Today's Traveller Interviews

Rajeev Nangia: We have managed more than 20 great destinations – each had a unique proposition

In an exclusive interview with Kamal Gill, Exec Editor, Today’s Traveller, Rajeev Nangia, Chief Operating Officer, TRAC Representations (I) Pvt. Ltd, speaks on how travel industry dynamics are fast-changing and the need to keep a sharp focus on customer requirements, which is the key to success

Rajeev Nangia, Chief Operating Officer, TRAC Representations (I) Pvt. Ltd.
Rajeev Nangia, Chief Operating Officer, TRAC Representations (I) Pvt. Ltd.

TT Bureau: You have successfully managed business operations across diverse destinations including Sri Lanka, Jamaica, and Monaco. Could you share how your approach to strategy planning varies across these different markets and what core principle always remains consistent?

Rajeev Nangia: We started the TRAC operations in the year 1992 and since then, it has been a journey that has been not only satisfying but also given us the feeling of contributions being made to the Indian Outbound Market. In this journey biggest support and guidance has been from Mr Kavi Ghei, Chairman – TRAC Representations (I) Pvt Ltd. This concept of representation was his dream and vision to augment Indian Outbound, a sector in the early 1990s that had various challenges.

As we continue this Journey, a lot of people have contributed while working with TRAC, over the years and today representation business is a stream of business within the Travel Industry that is growing at a very fast rate. It’s been over 30 years now and for the initial 2 decades and more, we were the only company providing these services. 

It would be not wrong for me to say on behalf of Kavi Ghei, “Akele chale the rasta banta gaya, log judte chale gaye aur caravan banta gaya…”

Since I have been with the company since its inception, this journey for me has been an incredible journey. During my tenure I have been fortunate to get various learning experiences, it has also provided me with an opportunity to meet some very influential personalities and also the opportunity not only to interact but also to undertake projects with them. I will not be wrong if I mention, that when I entered this stream I had very little knowledge as to what I was embarking on, but when I look back it has been a very fulfilling journey that continues…  

In TRAC we have managed over 20 destinations, and each one had its unique propositions for the Indian Market. The idea that we have always followed and we still do- is the key to success, is positioning the destination in the Indian market. Once you get the right positioning for the destination, the rest becomes easy and operations get guided by the same.

We at TRAC are very careful while we work on this aspect of the destination and create a strategy. This is also the initial phase, where clients’ expectations and what the Indian Market requires need to be brought on the same page, it’s important to get this phase streamlined. We do keep in sight the current demographic of Indian consumers and what are they looking for from the destination. TRAC has always believed in and practiced a customised approach for each destination as this is part of our DNA. 

However, today the opportunity with destinations is, at times, to re-establish and reposition, especially keeping in mind the changes we all have witnessed over the last 30 years and the way Indian demography, economy and spending patterns have changed.  

TT Bureau: Launching new travel and hospitality brands in the competitive Indian market must have been a remarkable journey. Can you walk us through the key strategies that contributed to these successes and how you adapted global brands to resonate with the local market?

Rajeev Nangia: In the initial phase of our business, the knowledge of destination was the key, as new destinations were entering the market. While destination knowledge is equally important today as well, at the same time various sources of information are easily accessible by trade as well as consumers. 

The travel trade has always played an important role and I am sure this will continue. We need to concentrate on another aspect, especially from a trade perspective: the right interaction with overseas agencies and getting the right product fit for Indian clients. Here the trade of both sides plays a vital role.

However, digitalisation is making a huge impact on this process and I am sure with AI gaining popularity, online, which has already hugely made inroads, will play an even more prominent role in the coming times. 

Another aspect is communication, which is a vital key to success and it highlights what to do, where to go and when is a good time for the destination and its offerings.
Today we need to look at 360° communication as various potential customers/clients are at various platforms, based on strategy, one needs to carefully select the communication line as well as mediums. 

TT Bureau: Please elaborate on a particularly challenging brand situation you turned around and the tactics you employed to achieve this transformation.

Rajeev Nangia: While each destination comes with its challenges and unique propositions at the start it is always very tough as to what will work and what will not work. It is through our years of experience and data analysis we manage this stage most effectively. 

One of the biggest challenges always remains connectivity, Destinations with direct connectivity are a little easy in the initial phase of promotion, however, the strategy is to create a long-term positioning as well as communication that ensures continuous growth. However, it does not mean that if a destination is not directly connected cannot be promoted. There are a plethora of examples where there was no direct connectivity yet Indians visit and continue to visit, Spain was one such example and Monaco is another, just to name a few.  

The most challenging destination to be promoted in India was Sri Lanka in the early year of 2000, the country was next door and they had a situation that was creating widespread negative publicity daily. Most of the Sri Lankan Product offering companies believed that South India was their key market, as it had similar cultural and traditional resemblances. 

Initially, it was tough to highlight and create a diversion from South India, which was key for business activities between India and Sri Lanka to look at the North and West of India, especially for leisure tours and activities. Also at that time, there was no or very limited connectivity from the north and west sides of India to Sri Lanka.

It took some time and loads of effort to imply our strategy to look at north and west for leisure business and at the same time highlight the local hospitality brands that were unique as well as very affordable. We also embarked on a price sensitivity campaign to give a kick start to the destination, in reaching this stage there was big support from the various Sri Lanka Government institutions, the High Commission in Delhi and Mumbai, Sri Lankan Airlines and local Sri Lanka DMCs and hospitality brands.

Once all this was put together there has been no looking back and this beautiful country became one of the getaways for Indian outbound travellers despite the ongoing issues and to date, it is enjoying good footfalls from India. We have always believed that tourism builds bridges and brings people together to any destination. It is tourism that makes us understand and respect each other’s culture, and traditions and grows trust between people. Tourism remains the biggest people-to-people program that any two countries or a region can embark upon, apart from the economic benefits that it brings along.       

TT Bureau: Discuss a partnership you’ve orchestrated that was pivotal for your business, and what made it successful.

Rajeev Nangia: No business can be run in isolation. Having said that the business we are in requires various stakeholders to be brought on the same platform. The success of any destination is the success of its partners, who make ground-level efforts with their sales and outreach in the market. Another very important aspect is the adoption of the needs of the market at various levels of hospitality and providing services. It can be from a driver providing transportation to a hospitality brand catering to the peculiar requirements of the clients coming in from a particular market. 

Without naming any destination, would like to cite an example. In the year 1995, at one of our meetings at the destination with various stakeholders, we got a complaint the Indians were coming in for breakfast twice. It was unheard of and was not very normal with any Indian clients. So to understand this situation we wanted to go into details and we visited the hotels, as we were at the destination, and had short informal discussions with the Indian clients staying there.

We realised none of these hospitality brands had Tea Coffee making facilities in the room and Indian clients would come for Tea – Coffee first and later join in for breakfast. We went back to the hospitality partners and explained to them the issue and requested them to provide a simple solution of providing a tea – coffee-making facility in the room. 

Similarly, we faced another issue with guides at another destination, and we explained the issue to the owners of the DMCs and also suggested a solution that was widely accepted and the rest as they say is history.  

So, coming back to the question, we have to carry every stakeholder, be it small or large, Indian or overseas – it’s all hands coming together to create a success story. 

TT Bureau: Building dynamic sales and marketing teams is crucial in the industry. How do you attract top talent and foster a culture that supports high performance and innovation within your teams?

Rajeev Nangia: We have always believed in having a mix of experienced and young talent. The experienced ones are the real faces of our business and the industry and ensure top-of-the-line recall for TRAC and its clients. They represent the connections and networking with the industry, that is mandatory in our line of business. 

They also mentor the young talent and ensure new ideas and thoughts are implemented if found apt for business development. The young latent is normally taken from various streams and not necessarily from travel trade or with a travel background. This approach has ensured that we were able to connect tourism with various other sectors like art, culture, fashion and many other prominent personalities and important fields. 

However, there is a small piece of advice for the young generation opting to make travel & tourism their career options, this industry requires loads of hard work, and one should only enter if you have a long-term perspective and capacity to learn regularly.

TT Bureau: Looking ahead, what emerging trends in the travel and hospitality industry excite you the most, and how is TRAC Representations planning to leverage these trends in its future strategies?

Rajeev Nangia: The industry dynamics are fast changing, I hope I will not be wrong if I say that Travel & Tourism are no more a concept that was once in a while or an annual indulgence, they are now more frequent and part of life. 

From weekend breaks with family and friends to solo trips, people want to travel and unwind, get away from routine and indulge in activities that are of interest and aspire. They want to understand and live various cultures and traditions, they want to try various kinds of food, they want to feel nature and do what pleases their mind, body and soul. 

Further travel & tourism also brings in a feeling of preserving nature and has enhanced the thoughts towards sustainable tourism. From brag value to finding solace in natural surroundings, from finding calmness to actively indulging in various adventure activities are trends that are gaining strength.      

On the other hand, technology is also playing a big role and easy availability of information almost at fingertips, is further boosting travel & tourism. There have been various thoughts on how AI will further boost the travel & tourism sector, we are sure it will be another revolution and will further change the dynamics of the travel & tourism industry. Technology has become part of our daily lives and it will further impact AI. The industry needs to look at technology not only as an enabler but also as another stream to enhance the growth of small and medium-sized agencies, which are the big chunk of handling travel & tourism business.   

At TRAC we are committed to providing the best to our clients and also to involve in the best possible way the travel trade industry with the destinations, products & services. Further, looking at the trends we have also been imbibing the various tech tools available and keep improving our services in this zone. We keep a focused eye on what travel trade needs are and simultaneously we keep focusing on customer requirements, as we still feel is the key to success.           

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