Why we love a cultural safari – and you should too

Why we love a cultural safari – and you should too

If you want to be professionally inspired, gain new perspective and make essential new networking connections then the time spent on a cultural safari is a great investment.

I have been lucky enough to experience this kind of urban expedition via Creative Social, a collective of creative directors and producers from around the globe.

We meet up in a city once or twice a year and our host gives us an insight into the creative scene from their perspective. Mostly recently, our destination was Mumbai.

Appreciating the pace of change

This cultural safari to Mumbai proved to be fascinating. It’s a city I have been to before but not since 2001 when I was taking part in the India Enfield Challenge, a charity motorcycle ride across Tamil Nadu, Goa and Kerala.

The change in the 15 years since I had last strolled through the airport was intense and when I arrived at midnight, after a long flight from London, I was somewhat awestruck.

The airport itself has been upgraded to world class but the arrival still presents plenty of challenge – this time it was the cash crisis during which a vast amount of currency was being withdrawn from circulation.

I had only a few dollars and a £20 note on me, making the usual assumptions of the 21st century traveller that there will always be an ATM (with notes in). It is a true test of ingenuity to have to get yourself from A to B with almost useless notes and bartering skills alone.

Understanding educational challenges in a high growth economy

Mumbai is a city where ingenuity is an essential attribute. A high growth economy means there is a huge need for communication, marketing, design and technology, which in return requires people with talent and education.

However, the dynamics of education here have changed – students no longer have the luxury of slowly learning first in school, higher and further education and then on the job. They have to hit the ground running on day one of their jobs.  Students need to be ‘industry ready’ armed with practical knowledge.

Contrast awareness

It’s also located in a country of incredible contrasts  – the richest 1% of Indians now own 58% of the country’s wealth, according to the latest data on global wealth from Credit Suisse Group AG.

The Bollywood film industry grows in value by several billion dollars a year while the World Bank has estimated that 24% of Indians live below the poverty line.

Some of the country’s most notorious slums have been the melting pot for the most inspirational creative success. Sometimes there’s a lot to be said for not having it all.


In Mumbai, I see glitzy malls guarded by armed police side by side with bustling markets selling everything from padlocks and spices to live animals and fish.

Artisans repair ancient electric fans, mend shoes of western brands like Boots and Marks and Spencer to Gucci and Jimmy Choo, every form of life and living is evident in India’s Maximum City.

I learn about “juggaad” – the ability to make things happen quickly and cheaply – the typically Indian attitude that allowed the country to send a successful mission to Mars for less than the budget of the movie Gravity.

I meet venture capitalists and socially responsible entrepreneurs, learn the nine essential components of a Bollywood film (disgust is at number five, FYI) and meet other creatives from all over the globe with an interest in the world outside their offices.

It’s enlightening, inspirational and opens up channels to new relationships, ideas and networks – everything that a cultural safari should be.

Mark Terry-Lush