Published in New Straits Times, Friday 29 October 2010:
A novel gift box of unique travel and leisure packages. MEERA MURUGESAN is intrigued
HEADS turn as they enter the elegant lobby of the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Kuala Lumpur. Tengku Datin Paduka Setia Zatashah Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah and Aubry Rahim Mennesson are a striking couple.
They are also savvy business partners who have turned their passion for travel and unique leisure experiences into an interesting new venture.
The couple, who wed in 2007, love surprises and believe that a gift should always leave lasting memories.
With this in mind, their company, Originalo Sdn Bhd, is offering Malaysians the Originalo Ultimate Gift Experience, an opportunity to enjoy the best hotels, spas and other leisure activities in the country.
Every Originalo gift box bought through the company website (www.originalo.com.my) contains a booklet and a voucher.
The booklet shows a range of travel or leisure packages. The recipient selects one to enjoy and calls the service provider (either a hotel or spa) to make a booking and presents the voucher upon arrival at the venue.
Unlike conventional gift vouchers which can be rather impersonal, the Originalo gift boxes promise memorable experiences and offer choices to the recipient.
“A gift should be unique, wonderful and show the recipient that you really care about him, and that’s the idea behind Originalo. We give you the opportunity to select a gift that results in an unforgettable experience for your loved one,” says Tengku Zatashah, who, together with Mennesson, is co-founder and managing director of Originalo.
Tengku Zatashah, daughter of the Sultan of Selangor, and Mennesson had always toyed with the idea of setting up a business and when they came back to Malaysia from France early last year, they knew this French-inspired concept would be well-received among Malaysians.
There are seven themed gift boxes to choose from, with prices ranging from RM180 to RM1,800 — Spa Beauty, Spa Indulgence, Spa Relaxation, KL City Breaks, Charming Retreats, Beach Getaways and Luxury Getaways. Over 100 quality hotels and spas are in the line-up.
If a person were to receive a Spa Beauty box (RM180), he or she can choose to enjoy spa and beauty treatments from any of 20 leading spa outlets across the country.
Beach Getaways (RM789) promises a one-night escape for two in one of seven hotels, including Casa del Mar Langkawi, Hard Rock Hotel Penang and Japamala Resort Tioman.
The couple personally tried out each of the travel and leisure packages to ensure standards were met and guests would have meaningful experiences.
Mennesson says the opportunity to travel to different destinations in the country was the best part about setting up the business. More importantly, the couple wanted to recommend places that they themselves would appreciate.
“We don’t want to sell something that we don’t believe in. It has to be something we would choose for ourselves,” he says.
Tengku Zatashah adds that Originalo takes away the hassle of gift hunting as the travel and leisure packages are things everyone would enjoy and with the different themes and the varied price range, selecting a gift is much easier.
The packages also come with a one-year validity, so the recipient has ample time to make arrangements and enjoy the experience.
The gift boxes are great as wedding or anniversary gifts and even to mark Valentine’s Day or festivals. Personalised messages can be attached to the boxes and they can be delivered directly to the recipient or sent to the purchaser to be handed over personally.
The couple plan to eventually expand the range of services to include dining, outdoor activities and even golfing.
Tengku Zatashah says given that both she and her husband worked together to select the packages, there is a good balance of travel and leisure gifts for both men and women on offer.
Getting the company off the ground called for the couple to put in long hours, but given that they share the same vision and commitment for the business, working together has become that much more enjoyable.
“We knew our personalities would complement one another. Aubry is a visionary, a creative person, whereas I’m a more organised and logistical person. So, he sets the long-term vision and I set the short and mid-term objectives to achieve that vision,” says Tengku Zatashah, who was formerly international corporate communications manager at L’Oreal headquarters in Paris.
For Mennesson, the positive side to working with a spouse is having a business partner that one can trust and rely on.
Mennesson, who was a film producer and entrepreneur in France, says he was completely taken with Malaysia when he first came for a visit in 2006. Tengku Zatashah had planned a three-week trip for him to get to know the country.
Travelling all over the country, he was enthralled by what he saw in terms of food, culture and heritage.
“I’m a very lucky man because I have fallen in love twice in my life — first, with my wife, and second, with Malaysia. Now it’s great to be in a business where we have the opportunity to promote the country,” he says.
The Originalo Ultimate Gift Experience will be launched on Nov 2 by Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah. In conjunction with the launch, there will be free delivery of gift boxes throughout the country until Dec 25.