How BeeNext’s Himalayan adventure tested and deepened team bonds 

How BeeNext’s Himalayan adventure tested and deepened team bonds 

Category Experiential Learning

By Janusa Sangma


When 26 people from different countries and age groups embark on a team bonding trek, you can be sure interesting times are ahead!

Just ask the team from BeeNext, who experienced this first-hand on a trek with Indiahikes to Benog Tibba in Mussoorie, Uttarakhand.

BeeNext is a venture capitalist firm that supports startups and their brilliant, big, and bold ideas. Venturing into the unknown is the very essence of a startup. Should difficulties arise, the imperative is to change strategy and try again. 

The mountains and monsoons would put BeeNext through a similar immersion. The team lived the experience much more intimately than they would have probably liked.

For a group accustomed to city living, these hurdles could have easily, quite literally dampened their spirits. At Indiahikes, we’ve seen many a trek batch crumble under adversity. Even on this trek, it sometimes felt like the team might be breaking apart. But unexpected twists soon became the glue that kept everyone together. 

As Indiahikes trek leader Ramon puts it, “The group leaned into the discomfort instead of dismissing it.” And the results were unexpected but profoundly beautiful. Here’s how events unravelled.

The Journey Begins

The excitement was high when Indiahikes met the BeeNext team at their hotel. A diverse bunch of people from Singapore, Indonesia, Japan, and India had come together in the spirit of adventure and camaraderie. 

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Photo credits: Pritish Bhanushali

Our trek leader spoke with BeeNext CEO, Teruhide Sato. His objectives for the trek were clear:

  • Team bonding in the mountains
  • Spend time away from the city and connect with nature
  • Come back with a sense of accomplishment

Taking these into consideration, the trek leaders introduced activities and reflections that would bring out the objectives of the trek.

Walking with nature, partners, and purpose

The team left the hotel early and drove to the start point of the trek. Immediately, they were transported from the city into the pristine, raw wilderness of forests, streams and breathtaking views.

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Photo credits: Pritish Bhanushali

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Photo credits: Pritish Bhanushali

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Photo credits: Pritish Bhanushali

After breaking the ice and warm-up stretches facilitated by the trek leader, it was time to walk. The trek leader divided the team into pairs. By design, everyone had a trek buddy they didn’t quite expect. 

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Photo credits: Pritish Bhanushali

The youngest members were paired with leaders. Others found themselves paired up with colleagues they had not interacted closely with before.

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Photo credits: Pritish Bhanushali

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Photo credits: Pritish Bhanushali

Despite the initial awkwardness, this worked beautifully. Each pair walked together to the check post. 

But the peace did not last long.

From serenity to chaos!

Things fell apart at the check post when leeches made their presence felt in a full-blown attack. What began as a surreal and misty walk in the woods quickly became a bloodbath with leech bites everywhere. 

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The mist hides the forest's secrets and the residents living within it! | Photo credits: Pritish Bhanushali

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While trekking during the monsoons is magical, the forests become a playground for leeches | Photo credits: Pritish Bhanushali

Some team members began to panic. However, the trek leader addressed their concerns immediately. He shared that leeches were not harmful. All they had to do was flick the leeches away. The trekkers appeared calm and things were seemingly back to normal.  

The trek goes on

The team trekked on. They walked into pine forests and listened to stories about it en route. Some of them momentarily forgot about leeches and listened with great curiosity, while others seemed distracted. 

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Photo credits: Pritish Bhanushali

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Photo credits: Pritish Bhanushali

Rain was a constant presence and continued unabated. The terrain became increasingly slippery. By now, the team had virtually split into two distinct groups. One of the trekkers started getting cramps while walking. The Indiahikes team tended to the pain and ensured he could walk at his own pace.

Distress and delight

The group arrived at a stream. Some trekkers were delighted to drink directly from the stream and were also encouraged by the trek leaders to walk barefoot in it. 

The others seemed oblivious to the clear waters in front of them. They were still distressed, busying themselves with cleaning their feet and getting rid of leeches.

Arriving at a crossroads

Spirits were low by the time evening descended and everyone arrived at camp. When the trek leader assembled everyone and had brief reflections, the only thing the team could talk about was leeches. 

Some were terrified of the leeches and some saw it as an adventure. Some wanted to leave and some wanted to stay and camp that night.

He assured them that leeches could not enter tents or sleeping bags, and Indiahikes would evacuate if there was even the slightest chance of mishap.

Soon after, one of the trekkers came up privately and said many in the group were extremely uncomfortable and wanted to leave. They didn’t know how or even if they should bring it up!

The objective of the trek was team bonding. At that moment, this team was falling apart. 

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Mixed emotions at camp. To stay or not to stay? | Photo credits: Pritish Bhanushali

“I felt that a lot of international cultural dynamics also came into play during this time. A few people seemed hesitant to come forward, and the onus might have fallen on others in the team to initiate action,” shares Ramon, the trek leader.

A call is taken

The CEO asked the group to discuss and arrive at a consensus as a team. Coincidentally, Indiahikes had also decided the same thing so as to make decision-making a team activity - where real challenges required decisions that would have immediate and real consequences.

Everyone decided it was in the greater interest of the team to leave and return to the hotel. The Indiahikes team immediately began arranging the logistics. Everyone finished up dinner, left for the hotel soon after, and called it a night.

A new day and new perspectives

The team seemed well-rested and in greater spirits the next day. The weather had turned for the better with clear skies. In the midst of a delightful, gentle breeze, everyone gathered in a garden for debriefing.

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Photo credits: Pritish Bhanushali

Later, trek leader Ramon took some of the leaders aside and asked them what they would be taking back from the trek. 

Given the harrowing experiences the day before, the question almost seemed rhetorical. 

But what emerged were some of the most thoughtful takeaways from a trek yet!

The raw, unifying power of challenges and shared journeys

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Photo credits: Pritish Bhanushali

“There’s a one-word greeting in Africa which, loosely translated, means ‘I see you, I respect you, I feel you.’ For that to happen, you need to have shared experiences that can peel the onion back a little bit.

When you embark on a journey where there are different individuals, aptitudes, expectations, and cultural backgrounds, and you get immersed in something outside your comfort zone – everything gets challenged.

When everything gets challenged, you go into very basic emotions. It becomes a very deeply raw, human experience. When that happens, you get to know each other a lot better as humans. The bond automatically starts forming because you see the authentic version of the person.”  - Dirk van Quaquebeke

Reconnecting with nature

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“The mountain breeze was so lovely, and I could feel all my senses. The breeze on my body and on my skin, really helped me to feel part of this ecosystem. That was beautiful. The chance to look up at the sky, clouds and mist…When you live in a city, you don’t have time to enjoy how the skies and clouds are moving. I really enjoyed looking up at the sky. Looking into the surface of big trees and moss, and observing wildlife. You gave us a lot of insights. It was very enjoyable.” – Nao Ito

Learning how to adapt and collaborate

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Photo credits: Pritish Bhanushali

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Photo credits: Pritish Bhanushali

“The challenges naturally brought everyone together. Everyone tried to address problems by supporting each other. Leeches reaching out to you and climbing onto your body - particularly for people who live in cities - is not something usual. But everyone supported each other.

The team remained positive through leeches, wind, and rain. We learnt that we could be open-minded and embrace whatever happened. We rebuilt the plan if we needed to rebuild. Somehow, within one day, we went through all these processes within our team.” - Teruhide Sato

Beyond boardrooms: discovering each other and discovering the self 

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Photo credits: Pritish Bhanushali

“In the business world, we don’t share things with each other a lot. We don’t have a deeper understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. This was the first time we had a shared experience in nature. And just after three hours on the trek, we were able to observe and “see” each other better. 

You observe yourself, of course, but on the other hand, you also observe your teammates. It brought a far better understanding—far more than one can experience on a Zoom call! We saw glimpses of each other’s culture, strengths, and weaknesses. The end result was more team bonding.”  – Nao Ito

Hardships taught humility and transformed team relations

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Photo credits: Pritish Bhanushali

“I think a trek brings out your true nature – sometimes bad, sometimes good. Luckily, we saw a lot of the good side in our team. 

I spoke to a lot of my colleagues and I think everyone appreciates the trek we have done. Everyone feels like they know their colleagues better and feel closer to each other. During the trek, they experienced a lot of hardships together. They interacted more deeply and spoke about their personal lives. We also learned humility. We are small – the leeches taught us that!”  - Faiz Rahman

Learnings from the trek can potentially strengthen teams back home

“As a team leader, it wasn’t about seeing the good or bad in people during a crisis – but about their uniqueness, which is better. When we go back to the office, I think we can take learnings from the trek and design better processes and make decisions, essential for team building from a senior management perspective. It helps you understand your team and build potential for trainings.” – Nao Ito

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All's well that ends well! | Photo credits: Pritish Bhanushali

At Indiahikes, we were overwhelmed by the responses and the BeeNext team’s resilience. The hope always is for a trek to be uneventful in the best way possible. But more often than not, adversity is the most powerful catalyst for team bonding and personal growth. 

We revisited the goals for the trek: team bonding, connecting with nature, and returning with a sense of accomplishment.

The BeeNext team had met each one at a deep level, just not in a way anyone had imagined.

The trek proved to us once again that the unexpected can be the most valuable. 

Janusa Sangma

Content Writer

About the author

Janusa is most at home exploring a faraway mountain trail. She follows the music wherever it may lead, guided by her ever-constant anchors – a love for writing, the mountains, wildlife, and grassroots work in the social sector.

She enjoys writing for organisations and individuals creating meaningful impact.

Before taking up writing as a full-time profession, she worked with corporates, non-profits, social enterprises, education companies, and PR organisations.

When she's not bent over a computer or buried in a Word Document, you will find her befriending a dog (any dog), swimming, or running for the hills.