Making a big and beautiful bang in Bengaluru

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Setting up (Moodie Davitt) shop within one of the world’s great airport lounges

For the first time in the history of this Blog I’ve set up an interim bureau inside an invasive species.

The parametric structure pictured below is part of the outstanding 080 International Lounge at Kempegowda International Airport Bengaluru Terminal 2.

The beautiful framework is made from Lantana Camara, a tropical American shrub introduced to India by the British as a decorative plant during the period of colonial rule.

However, its original ornamental purpose proved just as invasive as the Brits.

Its original purpose was rapidly superseded by the plant flourishing across entire swathes of the country. It now occupies more than 40% of India’s tiger range, threatening the already imperilled animal species. Not a good way to earn your stripes.

Lantana Camara is one of the world’s ten most-invasive plants, competing with native varieties for space and resources, and drastically altering the nutrient cycle in the soil.

Efforts to eliminate Lantana Camara have proved hugely difficult due to it needing to be uprooted, rather than merely cut above-ground. But here at Terminal 2, Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) has put this scourge of the country to good use by creating this brilliantly innovative sculpture/pod.

The structure symbolises BIAL’s commitment to sustainability and regeneration, a principle that underpins everything the airport company does. T2 is built around four pillars: Terminal in a Garden; Sustainability; Technology; Art & Culture. All are beautifully on show as you will see in my reports over coming weeks.

I have learned much about that commitment over the past few days. I had the pleasure of co-moderating ElevateBLR, a workshop held by BIAL dedicated to taking the Karnataka gateway to a new level.

I also spent time touring Terminal 1 (domestic) and Terminal 2 (dual domestic and international) and speaking to the airport leadership, including BIAL Managing Director & CEO Hari Marar; CCO Kenneth Guldbjerg; Vice President – Commercial Pravat Paikray and their extraordinarily committed and passionate colleagues.

Whether it’s inside (above) or outside (below) the airport building, there’s something exciting going on just about everywhere at Kempegowda International Airport Bengaluru, as I discovered during an extensive tour with Bangalore International Airport Limited CCO Kenneth Guldbjerg and Vice President – Commercial Pravat Paikray

Then there was the simply wonderful Payal Khanna, Founder and Principal Designer of Aura Dezyne, a to the manor born storyteller who gets the very essence of what airports can be in terms of culture and soul perhaps better than anyone I have ever met (look out for her story in my forthcoming series of reports).

Payal Khanna takes me through the exquisite design and cultural touches that almost ooze from every inch of the magnificent 080 Lounges in both the domestic and international terminals

And last night I attended the Pinnacle Awards, a nicely named BIAL event that simultaneously recognises both excellence and ambition across the entire airport stakeholder and partnership base.

Look out for my interview with BIAL CEO, the dynamic (in fact, make that supercharged) Hari Marar, coming soon

What an enjoyable education it has been. Already I wrote that the arrivals duty-free store is perhaps the world’s best (having mulled it over and discussed with many people via email and LinkedIn, I would now remove the qualifier ‘perhaps’). That turned out to the high-quality tip of a very large, and beautifully sculptured, iceberg.

Within minutes of stepping off the plane, passengers enter this impressively alluring arrivals shopping emporium

So beautifully sculptured in fact that Kempegowda International Airport Bengaluru T2 was honoured at UNESCO’s 2023 Prix Versailles as one of the ‘World’s Most Beautiful Airports’ and awarded the coveted ‘World Special Prize for an Interior 2023’.

Now this is what you call both a sales drive and a cool promotional vehicle as I prepare to step on the pedal power

The Prix Versailles focuses on ‘intelligent sustainability’ as a cultural driver, acknowledging innovation, creativity, reflection of local heritage, ecological efficiency and values of social interaction. I can tell you – and this will be borne out in my forthcoming coverage – T2 ticks all those boxes with a triumphant flourish.

I’ll bring you a series of reports in the weeks, months and – yes – years ahead as we track this extraordinary Terminal in a Garden’s progress. In the meantime, here are some some of my favourite images from an unforgettable visit. ✈

The BIAL team believes in offering lots of surprises and entertainment, especially in its acclaimed 080 Lounges. Here caricature artist Shivaraj does his best in the 080 Domestic Lounge in Terminal 1 to cope with perhaps the most difficult raw material of his career.
And a new-look ‘Flying Kiwi’ takes shape
This probably represents the last decent swish of a bat by a Kiwi during the current T20 World Cup, in which the New Zealand team has performed disastrously
Time to enjoy the unique Hatti Kaapi inside the O80 Lounge, a theatrical as well as delicious experience

Shades of old Bangalore as Vice President – Commercial Pravat Paikray and I tour the domestic retail and food & beverage zone

With Kenneth Guldbjerg, Payal Khanna and Pragma Consulting CEO Alex Avery, another co-moderator from ElevateBTR, inside the amazing 080 International Lounge in T2
A lovely shot as I relax amid the rarefied 080 Lounge experience with Pravat Paikray; Ashish Bakshi (Brand Head – 080 Lounges); Payal Khanna and Alex Avery
Almost time for a Flying Kiwi to sprout wings
Did I buy duty free on the way out? Heck, does an Indian tiger have stripes? Of course I did. And two beauties as well.