Excitement stirred on a Monday evening when Bhaskar asked us to gather in his pod.
With much enthusiasm, he began to deliver the news, “As we all know, there’s one thing that we have been talking about for a very long time, but because of a lack of time, we have been unable to do so.”
He instantly gained our attention, and we were curious to know more.
“Wait, should we hold each other’s hands for this?” I said, trying to lighten the mood.
“This is about SmartQ rebranding. We have been trying to make it happen for a very long time, but because of our daily tasks and priorities, we haven’t been able to completely focus on it.”
Our curiosity level reached its peak.
“So, Keshav visited a place a few weeks back, and he felt that our Marketing team should also experience the beauty of the place. The place is called Bodhi Zendo. It’s a meditation center situated near Kodaikanal. We will be going there for three days and focusing on two things: meditation and rebranding,” he revealed.
“They have a strict schedule, so we will have to adhere to it. They have meditation sessions throughout the day, and it’s mandatory to attend. So this is something that we will have to manage. We will not get a proper network there, so our sessions will be purely interactive without any digital help. We will leave on Thursday night and come back by Monday morning. Keshav will take us through the itinerary tomorrow.”
This was significant and exciting news for all of us.
I started googling about the place, the weather, and everything else.
Thursday evening, after wrapping up our tasks and taking printouts of whatever we might need at the location for rebranding, we started our journey by 9 PM.
Soon the bus was turned into a discothèque, and we all entertained ourselves with upbeat music and dance moves.
We halted at Nandhana Palace for dinner and indulged in mouthwatering biryanis and starters.
For any SmartQ trip, great food and fun are essential ingredients.
The following day, we reached Kodaikanal around 10 AM and stopped for breakfast before heading to the venue. We indulged in lip-smacking, authentic crispy dosas and refreshing filter coffee.
We captured some pictures and headed to Bodhi Zendo.
After a picturesque ghat journey, we finally reached the location.
The place was adorned with serene views of the valley and lush green trees.
We were greeted by fresh air and aromatic flowers. I really wanted to pick up a flower and accessorize my hair with it.
The place so was peaceful and quiet that we could hear the birds chirping. I felt instantly rejuvenated. Truly, it was a place to forget all your worries and stay present in the moment.
Our guide led us through the property, diligently educating us about all the rules and regulations of the place. I was a bit taken aback when I heard there were so many so dos and don’ts that we must follow.
We had different meditation sessions throughout the day and attending those sessions were mandatory. The morning and evening meditation sessions were an hour long and the rest of the sessions were for 30 minutes. Everyone had to be present 5 minutes before the start of the session. The mediation room was spacious and well-ventilated, predominantly furnished with Zabuton mats and Zafu pillows (specifically curated for medication purposes).
There was a Zen master available to address all our life-related questions. During the evening meditation, if anyone wished to converse with the Zen master, they could do so by placing their meditation manual in front of them. Once the Zen master rose from his place, said "Dokusan," and exited the room, a Zen practitioner would approach and softly say "Dokusan" to you. This signaled that you should rise, bow quietly before leaving the room, and proceed to the Zen master's chamber.
I also took the opportunity to ask him a few questions. One has to strictly adhere to a lot of protocols while greeting him. He was sitting in a room inside a room that was completely isolated from the other room. The whole ambience felt like a movie scene – lit candles, statues of Buddha, a few books, and in the middle of the room, he was sitting on his Zafu pillow and monk’s attire.
Post evening meditation, there was a “complete silence” rule from 6 PM to next day 7 AM.
We had dinner by 7 PM, which is usually my snack time otherwise.
The first day of meditation proved to be tough for all of us – it was difficult to concentrate and most of us were tired from the bus journey, so we kept getting back pain during the session.
We had various brainstorming sessions in between our meditation sessions.
The following day proceeded with a similar routine, although with a higher energy level.
Bhaskar and Zakki were the leads and were orchestrating each session strategically. Their aura kept us hooked throughout the session, wanting us to know more about the intricacies.
The sessions were engaging and well crafted.
What took me by surprise is when I realised that mindfulness and marketing can absolutely coexist. I've read about giants like Google and Goldman Sachs integrating meditation and mindfulness for enhanced employee productivity. But I had always perceived creativity as spontaneous, something that doesn’t have a defined time and comes to you anytime and in any way, and not something you can pin to a schedule. However, sitting through various meditation sessions and then trying to decode the brand’s voice, personality, and its overall essence hit me differently.
The third and the last day, Keshav took us all out for a small 20-minute trek.
On reaching the top, we started clicking pictures and basking in the view.
Once we were all energised, we gathered together to discuss our progress in the past two days. By that time, we had come a long way in discovering our brand positioning, tonality and voice.
Keshav, Zakki, and Bhaskar came up with a strategy to divide the teams into smaller groups and let us come up with a concept for the personality.
My team included Ashwin, Arun, Nikhil, Paul, and Shabbir. Of course, our team was the most mischievous one.
We returned to the venue and picked the perfect and the most iconic brainstorming spot - an open hut-like place that offered a panoramic view of the valley. The clouds cloaked the hilltops, offering a mesmerizing backdrop.
The guys played soft music that was in perfect symphony with the ambience.
Now, I am a girl who works well with timelines and wants everything structured, and ironically, I was in a team of people who like to go with the flow and not stress about anything.
After they succeeded in making me one of them and not stressing about everything, we all gazed at the picturesque view, listening to November Rain, trying to figure out an innovative concept for our brand personality.
Soon, it started raining and we headed to have some mandatory rainy-day coffee. I also engaged in deep life-related discussions with Shabbir.
We all came up with some brilliant ideas after our coffee session.
Around 6’o’clock, we enthusiastically pitched our ideas to the Smart-tank juries as we had come up with a great concept. They all liked our ideas and took them into consideration.
The time came for our final meditation session.
Before leaving, we indulged in a delicious sattvic dinner. The food there was simple and homely.
The other teams also pitched their ideas that were well-appreciated by all of us.
We capped-off our 3-day Bodhi Zendo trip with great learnings, incredible memories, and a hint of self-reflection.
I never knew that there’s a strong connection between mindfulness and marketing.
Through our meditation sessions, we were able to reflect upon ourselves, reflect upon SmartQ’s positioning as a brand, and above all, cultivated a serene state of mind.
We had originality in all our ideas, nothing was coerced; it came from the heart, and we all enjoyed spending time with each other trying to decode SmartQ’s new personality.
Meditation teaches us that even when a thousand things are running in your life, you can still manage to control your thoughts and stay present. This trip taught me two important things: First, you have all the answers within, you just have to ask yourselves the right questions. And secondly, meditation has no destination. It’s just a beautiful journey of self-realisations and upliftment that you take till the day you die. The moment you start meditating keeping an ulterior motive in mind, you will eventually get lost in the way. I started meditating a year back due to my anxiety. Once I got over it, I stopped.
It is well rightly quoted, “Focus on the ride and not the final destination.” A heartful shoutout to Keshav for taking us all here – for introducing us all to the path of mindfulness.
Call it a journey to mindful rebranding or call it from Zen to zenith – but I’d like to say, we did it the SmartQ way – WHOLEHEARTEDLY!