"My stories are full of film stars, Veerappan-type dacoits and corrupt politicians."
MD Riti, a former crime journalist has chanced upon a unique way of earning a living. By getting regular folk to solve murder mysteries.
Riti designs elaborate murder mysteries as part of conducting group exercises and activities. Whether it’s a fun party event or a corporate training exercise, this concept of hers has garnered immense popularity enabling her to run it as a profitable business. Her company – RMG Training (earlier called Riti’s Murder Games) boasts of a celebrated client list which includes Nasscom, Wipro, Yahoo, Reliance and Intel.
We caught up with Riti and got her to share the orgins of this idea and what she plans to do with it going forward.
"I was a mainstream journalist working for publications like the Times of India group and The Week for many years. I quit journalism and started a corporate training firm when I suddenly came up with the idea of designing mystery activities for corporate use," she said.
We wondered what her fascination was with murder mysteries. “I’ve always loved mystery stories and movies from when I was a child,” she explained. “But I wonder how and why too.”
So what’s her all-time favourite murder mystery—book and film, we asked, “too many to name one or two. There are so many different types,” she smiled.
Her love and passion for this genre is paying rich dividends now. We wondered at what point did it first strike her that a murder mystery themed party / group exercise had the potential to be a good business.
"In 2004", she responded, “I got so excited that I immediately sat down and designed my first two stories over the next few weeks.” And what was the client’s reaction when she first approached them with this idea, we enquired? “The same wonder and excitement and curiosity that I myself felt.”
Designing murder mysteries, to be solved by a large group is a large task, considering that it has to be engaging and entertaining as well. We wanted to know if the scenarios differed from client to client or were they same. We asked her how she went about designing the story?
She thought for a moment before saying, “We have many complex stories. We use the well-tested ones often because we know exacty how they work. Running mystery activities is not just about writing stories, it is about bringing them to life as an experience in any environment of a client’s choice.”
Having worked as a crime journalist for so many years, must have infuenced her, we pressed. “Oh yes, they all have some inspiration from my experience as a journalist. My stories are full of film stars, Veerappan type dacoits and corrupt politicians,” she laughs.
Who are her target customers, we enquired. “Corporates are our key customers. However, mysteries can work well with family groups, schools and business institutes as well,” she added.
Locations always play an integral part in murder mysteries. From big old mansions in the middle of nowhere to urban city settings. We asked Riti about how she incorporated location into her mysteries. “Our mysteries are plug and play activities that can be run just about anywhere. We leverage the environment if it adds value: a forest mystery would have different activities than a mystery on a beach, for example.”
She continued by saying, “For one of our mystery structures, a resort , a hotel or an office campus with a lot of different spaces to move between works well. For another, which is a closed doors whodunnit for a small group of people, a large room with space to walk around in is ideal. Then, we have a history mystery for which an entire city or town becomes our playing field.”
Pursuing a passion is great but when that passion yields a good cash flow, its even better. So, does playing Sherlock Holmes earn her big bucks? “That is a trade secret, as we are not yet a limited company. Many of us make our living from it,” she stated when asked about her company’s annual turnover.
Considering that Bangalore is now fast becoming a very entrepreneur-friendly city, we asked her what role the city played in her success. “Bangalore is a city bustling with commerce and money. Bangaloreans have minds that are open to new ideas. So, Bangalore was a great launch pad for our firm, which is now active all over India. We have expanded from Bangalore to all the Indian metropolises. We have also expanded our scope to many other unique activities apart from mysteries. We will keep expanding our trainer base and our market penetration in every city,” she said.
Lastly, we wanted to know what usually happens if a particular group is not able to solve the crime. “Our anchors are skilled in gently guiding them towards atleast a partial solution.”