Anee-Sajeev

Kochi: Here is the tale of a woman who has made it big in the travel and tourism industry, after entering it quite accidentally. The woman is none other than Anne Sajeev, Managing Director, Aroma Group of Companies. She has set a perfect example for the young entrepreneurs as to what can be achieved through determination, confidence, patience, self-motivation and strong belief in one’s self.

“The whole issue of the role of women in our society is linked to our culture. It always accorded women a very decided role. Their role is to serve the family, husband and kids. And, if at all they opt to work, it should be something like a part-time job, but still none of the other responsibilities would be eased,” says Anne. Fortunately, we can see a huge change in society now. The one major thing I have noticed is that women are not realising their power and strength, she said.

“Getting into business was not a planned decision,” says Anne who was a medical microbiologist by profession working with the Department of Health in Dubai. It was at a time when she was considering whether to continue with her job owing to some health issues that she came to know about Fragrant Nature, a resort in Kollam run by a British national, which was up for sale. “Though the resort was not that attractive and had only basic amenities, the moment we went in, we received a positive and intimate feel. The doubt whether it would be a wise decision or not just vanished,” Anne elaborates.

“I was interested in travelling and observing places especially hotels, their concepts and architecture, but I had never imagined that at some point in time I would become so intimately involved with that.”

Fragrant Nature Kollam, an experiential property with focus on class and elegance, is eight years old now.

Anne says she has put her heart and soul into the project. She wants those who walk into the property to leave with loving memories and an urge to come back. There are two things she had in mind while developing the property – it should bring one close to nature and practice the principles of responsible tourism.

“We wanted to uplift the community around where we were situated. The concept and architecture were derived keeping this in mind,” says Anne. She says she was personally involved in all stages of the development of the property – from conceptualisation to design and architecture. “The one thing which excites me about hospitality is that there is no limit to the experience you can gift to the guest,” she says.

Launched in 2009 in Kollam, Fragrant Nature has two more properties to its credit now – one in Fort Kochi and the other in Munnar.

“We are really fortunate to have different landscapes around us; lakes, beaches, plantations, high ranges and forests. Fragrant Nature aims to give the traveller an experience of this geographical diversity offered by the State,” she says. The Group has recently acquired a property at Mararikkulam and is in the process of developing it. “At Fragrant Nature Kollam, we have lakes; at Fort Kochi we have heritage; in Munnar we are in the high ranges and, at Mararikkulam we have a beach property,” says Anne. The Group is now planning to identify a property somewhere in the wild, most probably in Wayanad.

Apart from Fragrant Nature Resorts, Anne has invested her heart and soul in Aroma Fresh chain of super markets where they sell safe-to-eat, organic products. A concerned mother of two, Anne, whenever she refers to Aroma Fresh, talks about the need to educate the mothers about how important it is to provide safe food to their children. Aroma Fresh is the CSR initiative of the Group which started four years back after realising how the paediatric population is affected with lifestyle issues. Anne remembers her close association and involvement with paediatric division of the Regional Cancer Centre in Thiruvananthapuram. She says it was very difficult to see the children suffer and it was then that they decided that rather than helping the patients they should try to help society become healthier.

“Pesticides and chemicals in food have become such a huge problem today that you cannot eat anything that is available in the market,” says Anne. “Everything we give is 100 per cent chemical and pesticide-free. We are the reason for the revolution that is now happening in Kerala wherein people are talking about the increasing use of pesticides, adulteration in food and need for engaging in organic farming,” says Anne.

“We may not be able to supply to even 0.01 per cent of the population in Kerala even if we increase our production by hundred per cent. But we wanted people to understand that each of us have to make that choice, a lifestyle change which would give our children a hope for a healthier future. It is basically for the next generation that we have started Aroma Fresh,” Anne explains.

Anne very proudly states that all the three properties of Fragrant Nature use Aroma Fresh. “I insist that people who come to my hotels eat safe food. The production cost is very high but I will bear that loss for a good cause. Aroma Fresh is very challenging. My husband has many a time told me to shut down the division as it is financially a stressful business. I am trying to get the support from the community and the people. We have a concept in our mind that anything which is expensive is good in quality. We always buy expensive clothing for kids knowing that their quality will be good. But, why don’t we do the same in the case of food?” she says.

After trying their hand in real estate, hospitality, agriculture, travel and tourism, and movies, Aroma Group is now mulling entry into the healthcare industry.