In an exclusive interview with Shreyas Webmedia Solutions (SWS), Ms.Aishwarya Bhende, Founder, AB Celestial, discussed her passion and challenges in establishing her tourism empire in the financial capital of India – Mumbai. SWS thanked Ms.Aishwarya Bhende for her catering her valuable time for the interview.
SWS: At the age of 23, how did an idea strike your mind to be an entrepreneur in the tourism sector?
Aishwarya Bhende: I was exposed to European waterfronts from a young age as a result of extensive travel abroad and I saw how they boosted tourism in other countries. Mumbai, as a commercial capital, is located along a beautiful coast that is underutilised. At the age of 18, I recognised an untapped opportunity. With a business degree and a strong interest in hospitality, my core team and I embarked on a three-year journey to bring Mumbai its first luxury dining floating restaurant, AB Celestial.
SWS: A floating restaurant is a new concept; how did you manage to build it?
Aishwarya Bhende: Every business faces difficulties, but because this was the first of its kind in India, a number of issues arose early on. From licences to constructing a dedicated road for the project, to interior design – all while keeping in mind that the boat requires specialised fittings and skilled labour. Hiring a professional team not only for restaurant operations but also for a ship crew to live on the vessel 24 hours a day, seven days a week to ensure safety. The last three years of the establishment have provided me with knowledge in a variety of fields ranging from hospitality to interior design. It has also taught me to never be afraid to take risks in business and to experiment with new ideas.
SWS: Your journey as a businesswoman is an inspiration to many. What is your take on this?
Aishwarya Bhende: I came across a quote on the internet that said, quote, “I’ve never thought of myself as a female engineer or founder or a woman in tech. I just think of myself as someone who’s passionate.” – Leah Busque, Task Rabbit’s co-founder and executive chairwoman. Similarly, I see myself as someone who is passionate about hospitality or as someone who forged my own path in the industry. I believe that women have advanced in various industries and positions not because they are women, but because they are intelligent and skilled at what they do. Women are defying all gender stereotypes.
SWS: You received many awards for your success. Which award is more favour to you and why?
Aishwarya Bhende: I’ve accomplished a lot in the last few years, from being featured in a number of notable publications like THE ENTREPRENEUR, ELLE, and HELLO magazine to being on the radio, doing a podcast, and walking a fashion show as a young achiever, but I think the biggest award for me would be speaking on panels so I can share my experiences with people younger than me and budding entrepreneurs. Being able to share my failures rather than my successes. Assisting them in overcoming their fears or any other impediments to their growth.
SWS: ‘Anchoring your dreams into reality’ – How has this helped you to achieve success?
Aishwarya Bhende: I am a firm believer in making your dreams a reality because if you can dream it, you can achieve it, and if your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.
SWS: Why tourism sector you chose not others?
Aishwarya Bhende: One of the few reasons that led me to work in tourism alongside hospitality was Mumbai’s status as the commercial capital and the 30th most visited city in the world. I noticed how many of my friends travel to cities like Goa and Cochin to experience the waterfront or beaches, despite the fact that Mumbai is on the coast. The idea of curating a luxury dining yacht was not only a tourist attraction but also to ensure our exquisite seaside.
SWS: Share your future plans in regard to AB Celestial.
Aishwarya Bhende: Over a few years, we have grown AB Celestial into an iconic landmark for locals and tourists by operating as a restaurant and banquet that caters to various industries. I’d also like to look into AB Celestial as a franchise model so that other waterfront cities can enjoy this dining experience. Supporting them in increasing local business and employment and fully utilizing their coast.
SWS: How do your parents – Manju and Chetan Bhende stand by you to accomplish your vision?
Aishwarya Bhende: My parents work in two distinct industries: my father is a businessman, and my mother is a fashion designer. My inspiration came not merely from just watching them work, but also from their rise to prominence in their respective fields over the years. This allowed me to highlight both of their strong suits while establishing AB Celestial, taking business sense from my father and artistic inspiration from my mother and displaying it within the interior of the boat. My parents have been extremely supportive and have guided me through every step of the process.
SWS: You host many clients including Bollywood. How was your experience?
Aishwarya Bhende: I had never imagined that our yacht would serve as the backdrop for some landmark events from Nokia’s TV commercial, a car launch on the water for Lexus NX 300h, business giants like Mercedes Benz AMG, Google Pixel, Amazon Prime or even YouTube. It’s overwhelming and exciting to work with such reputed names at an early age and I really look forward to collaborating with so many more over the years to come.
SWS: You are very selective when it comes to interior, design, and presentation. How do you handle your staff to get things done as per your passion?
Aishwarya Bhende: Being selective stems from knowing what you want and what you can bring to the table. I believe that being specific is extremely vital in the hospitality industry because your passion and the way you portray yourself is what make you stand out as an individual person or restaurant. Handling staff can be extremely difficult, especially when you’re extremely young, but it was critical for me to ensure that my team had a shared vision and that they would do their best to provide impeccable service during recruitment. I truly think it is simply a matter of command and execution.
SWS: In your personal life, how do you manage your business and yourself?
Aishwarya Bhende: Growing up, I was always a social person who enjoyed going out, traveling, meeting new people, and trying out various cuisines and types of food. I’ve invariably kept myself busy between studying and socializing, but I had never imagined owning a restaurant, let alone a floating one. I was most passionate about music and fashion, which almost convinced me to launch my own fashion label. As I was weak in mathematics, business and finance never interested me until I enrolled in a course called Business Studies, which eventually led to the idea of starting my own business that combined my interests. Before I knew it, I was in the spotlight, leading a project like AB Celestial, juggling tuition and business meetings, but balance is something you create, not something you find. Personally, I believe that it all boils down to motivation. If you truly desire something, you must work for it.
SWS: What is your message to budding entrepreneurs in India?
Aishwarya Bhende: I believe that successes are built on failures, and that success comes to those who take risks, so never give up no matter what the obstacle is because time will almost always work in your favour. Coca-Cola only sold 25 bottles in their first year, so keep up the good work. It took me three years to launch an undertaking I had envisioned, and I hope I can be a source of inspiration to aspiring entrepreneurs. As they say, to stand up the eighth time, you must first fall seven times.
About Ms. Aishwarya Bhende
Exposed to European waterfronts from an early age, the 18-year-old Aishwarya realized how they boosted tourism in countries. Aishwarya Bhende has the vision to boost the tourism industry in the country and she managed to start the first floating restaurant. Being an entrepreneur, she started her business and served many clients -Nokia Lexus NX 300h, Mercedes Benz AMG, Google Pixel, Amazon Prime, and even YouTube. Her passion is the key to her success. Shreyas Webmedia Solutions team wishes her all the best in her business endeavour.