Up in the air: When a childhood passion for balloons transformed Benedict Savio into an entrepreneur

Entrepreneur Benedict Savio is all set to take Balloon festivals to a new level of popularity
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Last month, some of the most popular names of the Tamil film industry assembled at Mahindra World City near Chengalpattu - an hour’s drive from Chennai. The occasion was the announcement of the Ilayaraja 75 concert that was held on February 3 at YMCA Grounds, Nandanam. The show stealer, however, was a giant balloon that took off about 50 feet from the ground with images of Superstar Rajinikanth’s blockbuster 2.0 imprinted on them.

Balloons with the image of a superstar

When the balloon rose into the air, people clicked photos and shot videos. Yes, the next big thing in marketing had arrived - in Chennai, home to several fine initiatives in technology, startups and digital marketing. Present among the viewers was a young man, seeing his dream come alive

Meet Benedict Savio of Global Media Box. A pioneer of Hot Air Ballooning in India, he has been instrumental in starting the Tamil Nadu Balloon Festival.

Benedict Savio

“During my school days, I wanted to do something innovative and different. I am passionate about flying, flying machines and aviation,” he recalls. It was his stint in marketing at a few Chennai firms after graduation from Visual Communication at Loyola College that he realised that he was walking closer towards making his childhood passion a reality.

A Balloon festival underway in Tamil Nadu

During a visit to Germany, Benedict saw his first balloon festival. “It was mind-blowing and I thought ‘why can’t we make this happen in India.’ So, I started learning about balloons and looked at it from a different perspective of branding because it is a huge billboard – a flying billboard,” he says.

Hot air balloons with special themes

Benedict remembers his first client Emirates, and how he suggested they travel the world with their own balloon. He started similar campaigns at Marina Beach and Besant Nagar. But legal procedures, paperwork and other issues delayed his dream of a balloon festival.

Eventually, he presented the idea to the Taiwan Tourism Board and they agreed. He even created a balloon for Angry Birds, after approaching Rovio in 2012, when the game was at its peak popularity.

In 2013, Benedict brought his first balloon and conducted test flights in Pollachi, Villupuram and Ginjee. This time, he managed to arrange five more balloons and successfully conducted his first Balloon festival at Pollachi.

The power of branding:

“Ballooning is a spectator event and is also the only recognised civil aviation transport, which is part of adventure sport and involves coordination with Air Traffic Control and the local Air Force Station,” says Benedict.

He adds that the Tamil Nadu Balloon Festival is the longest running exclusive festival. For their event at Mahindra World City, he claims that they received 35,000 bookings through BookMyShow only.

Balloon rides have become very popular over the years

Hot air balloons cost upwards of $30,000 and some can even cost more than $100,000. After the investment, recovering the money can be difficult even if rides are offered at Rs. 15,000 per head per ride. At the Germany festival, Warsteiner, one of the biggest breweries, buys a hot air balloon, gives it to licensed pilots, allowing them to offer rides and earn money.

A similar model can be replicated in India where rides can be offered at Rs. 5,000 per person and the investment can be recovered in five years.

Benedict has his hands full in the weeks to come. He plans to fly balloons in Puducherry, especially for children with a theme based on Dr Abdul Kalam’s quote on dreams. He is a fan of the former President of India and his conviction about his desire to do something for children.

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