance between the import of private jets and the tax paid under NSOP. Such moves by the government will definitely give a boost to the corporate jet market. Emphasising on government’s support Vellupilai adds, “Whenever a govern- ment is friendly towards business, it helps to ensure economic growth. This benefits everybody in the society from top to bottom. We see potential for many companies and billionaires in India to use corporate jets.” Elabo- rating further on the significance of corporate jets, he says, “Although the taxpayers in India want the govern- ment to spend money on hospitals and roads rather than corporate jets, the same taxpayers will also criticise if a head of state falls asleep at a state banquet or if a minister fails to negotiate the best trade deal. You can’t have it both ways. Governments in big countries, can justify corporate jets. It’s a false economy not to have them.”

However, the recently announced Union Budget for the fiscal 2016 by the finance minister Arun Jaitley, doesn’t offer much for the aviation industry, apart from reviving 160 underserved airports that will boost the regional connectivity.

Capitalising the jets

Making the process of renting out a charter jet for special occasions hassle free, Kanika Tekriwal, 27, came up with an idea of a market place for private jets. JetSetGo – the online aggregator – gives you a service of booking a charter very much the same way as Uber or Ola offer for booking a cab in the country. The Delhi-based start-up acts as a platform that brings together the available charter planes by multiple aircraft operators and gives the freedom from the tedious process of booking through traditional brokers and operators, that generally involves a great deal of time, which anyone with unlimited money is always short of. Launched in 2014, JetSetGo already has around 77 aircraft listed on its portal and turned profitable in September last year. Since it majorly taps the empty leg charter space, it is able to offer great discounts to its customers, who approach this market place for a range of activities from proposing the loved one in the sky, to a pre-wedding shoots, a birthday party, shuttling between the venues, product launches and the list is endless. Charting a plane saves time and gives the comfort of unwinding while still travelling, increasing the productivity to manifolds.

With the young blood of the country fuelling the business jet industry with innovative ideas along with a little ease on part of the government, India might be able to pull out from the sluggish phase and scale to a better standing globally.

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The Queen of Indian Spices

The age-old Indian spice serves as a herb, a spice, a dye and has magical properties beneficial for health, facial skin and many other ailments.

India is a country rich in myriad of herbs and spices. Interestingly, all these herbs and spices have their own relevance and benefits. One such spice is bright yellow-coloured turmeric or curcuma, known as haldi in India, a tropical plant with origins in southwest India. It belongs to the ginger family and can be found in three forms – fresh turmeric root, dried turmeric root and ground turmeric powder. Fresh turmeric root looks very similar to a ginger root. It is being used in India since ancient times and has become indispensable to the Indian cuisine.

Haldi is the main ingredient you will, without a doubt, find in every Indian kitchen. It is added in almost all the Indian curries to give that extra flavour and the blazing yellow colour. Yes, almost all Indian curries are yellowish in colour because a tinge of turmeric is deemed imperative. It also has a special place in Indian wedding celebrations. Before the final wedding day, as part of Indian culture, the bride’s family applies turmeric paste on the legs, arms and specifically the face of the bride to make her skin glow and mark a new beginning of her life.

Home Remedies

The spice is considered to be very useful for a flawless skin. Indian households use it in many variations and with various other ingredients to make numerous face packs depending on one’s needs.

  • For skin exfoliation, mix turmeric powder with honey and apply this paste on your face and neck – it will take care of your pores. It can also be used to treat acne – add a few drops of lemon to turmeric powder, mix it well and apply on the affected areas of the face. Leave it on for 15 minutes and then smoothly scrub it with plain water.
  • For dry skin, simply mix a dash of turmeric powder to the paste of 1 egg white, rose water, 2 drops of olive oil and fresh lemon juice. Apply this mixture to all the dry skin areas including the face and let it dry. To remove the dry paste use lukewarm water – this remedy is especially useful during extreme cold as human skin tends to dry often with prolonged exposure to chilly breeze.
  • If you are dealing with increasing fine lines and wrinkles and are too weary of spending extensively on chemical-heavy cosmetics, turn to turmeric for its antioxidant properties, which help in reducing the effects of aging. You just have to mix turmeric powder, rice powder, raw milk and tomato juice – apply the blend on your face and also the neck, leave on for 30 minutes and then wash it off with slightly warm water.

Turmeric has many medicinal benefits as well. Drinking milk mixed with turmeric powder has healing properties for all kinds of internal wounds especially for muscle or bone injury. Externally, when applied on open wounds and cuts, it works as an antiseptic because of its anti-bacterial properties. Simply adding a tablespoon of turmeric to warm water and taking it just before going to bed, acts a great healer for a person suffering from cold, cough or high body temperature. It is because of the fact that turmeric contains a chemical agent, curcumin, which has antiviral and anti-fungal properties and thus helps in building immunity.

Since it has a strong yellow-orange colour, it works pretty well as a natural dye. When dying with turmeric, one doesn’t need to heat the water—cold water is enough. However, for darker shades, it is advisable to heat the water pot used for the dying process. When used without any mordant (material that fixes the dye to the fabric) for dying processes, turmeric is non-toxic and thus it is even safe to put your hands inside the mixture. Although one has to be careful of getting one’s hands coloured. With countless benefits, turmeric indeed proves to the queen of Indian herbs and spices that can enrich your life with everything natural and that too without burning a hole in your pocket.

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Firenze: Will Make You Fall In Love

Firenze – that’s how Italians call ‘Florence’ and perhaps everyone who has ever been to this mesmerising city in the heart of Italy. It’s quiet; it’s chaotic yet it’s a melody that seeps deep down into your heart. With its charming locales, it offers everything honeymooners are looking for.


The moment you set foot in the capital of Italy’s Tuscany region, you begin to notice a perfect blend of history coupled with modernity – a combination that will give you the best of both the eras – rich ancient European monuments and sculptures with a tinge of everything contemporary. One cannot but love Firenze for the artistic beauty it unfolds from every nook and corner. A couple can simply start their day by walking hand in hand on the sidewalks or along the river Arno, which by all means captures the essence of Firenze.


(Left) Panoramic view of the Florence city; (right) the famous Michelangelo's statue of David

(Left) Panoramic view of the Florence city; (right) the famous Michelangelo’s statue of David

From morning till late in the night this river never sleeps and is the lifeline of the city. With a picturesque garden ‘Cascine’ and numerous temporary eateries on its banks, it gives countless choices for a day well spent. Cascine is a wide, spacious historical park that is just a perfect spot to lay down the mats in the realm of nature and sunbathe in the company of your spouse. During the summer, you’ll witness many residents hosting a bar-be-que on the riverbanks. Newlyweds can simply immerse in the happenings around them and experience the bliss.

For the lady of the house— every Tuesday the banks of Arno, overstepping all the calmness, transform into a full-fledged market that sells anything from everything at throwaway prices. You will notice people in large numbers thronging the temporary market. Around this zone, it is hard to be oblivious of the tramway passing across the Cascine Park. This tramway network connects Florence to Scandicci, which is one of the biggest suburbs of the city through a 7.4 km stretch with 14 stations. For an easy and quick movement from the main train station of Santa Maria Novellato other parts of the city, this modern day public transport will come to your rescue when you no longer have the energy or the willingness to walk any further.

For the much in love couples, a perfect escape from the clamor of the centre of the city is the Boboli Gardens. The gardens fall exactly behind the Pitti Palace and house the sculptures from the 16th and 18th century. With an entry ticket of mere 10 euro, you get to feel the magnificence of these gardens that is hard to match. Take a stroll while you embrace your partner without anybody being even mildly perturbed – just look for a sunny day to be your perfect third travel companion. If either of you is a book lover or a photography enthusiast, you couldn’t afford to miss this panoramic beauty.

In this Renaissance city when a bunch of people discuss art over a cup of coffee, the sculpture of David created by Michelangelo at the beginning of the 15th century always finds its way into the conversation. You just cannot come back from Firenze without setting your eyes on this piece of art, whether or not you are an ardent art aficionado. Placed at the centre of the city, outside the Palazzo Vecchio, in the vicinity of the Duomo, David boasts of a sculpture that is carved into the history world around. So much so that last July in Australia a certain art enthusiast tried to build a similar looking sculpture in his backyard that got him enough reactions on placing a nude statue within a residential area.

In fact, many art schools in Italy initiate their lessons by simply projecting the picture of David on the big screen and let their students throw themselves into the centuries-old art. Interestingly, what is placed outside the Palazzo Vecchio is nothing but a replica, the real statue stands inside the ‘Galleria dell’ Accademia di Firenze’ (Gallery of the Academy of Florence) to protect it from any uncertain danger. Duomo di Firenze, which is at a sniffing distance from David’s replica, is an ordinary name for ‘Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flowers’ that has become synonymous with the identity of Firenze over the years. Along with its relevance encrypted in the history of the city, Duomo makes for an exquisite backdrop to capture your unforgettable memories.

Walking around Firenze could unfold many interesting things for a couple. Nobody loves their cup of tea as much as Indians do. Being in Italy could deprive you of your cuppa when there is aroma of coffee all around. However, small streets a little away from the centre will take you to several tiny cafés that serve you tea in exactly the same manner as it’s supposed to be – hot water kettle, milk, your favorite tea flavor with a nice cup-plate to go with it. Sip in your choice of tea and you are ready to explore the city on your toes.



Boboli Gardens in Florence is home to a collection of antique sculptures San Lorenzo leather market is a great place to bargain for a classic Florentine souvenir

On the surface, being in Firenze could make a newlywed feel deprived of a beach when the sun is shining bright. However, if you walk further down the Arno River ahead of the Ponte Vecchio (Old bridge), you will witness a gamut of people lying on what looks like the sea sand with beach beds along the riverside, which serves as your very own beach—it is nothing less than a hidden treasure for a couple on the lookout for doing something different than hovering in and around the many museums of the city. On this artificial seashore there is no dearth of small yet fully operational bars that house various drinks to quench your thirst and for that matter your hunger as well. You can take a nibble of a sandwich or a Panini or whatever suits your taste buds and keep enhancing your tan without actually being at a real seaside. And yes, these man-made beaches are equipped with washrooms as well that is a quintessential aspect of being at a beach. You just have to get there and soak into the sun.

Moving from the sand to the sky is Piazza Michelangelo (Michelangelo Square), situated in the Oltrarno district of the city, which gives a breathtaking panoramic view of almost all of Florence. To the surprise of many visitors, David would come chasing you here as well—a bronze cast of the statue stands tall in the middle of the square facing the city. In the company of David and your beloved one, while basking in the glory of a beautiful sunset, on a quiet corner find your moment of love that can only be felt and not expressed in words. To add a cherry on the top, indulge in the numerous flavours of gelati (ice cream), no matter if it’s a hot sunny day or a cold winter evening. It is believed that Firenze has some of the best gelati in the whole of Europe. Give your memories an instant sweetener that will definitely make your heart melt and infuse in you a sense of belongingness with the city.



How to reach
Florence has its own international airport – Florence Airport, Peretola, which is well connected with big cities in and around Europe. You can either book a direct flight to Florence that will make a halt at Milan or Rome or Paris in France or to save some money you can take a direct flight to Milan or Rome and then take a train to Florence’s Santa Maria Novella station.

Where to stay
Staying in the vicinity of the centre will give access to all the major sights. Check numerous options close to Duomo or Piazza Santa Croce. You can either book an apartment with a local through various B&B websites or look for hotels that offer affordable and clean stay.

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