Ramesh Dalchan Kalicharran, popularly known as Kali, personifies the virtues of diversification. In an age when travel agents are facing reduced commissions and one setback after another, Kalicharran has created a whole new revenue stream that perfectly complements his New York City travel agency, Kali Travel.
Ramesh D. Kalicharran (left) receives citation from Shri T. Balakrishnan of the Ministry of Tourism, India Tourist Office
Kalicharran was born in Guyana in 1949 into a second-generation Indian family. This gave him a natural empathy for his fellow Indians in search of their roots. In order to reconnect people with their pasts, Kalicharran created a second company that researches Indian ancestries for his India-bound clients. “First, for me to conduct a successful search, my clients need to have an immigrant past, and to also know what ship they came on,” he says. “If my clients give me enough information to get started, I can then reach out to my contacts in the Caribbean and in India and begin to reconnect them with their past.”
Kalicharran charges a fee for these services in addition to the price for his scheduled Kali Bharat Yatra Tours to India. Presently, Kali Travel splits its business down the middle, with half going to India and half to the Caribbean, where Kalicharran sells more mainstream vacations such as cruises and resort vacations.
Kalicharran first visited India in 1983, when he was 34 years old. “I had an instant sense of belonging when I arrived in India,” he says. “I wasn’t alone in feeling this way—some people in my group kissed the ground or hugged a tree.” Kalicharran has been sending clients to India ever since, helping them achieve that same sense of belonging. “India is a window onto the world,” he says. “The ethnic makeup is like a bouquet of different flowers.”
Kalicharran is fond of using Taj Hotels and hotels from The Ashok Group for his clients, as well as Ramada Inn and Holiday Inn properties throughout India. He warns against trying to take in the whole country in one visit. “I suggest first-time visitors concentrate on touring northern India,” he says. “Here they’ll see New Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and Mumbai, the Bollywood film capital.” Kalicharran is well connected, and often gets noted film stars and musicians such as Padma Shri Ravi, Nirupa Roy and Mahendra Kapoor to entertain and mingle with the tour party during their farewell function.
As a young man, Kalicharran left Guyana to study at the University of London. He then made his way to New York City, where he worked in the medical field at Bellevue Hospital. He worked as a manager in a department store, and opened Arcel, a driving school for immigrants. He then created Kali Travel and Kali Bharat Yatra Tours. As if all these activities didn’t keep him busy enough, Kalicharran is well known in his community as a leading philanthropist. He has received numerous awards from city agencies and community organizations for his contributions, including the Ellis Island Award for outstanding immigrants.
Kalicharran has some advice for travel agents who are considering selling India for the first time. “See it first before you sell it,” he says. “You have to experience India for yourself.”