He was very fond of traveling. As he involved me. Mr. The couple set up house in the distant Mumbai suburbs of Dombivli. she was encouraged to pursue on her college education in Kolhapur and complete her B. pre and post marriage”. With marriage. collecting information and discussing with people. Neelima moved up from a lower income to middle income household. Neelima recalls “the great difference in the social environment.The Entrepreneur
Neelima‟s parents were teachers in the Zila Parishad school in Satara district. which encouraged him further to “socialize me”.Dhumakhe had a varied friends‟ circle and knew people in different walks of life. Despite the strained economic situation. from stage performers to business types.Com degree. I too started taking interest. She recalls her first travel by rail to Mumbai with her husband who had secured a job with Reserve Bank of India.
Thus was born Madhuchanda Travels. in 1981. In the early 80s. Spotting the opportunity window. The “need” was emerging but the “need fulfilling mechanism” was missing.Dhumakhe.
. This was the opportunity that struck Mr. the impediment in Dombivli was the „so near yet so far‟ factor-very near to Mumbai to get bitten by the travel bug but very far from a reliable. there were no travel agents in Dombivli. They seemed keen to see the country‟s tourist and spiritual spots.Dhumakhe discussed the business idea with Neelima and obtained her consent to start the venture.The Opportunity
Neelima remembers her first trip as a tourist. not merely save. The Dhumakhes visited Kashmir and experienced a very enjoyable trip that set her husband thinking. the year of her marriage and setting up house in Dombivli. However. for the typical Dombivli social circle of the Dhumakhes the travel agents of Mumbai proper were “too smart” to be of comfort to them. friendly travel agent who could be approached to make the „desire to see the world‟ a reality. Besides. Dhumakhe observed that. Mr. like themselves many middle class Maharashtrians in Dombivli were inclined to spend too.
3000 per head without food. The price for the first 12 day tour was Rs. drawing upon the social credibility of the couple. Recalls Neelima. The customer segment was the ‘marathi mandal’ drawn from the middle class society of which the Dhumakhe’s were part of.Start Up Challenges
As with most ‘mom-and-pop’ start ups.”. Neelima hesitantly took up the role of supervisor-cum-escort for these 10 to 15 day trips.
. she tapped the couple’s network of friends. Madhuchanda Travels began operations from home. offering one trip at a time. For the launch of the service she conceptualized the Ashthavinayak tour and tours for school children. As for the market. “I began as someone pushed into a pool-organising a tour to Kulu Manali for which I had to book 2 buses. The tour was a hit and I did not look back. With assistance from her husband Neelima developed the basic props of the businessthe bus operators and the budget hotels in the tourist destinations. Madhuchanda Travels was run from home for the first decade.
Right from the beginning. Madhuchana Travels opened office on 9th Jan.
As business grew. delivering more than promised.1 lakh from Bank of Maharashtra. irrespective of costs. Neelima accompanied the tourist groups thus picking up the skills of crisis management by doing.Dhumakhe who was involved in the construction business.000 It was the first office to promote tourism in Dombivli. Neelima says that right from inception . This meant.Start Up Challenges – contd. Getting the place meant investing whatever resources they possessed. By 1991.bus operators. The business needs cash for advance payments to hotels . Subsequently they moved to their current larger premise in 2001. a milestone that is recorded.1.25. being prepared for the unscheduled breakdowns and overextended hotel bookings and the occasional raucus. If the bus broke down and the operator failed to provide back up as happened on occasions. with back up support from her husband. she was clear on the value proposition : budget tours offering comfort and community. as Melinda learned from experience. the venture took shape as a proper business with an office and reservations and commitment for cash credit facility of Rs. she learned to identify the bus operators and hoteliers with whom relationships could be developed as partners.25 lakhs in the first year with a start up bank loan of Rs. Madhuchanda Travels logged revenues of Rs. tourist group. alternate arrangements would be made to „save face‟ with the customers and ensure that they were not branded as „cheats‟. they felt the need to move into an office which they obtained through a contact of Mr. With experience. She also realized the benefits of giving attention to details while planning a tour.
Virar and unto Pune. It also caters to the SME segment and the geographical scope has extended to Karjat. the major effort is in bringing out the annual brochure that is mailed to around 5000 prospects. To service the business. This effort.
. though it has expanded beyond the community. comfortable travel. in short.
Neelima estimates there would be over 50 travel operators in the greater Mumbai area and observes that the business is quite competitive leaving little scope for fat margins or inadequate planning. The steady annual growth of around 10% is the result of not losing focus on the essentials of the business: a package of popular destinations. along with agents. The catchments area remains middle class. generates 400 to 500 customers annually. growth has been steady. good hotel accommodation.On the Upswing
Not surprisingly. customized food and unfailing customer attention. Value for money. Madhuchanda Travels operates with a staff of nine. As for marketing. topped with „reasonable‟ rates. defined by the business learning and risk absorption capability of wife and husband. ads in Marathi papers and participation in exhibitions.
For some years Punjab and Kashmir were out of bounds.
. accompanying cooks. faces and good (and bad) deeds done! The travel business is susceptible to the environmental situation in the country. bus transporters. by organizing dedicated tours for them. However. It is not surprising that she has a yen for remembering names. the boatwalas in Srinagar. local guides. The Kargil skirmish and Rajiv Gandhi‟s assassination also affected the business.On the Upswing
Neelima reveals that a basic competency required of a successful travel agency is managing and influencing the „eco-system‟ comprising of “rickshawalas in Agra. Neelima has successfully tapped the senior citizens segment who have the means to travel but not the support system. Availability of budget hotels offering comfortable stay is another deterrent in some locations. The next customer segment she is planning for is the socially handicapped. the biggest spur to internal tourism is the increasing tendency among middle aged and elderly families to travel beyond their habitat. contractors and staff”. hotel managers in Simla. car and jeep owners in all towns. agents.
“It makes a big difference if you are not born within the support of a business community. Rather. a semi educated.The Thoughts and Beliefs
If Dhirubhai Ambani. it was encouragement from her husband all through that set her on the path to entrepreneurship.in terms of bettering the standard of living and societal respect What has been Neelima‟s greatest challenge? This was while escorting a group of medical practitioners who got drunk on tour and acted unruly hurling rotis at the female cooks.
.a? The response is characteristic. serving bed tea in person (as the staff revolted) and enforcing check out time. now we no longer escort every group ourselves. Yes. more so in a service venture. What about taking on board a manager or two? “Our son is serving his apprenticeship and will soon assist in marketing. entrepreneur from a non-business community to manage the risks involved in business. as we have a couple of reliable escorts (married ladies) who can manage the group and because we are on 24/7 mobile contact with them.” The sub text being that the odds are weighed against a lower middle class. Taking control involved threatening police action.” The unspoken assumption is of having actual success as pioneers. Neelima recalls no such handicaps. That was when Neelima realized she had what it takes to run a business. why could not the Dhumakhes scale up beyond 10% p. petrol attendant could grow his business into India‟s biggest enterprise. As for resistance from the family.
money transfers and foreign exchange.ons include customized family trips. the bus operators and the staff abilities will be of help. What of the future? With husband having opted for VRS his services are available full time for the business. keep your emotions always under control. do not say „no‟ to any customers(not businesslike). Neelima‟s tips to potential women entrepreneurs-avoid technical ventures.
. The changing business environment has thrown up opportunities for travel packages from corporates where her husbands better communication and entertaining abilities will help while she manages the hotel contracts (250 and growing). pay attention to details and keep within budget. These add. air bookings. Madhuchanda Travels has also begun consultancy services to companies on „total travel solutions‟. Madhuchanda Travels now focuses on arranging tour packages to employees from financial institutions.The Road Ahead
Madhuchanda Travels today offers a package of services centered around the core product of „escorted group tour‟. government undertakings and business/professional groups. And Neelima is seriously considering sending the son to a hospitality services course so that they can extend the family business to lease management of hotels among other options for growth. passport and visa services.
Neelima is convinced that her B Com degree helped her start and grow the venture. particularly the accounting and financial aspects.1 crore benchmark. as an educated person. We have a dedicated staff who joined us raw and have been trained into responsible performers whom my husband and I back up with our commitments.1 position in the area due to „quality service and subject under one roof in a manner the competitors cannot match .. For Neelima. marriage was the stepping stone to realizing her latent potential for entrepreneurship.
. We have built a reputation of honest and straight forward dealings that enables us to handle financial requirements with out suppliers over a phone call. being the pioneer has its advantages. The price range varies from Rs.The Road Ahead
One the anvil is extending the core product to inbound tourism for NRIs.000 or more per head. As for dealing with competition. Besides. And business continuity and growth seems assured with the induction of the son. Turnover is poised to cross the Rs. There is also no denying the higher standard of living the family can enjoy thanks to their profitable enterprise. She is conscious that the Dhumakhes are perceived by the community as successful pioneers in business.18.5000 to Rs. she could convince travel and tourism related organizations to associate with Madhuchanda Travels.we move with the times. Madhuchanda Travels has retained the no.
We cannot spend much on promotion.” • Neelima has not thought of retiring. accept whatever comes but • learn from your failures and take care not to repeat mistakes.The Road Ahead
• Neelima is conscious of her weaknesses too. Her philosophy now is “remain peaceful.”
. “Our location is a minus point-even though we provide the best service in the business our Dombivli chap is an initial disadvantage with organizations. And my lack of familiarity with English also comes in the way of expanding sales.