Augment port infra to compete, says Monarch Cruise CEO

As Monarch Cruise unveiled a never before concoction of Bollywood and cricket to luxury cruising experience, we caught up with the CEO to understand the product and wider issues that are hindering India’s march in boosting cruise industry. Excerpt of the interview:


India is gearing up to host a Maritime India Summit in the coming April. This attempt underlines government’s desire to leverage the hugely untapped potential of nation’s vast coastline which could jettison India’s position as a serious player in the arena of cruising industry. According to various media reports, the Summit – which will be partnered with the Government of South Korea – will showcase over two hundred projects, estimated to be in tune of six billion USD.

There is a reason for this sense of urgency. India’s port infrastructure is in a state of shambles. We have barely hosted international players – who despite their knowledge of India’s potential, as a market, have shied away owing to shoddy infrastructure. Smaller countries have better port infrastructure in place. Then there are a number of hurdles, still. Lengthy paperwork, bad consumer experience, and far too many security regulations have added to the problems of cruise players. Somesh Jagga, CEO, Monarch Cruise said that India remained a tough place for any operator. “Mumbai is often on high-alert and getting people off the ship and the port is a massive task. You have to live with it, and as an operator you cannot do much about it; we try to give a good experience to the consumer,” he stated.

He pointed towards the scale of difference in the state of infrastructure between India and some of the countries that had been successful in creating a thriving cruise industry. “Our close neighbours, Hong Kong and Singapore have world-class facilities. For a cruise liner, positive customer experience is paramount. No passenger wants to get queued up in a line of five hundred passengers waiting for formalities to be taken care of, and exiting through one crowded gate. So, it is issues like these that are holding us back, more than anything,” he said. “Luckily, we have the Star cruise Virgo which will be taken as a shell and turned around into Monarch cruise. They are managing the port-permission and other clearances, but, all of our paper formalities are done and sorted,” he further added.

Adding that there had been attempts by international operators to come to Mumbai, but they could not bring their vessels to these ports; he said “it is not only vessels, but the experience of disembarkation and embarkation for passengers that can be terrible.” He agreed that all of it remained a huge challenge, and opined that this was where the government had to step in. “We have created some world-class airports; why can’t we have some international standard ports? The focus must be given to the infrastructural upliftment of ports, and we, as a nation, deserve excellent cruising industry,” he vehemently argued.

He also stressed that more than the lack of infra; it was the sheer lack of service at the port that was haunting the industry and consumers, alike. He, however, showed tremendous faith in PM’s vision, stating that they had been watching him take extra-ordinary steps for the tourism industry and improving bilateral relations with other nations. “We are very confident that even if it is not in place right now, it will happen. Apart from that I can share my experience that we met Chairman of Port Authorities Ravi Parmar, we got to know that he has already committed a sum of seventy-five crores only for the development of Mumbai port,” he informed us.

Given the current state of affairs, it may well be difficult for the company to create the desired consumer experience. The Monarch Cruise has, however, left no stones unturned. “We have taken up the challenge and put our foot in the door. What we are trying to do is to create the ambience on the port. So, we will be almost turning around the port on that particular day. We are putting in place standing AC’s and extra scanning machines, to ensuring adequate entertainment,” the CEO told us. The company has also requested for special permission for additional deployment of CISF personnel to expedite security and passport control. “We will create an event on the port that day, so that passengers who are embarking get all the world-class facilities that a port has to offer,” Somesh said.

Despite the evidence to the contrary, the business of cruising has picked up in India, in the last decade, said Somesh. “We, as a nation, average to about two hundred and fifty thousand passengers. If I only share the statistics of the last half a decade, almost 1.2 million passengers have experienced cruising. Twenty-eight percent of travellers have chosen it as their honeymoon trips, so it has good traction among youngsters,” noted the CEO, giving an insight into fast changing consumer profile. “The outlook towards cruising has changed dramatically, as Indians have experienced cruising in other parts of the world; Bollywood, with movies like ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’, based around cruising, too, has tremendously increased the appetite for experiencing cruises,” he concluded.

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