At Kovai.co, we wanted to give our team a fulfilling work experience that helps them to excel in their profession and have a successful life. As a token of love towards their loyalty towards this organization, after all, they are building it, we take them to a foreign destination once in every 24-36 months.
Our previous corporate retreat in 2017 was to Dubai. Over the past couple of years, we have crossed several milestones. BizTalk360 today has over 650+ enterprise customers. (Counting more as you read through this blog). Serverless360 and Document360 – our B2B SaaS products were also growing organically.
Kovai.co – #2019Retreat360 – Singapore
It all started with internal communication from our CEO, Saravana Kumar on May 15, 2019.
Personally, I wanted to appreciate people who believed in us and been part of our journey to building a successful organization.”
All the deserving employees of Kovai.co were excited as this year’s retreat destination was chosen to be Singapore.
We had 3-month time to plan and organize our retreat.
The best part about this Singapore retreat was some employees were on their first international trip and some even applied for their fresh passport 😊.
A short fly to Singapore
For a flight which starts to Singapore at 11 PM, most of us reached Coimbatore Airport at 7.30 PM. So, we had ample time to have fun at the airport before we board the flight. The first floor in Coimbatore Airport which leads to Gate 6 was almost like a party zone for our employees.
All our team members wanted to do some team building activity and have fun. Just that I personally had a different perception of “Team building activities” about which I shall write when I conclude this blog.
The first impression I got in Singapore was the carpet covering the huge Airport terminal. It was bright-colored which made me wonder how on earth they keep it clean as its one of the busiest airports in South East Asia.
Why Kovai.co have the culture of taking its employees on retreat?
Before you read about our experiences in Singapore, it’s important to know why Kovai.co has a culture of taking our employees on retreat?
Most corporates have a major problem, its department works in silos. Even within departments, not all employees have team bonding. Retreats help us establish a casual interaction between members of various teams and individuals with a team. It also fosters a sense of community among the employees.
Day – 1 in Singapore
Our tour manager Patrick gave a lengthy talk about Singapore as the bus passed through the city. Little did we know that he won’t stop talking for the next 4 days but he was friendly. Our first visit was to Merlion Park waterfront situated in Central Business District. Our tour manager calls it a photo walk because all through the 20-minute walk, most of the travelers were photographing themselves or the legendary Merlion.
Accounting to VisitSingapore.com, Merlion’s body symbolizes Singapore’s humble beginnings as a fishing village and its head represents Singapore’s original name Singapura or Lion City in Malay.
We had lunch at the complex where Singapore flyer, the giant observation wheel which circles around giving a majestic view of the city was situated. We walked into the small tropical garden after lunch and moved to our Hotel.
What transformed a jungle into one of the most beautiful cities in the world?
Regent Singapore was classic. The room I stayed in had a view of construction work going on in Orchard road which made me wonder about how this country was built? A mere 200 years before, this land was nothing more than jungle and swamp.
The same thought emerged in my heart while the Silk Air we took to Singapore showed me the first sight of Singapore from the sky. I was wondering what it takes to transform a jungle into one of the more beautiful cities on Earth? I decided to experience Singapore for the next 4 days to learn how this beautiful country was built?
Today, Singapore has branded itself as a tourism destination visited by over 18 million people every year which awestruck me.
Our evening was spent at Gardens by the Bay. The flower dome is one of the world’s largest glass greenhouse which grows flowers from several countries. It was a veritable feast to the eyes.
Something which shocked me was how a country with such hot weather managed to bring in so many travelers? So, if you feel hot during your stay in Singapore, you should choose to visit Cloud Forest. The man-made waterfalls was breath-taking and cool.
The fun part was some of us couldn’t find the exit path from Cloud Forest. Finally, after over 15 minutes of search, we spotted it close to the entrance itself.
Gardens by the Bay are marvelous and puts Singapore in the horticultural tourist map.
We walked to Marina Bay Sands Sky park while some of us stopped to take pictures. In no time, we all were on top of the 57th floor. The birds-eye view of Singapore’s cityscape was beautiful. Most of us were found in groups with friends taking selfies and pictures. You can spot some of the most iconic landmarks in Singapore standing on top of Merina Bay Sands.
We had dinner in Little India and I guessed it’s done for the day. The bus took few who were tired to Regent Singapore while around 16-17 of us decided to walk for shopping.
Day 2 – Sentosa Island
Our breakfast in Regent Singapore was exquisite for it’s the environment that made the food delicious. As the 24 of us hopped on to the Bus, I came across a few posters as August is the month of Celebrating Singapore’s independence.
Once again, my thought towards what made Singapore one of the most competitive-economies emerged. According to the World Bank report, Singapore quickly developed from a low-income country to a high-income country. GDP growth has been amongst the world’s highest at 9.2%.
As my thoughts on Singapore’s economy diluted to our trip to Sentosa Island, I was already with my friends hopping on to the Cable car to Sentosa Island. The Cable car journey to the island is one of the most exciting parts of our trip. All 6 of us in our Cable car enjoyed the birds-eye view of some of Singapore’s spectacular scenery.
Walkthrough the history of Singapore
As we walked into the Madame Tussauds wax museum, we were initially greeted with a 30-minute show. The show enacted by few theatre actors portrays the history of Singapore right from the day Sir Stamford Raffles signed a deal to take control of the island with the British East India Company.
This is the only Madame Tussauds in the world which includes a short boat ride to experience how it would have been before 200 years on this island.
The whole bunch of 24 thoroughly enjoyed most of the wax statues of celebrities and no prize for guessing who would have taken the greatest number of photographs (of themselves). I especially liked the statue of former U.S President Barack Obama and Actress Marilyn Monroe.
We had lunch and walked to the Trick Eye Museum. After spending over an hour photographing each other, finally, all of us were seated out in the shade.
Once again, someone raised their concern about having a team-building activity and once again I hoped it doesn’t happen because my perception was different.
Our tour manager Patrick took us on a monorail – Sentosa Express and kept repeating to every face he could spot. Remember – you should get down at the Beach station! Beach Station!!
And we did.
We walked to Skyline Luge Sentosa. Helmets strapped on our head, most of us took our Skyride with so much excitement and laughter. Some of us even screamed to express our happiness during the Skyride.
The go-cart kind Car takes us down the hill. The fun part was while I was concerned about how safe it is, I found even small kids were casually riding down in the car.
We had enough time for “Wings of time” – a spectacular award-winning outdoor night show screened on the beach. Hence, we moved to the beach to have fun in the water.
After spending almost 2 hours at the beach, all of us got ourselves seated for Wings of time. The light show portraying the magical adventure of Shahbaz, a pre-historic bird was excellent.
After dinner, our rebellious gang – a bunch of over 16-17 people alone decided not to go to the hotel, instead walked to the shopping street in Little India. Shopping was fun but due to the crowd, we lost contact with a couple of our friends and later spotted them after launching a search squad.
The best part of the shopping session was hiring a minivan late in the night to take us back to Regent Singapore for $45.
Day 3 – Universal Studios
It was a hot day. As I wrote earlier, it surprises me on how a country with such high temperature branded themselves as one of the top tourist destinations in South East Asia?
As we walked into Universal Studios Singapore, we honestly felt as if we were a part of a big adventure and journey into a dream world.
The first thing our guys wanted to hop on was the Battlestar Galactica, a high-speed turbulent roller coaster. I also experienced a roller coaster for the first time in the Egyptian Mummy environment. It’s called Revenge of Mummy: The Ride.
Guys were roaming around the whole day in small groups taking one among the 28 rides, shows, and attractions. We were happy to watch our first 4-D Adventure movie Shrek inside Far Far Away Castle.
What brought us together is the Water World which featured live show performance in the amphitheater. It was fun and thrilling to see the stunt actor’s performance.
We walked to the S.E.A. Aquarium (South East Asia Aquarium) which contains 45,000,000 liters of water for more than 1,00,000 marine animals in 800 kinds of species. We had more than 3 hours to submerge our hearts into these beautiful fishes.
Before we left Sentosa Island, we had a scenic view of the Cruise ship and the monorail crossing the sea which could take over 3000 passengers in an hour.
Day 4 – Jurong Bird Park
It’s our last day in Singapore and hence I was busy doing interviews with our employees and our CEO about his dreams and aspirations for Kovai.co. I will have the memory of classic Regent Singapore for a lifetime.
Our team of 24 took the bus to the Jurong bird park. It’s managed by Wildlife reserves of Singapore. Once again, the story of how Singapore managed to hook millions of tourists every year to their little nation emerged in my mind. They had politicians who dreamt big. Dr. Goh Keng Swee got inspired by an aviary in Brazil during a World Bank meeting in Rio de Janeiro. That was 1968.
By 1971, Jurong Bird Park built at a cost of S$ 3.5 million was opened to the public. Today, there are 5000 birds of 400 species in the park. We enjoyed the High flyers show where we saw parrots and Cockatoos speaking and doing tricks for the audience.
After lunch, most of us once again roamed around the shopping street in Little India. As our last evening in Singapore approached, the bus took us to the Airport.
I took a video of the beautiful carpet in the airport wondering if it’s for real. Our flight back to India was delayed probably for us to experience Singapore for a couple of more hours.
While in flight, I realized that I wanted to include 2 lessons I learned from this Singapore retreat.
- No matter how small a country is, if it is lucky enough to get good leaders, the Nation can shine with all its glory. Singapore is a classic example of how a country can transform itself to be visited and loved by millions of people. When there are people who get inspired by how entrepreneurs build companies, I usually get inspired by how good leaders built a Nation.
- From the beginning of the trip, some of us in the team wanted to see if we can do a team-building activity. I mentioned earlier that I have a different perception of this. Because, to me, the retreat itself was a team-building activity.
Many of our employees experienced Singapore, learned about each other and enjoyed the retreat.
The moments we search for a missing guy or a girl in the shop, the moments we screamed while we were on the cable car and the time, we had some talk during breakfast and dinner was a team bonding experience not many companies could think about providing for their employees.
We are back to work with positive vibes and hope to accomplish a lot in the Enterprise software and SaaS product space in the months to come.
Kovai.co is fortunate to have built a trust with its people, most of them who were there at Dubai retreat continued to be here and be a part of this Singapore retreat too. We wish this culture continues and look forward to taking bigger groups in the future.
If you like to be a part of Kovai.co, have a look at opportunities at https://www.kovai.co/careers
Here are some video coverages from the retreat,