After a long stint running the duty-free operations at Mumbai and Delhi Airport, entrepreneur Manishi Sanwal talks to us about his new data analytics venture, Voiceback Technologies. In a conversation with us, he also tells us some tips on duty-free shopping, his travel favourites, and more. By Bayar Jain
When shopping at duty free, what are some things one must keep in mind?
At the arrivals: allowances and regulations. Legitimate passengers are allowed only a certain value and a certain quantity of goods. One should be aware of these regulations and should follow them.
During departure: transit rules. Please ensure that you are not transiting through other airports. Few airports and a few sectors are sensitive and would not allow you to board with Duty Free Goods. It’s advisable to confirm this from the sales staff.
2. Apart from Mumbai, which airport do you think has the best duty-free shopping? Both, Indian and International.
In India, for me it is always Mumbai. Internationally, I like the offering at Schipol Airport, Amsterdam.
3. What is that one thing you can’t resist buying when at the airport?
A discounted item of luxury clothing or accessory.
4. Tell us about your new venture, Voiceback Technologies.
My favourite quote, inspired by Carl Sagan, is “Somewhere in your data, something incredible is waiting to be known.” Voiceback Technologies is a Data Analytics company, which intends to solve real-life business problems by using data. On ground, offline businesses love to complain about ‘value-based’ e-commerce onslaught. Voiceback Technologies would work at a customer level, personalise the shopping experience, and enable offline retailers to stay relevant in a digitised e-commerce led market.
5. You were once based out of Shanghai. What do you think are some of the must-visit hidden gems of the city?
Locally known as 399, the Shanghai Fabric Market in Lujiabang of the Huangpu Qu district is a mesmerising experience. Hundreds of tailors and designers, with hundreds of design catalogues do customised tailoring for you. They turn around a suit in 24 hours, craft fanciful designs. They never falter with the size, and always deliver on time.
6. You’ve studied in Varanasi as well as Ahmedabad. Your preferred city and why?
Varanasi is magical. Varanasi is unbelievable. They say Lord Shiva watches over the city. At first, it appears like a city of chaos with autos, rickshaws, bulls, buses, Indians, foreigners and traffic jams — all coexisting. But after you spend some time here, a pattern of serenity and calm emerges. The university, the holy Ganges, the holy Sarnath, the temple, the ghats, the forts, the pontoon bridge, the street food, the milk thandai, the sweets, the sari shops in the by-lanes, the evening aarti at the ghats… each one is an unforgettable experience.
7. Your go-to holiday destination?
Goa! The biggest advantage of living in Mumbai is being a 40-minute flight away from Goa. I enjoy the smell of the city and love spending time doing nothing and relaxing in this city.
8. Solo or group – your preferred vacation?
Group with family or really close friends.
9. When packing for a vacation, what are the five things that you cannot leave without?
My running shoes, headphones, my Amazon Fire Stick, a single malt and my office laptop.
10. Your favourite travel companion?
My wife and my eight-year-old son.
11. Your next holiday destination?
Hakuba Valley, Japan during Christmas or New Year. I am excited to see some real snow and try skiing.