The Contributions of Prateek Hira and Tornos
Lucknow has been a hub of architectural, cultural and social heritage. Every aroma, every gesture, every word has an essence of historic grace. Not just the bricks and mortar, Lucknow is made of its people and to see this magnificent city, people from all around the nation as well as the world come in large numbers to experience such living breathing experience. And there is one man who has savored the very same Lakhnavi essence in his persona, while providing hospitality to our tourist guests, the man who is now a stalwart in the city’s tourism management…the man named Prateek Hira. He sacrificed a lot to be in Lucknow and give back the city he was born and brought up in. In 1994, when tourism was virtually unknown to the city of Lucknow and hardly did any tourist thought of coming to Lucknow a company by the name of Tornos was set up by Prateek to market the city to foreign tourists and bring the city on tourist map. “The times were tough but then I believed that the tough gets going” says Prateek looking back to the days when he had mere Rs 3000 in his pocket to start a venture that no one at that point of time appreciated or sided with, not even his parents, who were virtually unaware of what a career in travel and tourism was like. Prateek’s mother now 85 quips “My husband and I were in government jobs and did not know anything about tourism, and of course we did not have the kind of money to support the venture, because my husband and I came in as a refugee after partition and it was natural not to have much money. In a way Prateek happens to be first partitioned India born generation of our family. The best thing is that we both were confident about our son and I am happy that we left him to do what he wanted”.
The company that may be unknown to many locally, is an international star in the field of tourism, specially in the United Kingdom and Australia, the two major source markets from where about 1000 tourists travel with them every year, based on very niche knowledge based tour programmes offered by Tornos. Prateek Hira and his team at Tornos every year comes up with very unique and innovative products. It would not be wrong if this company were credited as one company because of which tourism happened in Lucknow.
One can just not imagine that the Heritage Walk that has become a talk of the town was initially started by this company way back in 1995, when walking tours were just unknown to India. Recently Conde Nast Traveller has recommended this Heritage Walk by Tornos as a ‘must do when in Lucknow’. This Heritage Walk was followed by a Culinary Walk in the year 2000, that now ranks among the best food walks of India by Conde Nast Traveller, beating its likes in Delhi and Hyderabad.
Another great product launched by Prateek, is based on the Uprising of 1857 that has actually made Tornos what they are today. ìOur tours are well researched and very authentic, tour of the uprising in Lucknow, Kanpur and Fatehgarh helped us to get a lot of recognition in United Kingdom. Today we have the best collection of books on the subject of the uprising of 1857 and this is what forms the crux of our researchî quotes Prateek Hira. He adds, ìVictorian Walk in Hazratganj is yet another product that goes down well with the British travelers. It covers the evolution of this market right from 1850s till todayî. Innovation is what keeps the company up and floating and differentiates it with competition that they may have in the market. Innovation, Improvisation and not bothering for returns are often the key to success that Tornos has mastered. A visit to their website (www.tornosindia.com) is indeed an experience in itself, today no research on Lucknow is complete without referring to this website.
Tornos, under Mr. Hira, also has developed special tours for Australian’s to connect with Lucknow, where the great Australian architect Walter Burley Griffin, who designed Canberra, lies buried. Prime Minister Modi mentioned this Australian connects for the first time during his November 2014 Australia visit and all media attention then came on Prateek during that time. ìIt was good to realize that the Prime Minister mentioned this connect and I suddenly became a center of attraction for media. It surely added to popularity of this Griffin Tour that we were operating since the last 8 yearsî says Prateek.
Tornos Foundation constitutes different awards in the field of travel, tourism and hotels. The award carries an Honour Stole, Memento and a Certificate. The Foundation also institutes a Chair of Honour at the Tornos Foundation which is the highest recognition given to individuals who have achieved remarkable feet in the field of Tourism. Tornos Foundation plans to make this a regular event.
Today Prateek is an inspiration to people who want to take up unique professions and become entrepreneurs with virtually no capital in hand. Tornos has grown to be a very respectable and a big name in the travel trade yet there is no stopping on the product front. Every year the company churns out two to three new products and surprises the market with, ‘there is more to come’ dictum. This is the reason that the company finds mention among the ‘out of box travel companies in India’ by Indian Express.
Curated tours to Ayodhya are the latest that Tornos has in its kitty; these tours are almost ready for a launch this season in October. This tour is called the Mokshdayani Ayodhya Tours and combines a well-researched Mokshdayani Walk on the banks of river Saryu. The central idea of this tour is to keep aside the temple-mosque controversy and show Ayodhya in all its glory to foreign tourists.
In the year 2007 Tornos Foundation started an innovative concept of ‘BLANKET BANK’, where people can donate their old blankets and woolens for further donation to right and deserving homeless and needy. The team ventures out in the dead of the night, identifying the really deserving underprivileged homeless people trying to fight the winter chill. Later in 2010 they started accepting even the summer clothes under this programme. These collected clothes are distributed during summers and at the time of natural calamity that comes in unannounced. Their biggest donation under this programme reached Uttarakhand and later to Kashmir during flash floods. These were truckloads of clothes from their stocks and random collection made at the time of tragedy.
Along with the clothing, Tornos has also helped in providing food to the underprivileged class. Leftovers in restaurants are often disposed off as waste, thereby wasting proper edible resources. In times when a large part of our population doesn’t get enough food to eat, these leftover edibles can be to fight hunger. Tornos has come up with a helpline, which helps collecting leftovers from the restaurant. All one has to do is request the restaurant to pack the leftover neatly and separately (only that, left on the serving dish) after he is done, call on 9935-65-65-65 for collection and a volunteer from Tornos would collect it from this restaurant and the food would be provided to the needy without much delay.
Tornos Foundation also attaches great importance to sustainable development. Ecological Awareness among the public should be raised to transform the fast-growing economy into an eco-friendly and sustainable entity. This would have a far-reaching influence on not only the sustainability of India’s development, but also ecological security globally and the development of human civilization. Ecological culture could play an important role in forming an energy-efficient and environment-friendly society, which would eventually benefit the sustainable development of any country. The Tornos Foundation aims at promoting awareness for ecological conservation and advocate eco-friendly lifestyle through various methods, such as conferences, publications, training and international exchange. Foundation organizes cleanliness drives, voluntary cleaning of rivers, tree plantations, cleaning of heritage monuments et al.
In the process of preserving the ecology, Tornos has gone a step ahead and joined hands with a bear rescue center. A three-month-old bear cub is pierced in its nose with red-hot iron, to make way for a plastic rope that would remain there for all its life and make it stand and shake as a dancer not to the tune of the dugdugi but due to pain that it feels when the rope is pulled. The teeth are smashed, claws clipped and it is made to stand on a hot tin plate so that it learns jumping and swaying. The bear rescue centre saves these poor creatures and rehabilitates them in an area with no less than 200 other rescued bears. Since the year 2000 this rescue centre has been working and none of us knew about it. Tornos Foundation committed it self to support this cause not only by way of monetary help but also through its parent companies Tornos and Indian Frontiers taking all its guests to the Bear Rescue Centre during a tour of Agra.
We requested Prateek to say a parting line and he quips “Lucknow hum pe fida, hum fida-e-Lucknow, kya hai taqat aasman ki jo humse churaye Lucknow! “.
Writer is a marketing professional
(Published in The Lucknow Observer, Volume 2 Issue 16, Dated 05 July 2015)