This NIT-IIM alumnus gave up his cushy job to travel and now sells his content to OTT platforms
For Abhishek Vaid, an alumnus of NIT Surat and IIM Bangalore, travelling during childhood was limited to visiting relatives in Delhi and Jammu. “I was born in a typical middle-class family setup in Faridabad, and my family always laid emphasis on the importance of quality education. Travel used to be a luxury for us,” Abhishek tells YS Weekender.
Abhishek Vaid of Untravel Media
However, having grown up in the Doordarshan era, watching the travel show Surabhi hosted by Renuka Shahane and Siddharth Kak made Abhishek nurture a secret dream of having a travel show of his own. “But like any other Indian middle-class boy, I focused on a lucrative career,” he adds.
For the love of travel
After MBA, Abhishek served in the corporate world for close to a decade. His last role was that of a Senior Manager - Strategic Projects (Digital Customer Experience) at Airtel. Spending most of his corporate life in Bengaluru, weekend trips soon became the norm for Abhishek. “As I gained financial independence, the urge to escape the monotony kept getting stronger,” he says.
He soon realised that more than sightseeing, it were the experiences that really fascinated him. “I am completely okay with travelling to Italy and not visiting the Colosseum,” Abhishek adds.
Thus, after a decade of working in the corporate world, Abhishek decided to re-engineer his life. The engineer/MBA took to creating travel content, with the mission to uncover inspiring tales of diverse people, places, and experiences in the form of travel videos.
In early 2019, Abhishek founded Untravel Media. Based out of Gurugram, Untravel Media is a travel media production house that focuses on creating theme-based story-driven travel series.
The media house creates content for both its own channels as well as TV networks and OTT platforms, including the likes of Zee5, EpicON, and ShortsTV.
Its latest production series Melody Miles is a musical quest of two travellers on a road trip through the hills of south India, in search of immersive experiences and inspirations for writing a travel song. Abhishek reveals that the show is produced in association with JBL and Mahindra.
Coming from a typical Indian family, Abhishek initially faced challenges in convincing his parents. However, he says, “Despite being skeptical of my decision, they have backed me both emotionally and financially. If it wasn’t for them, I would not be doing what I am doing today.”
Despite the content overload, the travel enthusiast in Abhishek always felt that digital platforms lacked high-quality story-driven content. With Untravel Media, he plans to fill that gap. “I feel urban millennials get hooked to stories rather than facts and data. Stories stir emotions and leave impressions,” he further explains.
Graduating from the country’s top schools, entering the media and entertainment industry was not a cakewalk for Abhishek. However, the entrepreneur feels that learning on the job comes with its own set of pros — one need not carry the baggage of linear thinking. He adds: “Sometimes, one has to think out of the box, or change the box altogether.”
Abhishek looks up to Chef David Rocco’s travel and food shows, and India’s Rocky & Mayur’s Highway On My Plate for inspiration.
Thinking out of the box
Unlike usual travel vlogs that focus on the best places to visit and eat, or how to reach from a certain point to another, Untravel Media’s content is cinematically shot, showcasing a particular destination, with elements of storytelling, travel, conversations, and local flavours.
Its first production Moving to Mountains released in 2019. It tells the story of the desire to live in the mountains someday — a dream shared by many today. The five-part series features a new destination in every episode, telling stories of city-bruised souls who made it to the mountains to build a home for themselves.
In the last two years, Untravel Media has produced more than 10 series. While all of the shows are available on the production house’s YouTube channel, five series have been acquired — three by EpicON (Travel For More, How I Met Meghalaya, An Indian in Pakistan), and two by ZEE5 (GOAing Beyond, and Chalte Hain Phir).
"Travelling today has just become ticking places off of a list. Everyone wants to take pictures of the same handful of places. But if the only thing we remember from our trip is the photos we took, have we really travelled? Go out for new experiences, to make new friends, or even better — to find a new self. Because for every mile we travel, there is more to go,” Abhishek says.