With the help of Google, Vandit Kalia makes a splash with DIVE IndiaNeha Jain
Based in the Andaman islands, scuba diving centre Dive India is working on its online presence to attract divers from across the world.
Slaving away in our claustrophobic office cubicles, most of us daydream of opening the perfect little Parisian-themed cafe, or building an online jewellery brand, or doing something else equally interesting, but only some of us follow through. While for most it may seem easy to just take a good pay packet and put out the flame of a passion-infused business idea, it just will not do for some - and no one knows it better than Vandit Kalia.
Back in 2003, Vandit (45) left his well-paying job as a management consultant in the US to start DIVE India, a diving centre in the Andaman islands.
He says, “I came to the Andaman Islands on a vacation and fell in love with the place. The opportunity was right there, and I decided to take a leap at a time when no one on the islands had any idea about scuba diving and nothing was available in India. There were no reliable boats, boat staff or dive professionals.”
With six existing diving sites on the islands - Wall, Lighthouse, Aquarium, Barracuda City, Pilot Reef and Minerva Ledge - DIVE India started exploring more, and added South Button, Elephant Beach, the Inchkett, I-95, Johnny's Gorge, Jackson's Bar and Dixon's Pinnacle (named after local staff who worked at DIVE India and trained under Vandit to become the first dive professionals from the Andaman Islands).
And with that, scuba diving started to grow in popularity in India - other diving centres opened up, and an industry took life. Currently, DIVE India has a fleet of customised dive boats, 15+ dive professionals across Havelock and Neil islands, and customers from all over the world.
Vandit says, “We’re all for environment protection and marine conservation. We do our best to ensure that all our business on the island is as sustainable as possible. We offer courses and workshops on conservation activities and marine conservation so we can educate and help our guests to participate in sustainable activities. It is, and will continue to be, one on our priorities to make sure that we preserve and protect the natural environment that we enjoy so much and work with.”
DIVE India provides scuba training for beginners, certifications to become scuba diving instructors, fun diving, outbound scuba diving trips, and scuba equipment sales. It is present in the Andamans, and has training centers in Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru.
But no journey is complete without challenges. Pointing out some of them, Vandit says, “Targeting customers effectively with a modest budget and attracting new customers and educating/creating awareness among potential customers is a constant struggle.”
However, he finds Google to be a useful tool in his journey. He says, “Being a remote location, with most of our audience only finding us through online research – Google and Google products have played a pivotal role to help reach out to our audience. We partnered with Pushkarraj Mehta (Talkingtobots.com), our digital marketing consultant, in November 2015 to lay down a solid foundation for SEO and to drive traffic to the website with Google ads to help achieve our online goals. We turn up in the top three searches for anyone wanting to learn and or scuba dive in the Andamans.”
Google AdWords, Analytics, and webmaster tools have all come in handy, says Vandit. By going digital from November 2015 onwards, DIVE India has seen significant growth rate.
Vandit says, “We’ve increased our website lead conversions by an average 230 percent year over year and increased our website traffic by 400 percent by reducing advertising spends by 25 percent.”
DIVE India is owned and operated by over 25 divers. “All of them are people who love diving. Almost everyone has quit high-paying city jobs to become dive instructors. We’ve trained local staff as well as part of our commitment to support local communities,” he adds.