At BrilliantRead, we always strive to bring to our community some of the meaningful and powerful startup stories from the ecosystem. We recently invited Sundeep Luthra (MD – AAI Edutourz ) for an interview with us which he gladly accepted. He shared with our team his beautiful and inspiring journey. Let’s read more!
Excerpts from our exclusive interview with Sundeep Luthra:
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your startup please;
After completing my Masters in International business from Bristol Business School, UK, I got an opportunity to work with the Royal Bank of Scotland for my initial years. However, there was a constant urge to come back to my country my homeland and do something more meaningful here. So, alongside working with RBS I took up a stint with Bristol Business School for some extra bucks. I was looking after the logistics for the students who were travelling to Bristol Business School for summer courses. This exposure gave birth to a germ, that I can replicate the same business model of Education Travel in India. So I signed a contract with Bristol Business School to send them students from India and came back to India. I started my business development here in schools & colleges. After my initial struggle, I got in touch with my elder brother who was already working in the Service Industry with Corporates at a very senior designation to join me. He liked the idea and we both joined hands together and thus our journey started almost 10 years back and today we are here still raring to go all out to improvise and invent newer and innovative ways to expand our business.
Why did you choose entrepreneurship over a job?
I was always in favour of working in the service industry before starting any business. One because it makes you understand the value of money and two and more importantly it makes you more disciplined and also develops an ability to do day to day fire fighting. The service sector makes your thinking more agile and then you can also become a better crisis manager. Which I learned. Apart from that, it was always my motivation to get at least one promotion in the organisation I work with. This promotion will boost my self-confidence and also will reassure me about my abilities. So after I was done with all this my entrepreneurial streak took over and I took the plunge. My brother who was already working in the service sector was also thinking alike. So two rights do not make one wrong and hence the journey started.
What gets you out of bed in the morning i.e. what’s your source of motivation?
As an entrepreneur one cannot afford to get complacent. I have a great influence of Prof. Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence in my life which heavily relies on Self Motivation so at this stage of the career one cannot look out for an external source of motivation. Courage is what we firmly believe in. And also as a leader, I have to lead by example. So everything is done accordingly.
Why should people choose your services?
Well, today it is a consumer based economy. The consumer is actually the driver who decided the success or failure of any product or services. So with all humility, I would like to accept that if we have the sustained and grown for the last ten years then certainly our user would have been happy and surely getting the right value for money. By and large, our services are designed keeping in mind the consumer. Education travel industry that we are in is highly based on emotions. A student when decides to travel to a certain part of the world then he is very emotional about it. And emotions are supposed to be very sensitive. We can not afford to play with that part. So right from the time our consumer leaves his doorstep to the time he comes back to his doorstep we make sure that the memories that he comes back, stay with him and his loved ones for a very long time. Also, we believe that the best feedback for any service is the repetition of your service and we would like to hold pride in saying that our company has almost 95% of repeat value.
What’s your competitive advantage and why can’t it be copied?
See, it is a highly competitive world. With such easy access to information, one can not hide anything from the outside world and we as a company do not intend to do so as well. We are not scared of the competition and neither do we try to pull our competition down. However, our services are very niche which has its own advantages and disadvantages. Advantages are that our industry is very oligopolistic. We don’t have many companies who are a part of this industry. And the disadvantages are that because of the sheer nature of our industry the competition is not much which also gives us lesser opportunities to learn from the other people. The good part of our company is that our think tank is very powerful and innovative. We try and think ahead of times and of services which could give a world-class experience to our consumers. Now as I mentioned that access to every bit of information is just at a click of a fidget so our services perhaps do get copied but copying or replicating someone’s good services do not guarantee success. One has to understand that a company which is successful today and is able to churn newer services every now and then comes with loads of experiences which consists of more failures than success. There must be a lot of flack which must have been thrown at that company as well. The ability to turn our weakness into strengths has made our company what it is today. To understand consumer behaviour and act accordingly comes after a lot of experiential learning. So the copy cat has to bear in mind all these factors before pressing control C control V. We make sure that each consumer of our gets a personal touch from our side. So copying anyone’s professional style or maybe the ethics could be easy but translating that into success is never ever going to be a piece of cake.
What challenges/obstacles did you face in your journey so far?
The movie ‘Guide’ is my all time favourite and I perhaps would have watched it numerous times. So whenever there are trying times I remember a dialogue said by Dev Anand…
“Jab Tak Jeevan Hai, Tab Tak Sangharsh hai”
So we take challenges as a part of a day to day activities and not as something that surprises us. And when there is no way out and you have to do something then there are only two ways to do that, either happily or sadly. So when there is no way out then you might as well do it happily. I take pride in saying that we are a courageous bunch of people. We take every challenge head-on. Despite our constant endeavour to give the best of services some time, we do falter. Consumers do get unpleasant experience at times. We take the feedback, work on it and make sure that the same mistake is never repeated. We try to compensate for any rough experience by adding value to our consumer’s services. Challenges, hurdles, obstacles are supposed to be met and not be shied away from. We believe in this. If it will not kill u, it will make u stronger.
Like every startup, our business also had to go through its fair share of ups and downs but then has to persevere, focus and constantly innovate and improvise. Another major learning for any startup could be to constantly look at the cash flow. Keep a close vigilance at cash flow and also make sure that it is reinvested wisely and cleverly in the deserving slots. Our clear cut nature of the job is intense travelling so you can say that both of us were virtually divorced with our wives for almost a year. Trying to cut cost by travelling second class and staying in budget hotels. That was a cultural shock majorly for my brother who retired from a senior position of a big conglomerate. Having said that, if one is able to sail through this phase then, of course, your right planning and execution can lead you to greener pastures.
How do you handle the pressure and manage stress?
We believe every target if set up well and planned well enough can be met. So we spend a significant amount of time in planning to the precision before execution. We believe the if the road map is cut out well enough then the forthcoming pressures like cash flow, client satisfaction, inter-department procedures and coordination could be well handled. So planning well and well in advance can take out the steam from any pressure or later stress.
What advice would you give to someone starting out, particularly to aspiring entrepreneurs?
The most important thing for anyone venturing out of the comfort zone is to have a VISION of where u want to be and also fasten the seat belt as things going to a roller coaster ride but trust me a very interesting one. Be conventional, work hard, be ready to slog, take fever of failure as our friend. Learn from it and move on. Be a part of the team. Don’t take yourself or your designation too seriously. As said by the great man Steve Jobs “don’t sweat on small things”. Have fun. Good luck
Follow Sundeep Luthra at:
Linkedin – https://www.linkedin.com/in/sundeep-luthra-41761b16b/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/besteducationaltours/
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