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Monday, 02 April, 2018, 14 : 45 PM [IST]

The Dynamic Marketeer - Nishant Kashikar, Country Manager - India & Gulf, Tourism Australia

Prasenjit Chakraborty

Taking the right decision at right time is crucial for every person to shape their career, which ultimately benefits the organisation they are working for. Despite being a Machine Tool Engineer and Masters in Management Studies (MMS) specialising in Finance, Nishant Kashikar realised at budding stage that it is marketing rather than finance that could catapult him to a dizzy height. Today, under his stewardship, India has emerged as one of the lucrative markets for Tourism Australia.

Nishant Kashikar firmly believes that opportunities come for every individual at some points in life. All it depends on whether you grab that opportunity or take guard for another one to come your way. However, Nishant was swift enough not to let go the very first opportunity when he was very young. That moment actually defined his career and the rest is history. Today he has emerged as one of the young and successful professionals in the travel industry. A Machine Tool Engineer, Nishant did his Masters in Management Studies (MMS), specialising in Finance. He stood first in Mumbai University during the final year of his Engineering, and went on to repeat the same feat during his MMS programme. After completing his post-graduation, he started his career with Abbott Laboratories (now Abbott India Ltd) and, in the first 18 months, was closely working with the finance department to manage debtors and conducting distribution audits. Soon he got an opening through which he moved into marketing in the Pediatric Nutrition Division of Abbott Laboratories. Nishant was in dilemma - whether to accept the offer or continue with his work in finance. Taking such a decision to switch from finance to marketing was indeed a challenging one. He brooded over it and analysed every aspect of the new and unknown terrain. He just needed to assure himself that marketing could take him up the corporate ladder. Eventually, he made up to move into marketing. This was his first move in his professional career. Kashikar recalls, “I used to ask myself, is it prudent to continue in the finance job with my engineering background, with just one year of professional qualification in the field of finance? In order to reach a position like CFO, one would need to have a strong academic background in finance such as a Chartered Accountant, preferably with an ICWA degree. After toying over the whole idea for a few days, I thought marketing would be a better career option to drive me pursue my dream and reach the senior management position.” Since then it has been a journey of marketing of nutrition products at Abbott, to marketing of holidays with Thomas Cook and Kuoni respectively, and now marketing an aspirational destination like Australia.

Actor Parineeti Chopra along with Nishant Kashikar
unveiling series of videos showcasing her experiences in Australia


If the increasing number of tourists visiting any particular country is an indication of its popularity, then Australia has definitely emerged as a preferred destination for Indian tourists. The huge increase in number of Indians visiting Australia clearly indicates Nishant’s enthusiasm and dynamic style of working. When he joined in 2010, there were approximately 135,000 Indians visiting Australia per year. Today that number stands at 298,000 visitor arrivals. In the last three years they have added 100,000 incremental tourists from the Indian market. “In the last six years, we have not only doubled the visitation, but also spend by Indian tourists. We have achieved our Tourism 2020 goals by the end of 2017, three years ahead of its target date,” says Nishant. He is responsible for launching a plethora of new products like Self Drive, Adventure, Luxury, Romance, Food & Wine, etc., during the course of his stint with Tourism Australia. This has resulted in an increased dispersal and spends by Indian tourists, and India has earned the unique distinction of being the fastest growing inbound market for Australia.


“I used to ask myself, is it prudent to continue in the finance job with my engineering background, with just one year of professional qualification in the field of finance? In order to reach a position like CFO, one would need to have a strong academic background in finance such as a Chartered Accountant, preferably with an ICWA degree. After toying over the whole idea for a few days, I thought marketing would be a better career option to drive me pursue my dream and reach the senior management position.”



This speaks volumes of his marketing skills, but it didn’t come so easily. According to him, one needs to apply their mind very cautiously. After shifting to marketing department in Abbott, he was responsible for launching PediaSure, which is an up-market nutritional product, and is currently valued at INR 500 crore. His association with PediaSure gave him a rich experience to understand the potential markets of South India and West Bengal. “The responsibility to launch PediaSure gave me tremendous exposure and my travels across the country to set up the distribution network for the brand set the foundation for my future,” he says. He staunchly believes that the fundamentals of every business remain the same and one needs to adapt according to the dynamics of the market or category. “Earlier I was selling a premium product and now I am selling a premium destination. No doubt, the experience of selling a premium product is helping me to promote a premium destination,” asserts Kashikar

According to Nishant, unveiling the Great Australian Airfare Sale, to give Indian travellers attractive airfare deals on eight airlines namely Air Asia, Air India, Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Scoot, Singapore Airlines, and Thai Airways is one of the most successful tactical, partnership campaigns executed by Tourism Australia. The move was to address India’s limited aviation access and capacity into Australia. “This is an industry–first initiative. No other national tourism board ever brought eight airlines under one canopy and have worked towards a common objective of driving tourism,” pointed out Nishant. The campaign was launched immediately after demonetisation i.e. in late 2016. Despite that, they have had 10,200 bookings in a span of just three weeks. The phase 2 of the campaign, launched in May and June 2017, delivered over 18,000 bookings for Australia. “The third phase of the campaign resulted in over 25,000 bookings, and has surpassed our expectations,” says a confident Nishant. What makes you launch it at that point of time? He replies, “That is the advantage of marketing a premium destination like Australia. When you are marketing a premium destination, you are dealing with high-value travellers. Travel validity of this offer is close to 9-12 months and it basically offers a compelling reason to visit Australia.” The timing of the campaign is very important here, because whatever campaign or advertising was going on during that period was highly noticeable, due to less media clutter. The whole idea was to convert a challenge into an opportunity.

Nishant with Brent Anderson, Regional General Manager - South & South East Asia, Tourism Australia


Nishant always tries to emulate and acquire good qualities of people he meets and believes that every person has got certain strengths that one should try to imbibe. However, the person he admires most is Zubin Karkaria, CEO, VFS Global. He likes Karkaria for his passion, networking skills and hard work. “The pace at which he has built VFS Global is simply phenomenal and insurmountable,” he points out.

According to him, increasing focus on digitization and content based initiatives are the two significant changes that the travel industry witnessed in the recent past. “When I joined, we used to spend around 90-95% of our marketing budget on traditional media. Today the share of traditional media such as television and print has dropped to less than 40%,” he points out. So, the spend on digital platform has registered significant growth. “Adapting to and learning a completely new platform is by no means an easy proposition. One needs to develop a different skill-set to work with both - the agencies as well as your colleagues,” he says.

Despite being a successful professional, Nishant remains humble and doesn’t want to take credit for himself alone. He fondly remembers his predecessor, Late Maggie White, and says, “Actually, the foundation stone for promoting Australia in the Indian market was laid by her, and I’ve had the honour and privilege of carrying forward her legacy.”

prasenjit.chakraborty@saffronsynergies.in
 
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