Ela India presents Rooted: Kayal's Maneesha Panicker

Ela India Team

Posted on March 04 2024

Ela India presents Rooted: Kayal's Maneesha Panicker


Welcome to the second edition of ‘Rooted,’ a series of conversations with creative Malayalee women entrepreneurs that looks at the ways in which their identity has shaped and informed the way they have built their businesses. 

Our own journey into launching Ela India (‘ela’ is Malayalam for ‘leaf’) emerged from an exploration of what it meant to be ‘home,’ what did our Malayalee identity mean to us, how did it inform our work? 

When we conceptualised this series two years ago, the idea was to seek out stories that echoed threads of our origin story- exploring identity through the lens of how it informs one’s work, through a return to one’s roots, ‘a return back to home,’ as they say.  The first edition featured graphic designer and entrepreneur Theresa Joseph George, Founder of Viakerala and Thought Factory Design, a Cochin based multidisciplinary design studio. You can view the interview with her on YouTube here.  

The second edition of ‘Rooted’ features Maneesha Panicker, Founder, Kayal Island Retreat who quit her life in New York, to start this tranquil boutique resort on the Kerala backwaters, as an ode to slow travel. 


ela india in conversation with kayals maneesha panicker

 Image: Maneesha is wearing the Vera Top from The Thuval Edit.

Maneesha quit her job in marketing with cosmetic giant Estee Lauder in NYC when she decided to explore her entrepreneurial ambitions and start Silk Route Escapes, a boutique travel consultancy that created custom travel expeditions. The idea for launching Kayal emerged when Maneesha was hunting for office space for her travel outfit. She stumbled upon Kakkathuruthu (The Island of Crows) and was conscious of how relaxed she felt when she was on the island. It was a feeling of restful calm and quiet reflection. 

That's when she had an idea for launching a boutique travel destination that could embody the values of 'slow travel,' offering city weary travellers an escape into the calm, meditative backwaters of Kerala, with nothing but the languid pace of the island to keep them company, or as Maneesha likes to put it- help travellers 'get into island mode.’  


Ela India in conversation with Kayal Island Retreat's Maneesha Panicker


Image: Maneesha is wearing the Boyfriend Shirt from The Thuval Edit, and the Zoe Pants in indigo.

Kayal’s aesthetic has been shaped by this idea of ‘slow travel,’ but within the local context of the Malayalee way of life. Lush backwaters; simple cottages with tiled roofs that echo the local design language; cuisine inspired by local produce and an idea of hospitality that is attentive without being intrusive, that just lets you be.

This is the first and second segment in our conversation with Maneesha. Stay tuned for the rest, all this month. The entire conversation is available on our Youtube channel. Have you subscribed yet?



Watch our conversation with Maneesha on YouTube here- Part 1- Maneesha's Introduction 

Watch our conversation with Maneesha on Youtube below- Part 2-  Maneesha on why Kerala was the right choice for Kayal's location. 

Subscribe here:

Still Photography: Avinash Krishnan

Videography: Bindu Nair 

Outfits: Ela India

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