We had begun the hunt for sponsorship early, along with our effort towards other important areas of preparation.
Gate-crashing for a great welcome
Every day, we set out to meet as many corporate organizations as we could. Seldom fixing an appointment and always counting on our luck, we would drop in at the address, walk up to the Reception, explain the purpose of our visit and politely ask for a quick meeting. Most often, we managed to meet a friendly and helpful soul who shared our excitement and really felt that we were doing a very good thing, both in terms of adventure and the World Peace and Understanding theme. Once the rapport was struck, we kept meeting all prospective sponsors regularly, hoping to clinch a nice deal.
Sponsorship Hunt and Foreign Exchange Headache
We met a number of big-industry names – TI Cycles, MRF, Shaw Wallace, TVS Group, Ashok Leyland, Amrutanjan and Pond’s – and many other smaller firms who showed equal interest in supporting us. Foreign exchange proved to be a hindrance, although many companies tried their best to get around this difficulty. We also had to contend with the Indian government regulation that stipulated a maximum of US$500 that one could carry while travelling on a tourist visa. At one point, when everything else was coming along nicely, the sponsorship looked a dead-end. We had to mobilize some funds and mobilize them quickly.
Our contact at Shaw Wallace, who had become a great friend by then, offered a solution: Get some adverts and articles, and print a souvenir announcing the tour. Bingo! We went ahead with the suggestion and put the idea across to all the companies that we had been seeing. Stymied by the foreign-exchange control, yet determined to help us in some manner, most of these companies readily agreed to put an advert in the proposed souvenir. We came up with a plan and offered reasonable rates for full-page and half-page adverts, and also for inside covers and back-cover spaces. Adverts flowed in to fill the souvenir pages. Arthur Pais, a kindred soul who had hitch-hiked extensively through Asia and Europe for three years, and N S Ramaswamy, historian and sports journalist, each contributed an article. Ravi and I also wrote our own little pieces to enlarge the editorial content of the souvenir. Another good friend got the souvenir printed. Many personal friends chipped in gladly to fatten the funds-bag.
Guess how much the kitty was worth finally! Soon with you about that and further lucky breaks!