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Tuesday, 03 April, 2018, 15 : 26 PM [IST]

The Strategist - Rakshit Desai, Managing Director, FCM Travel Solutions

One can easily count on fingers the number of people who are willing to walk the difficult roads and choose hardships as a way of life. Rakshit Desai is one such dynamic and learned leader one comes across in the travel & tourism industry today. Open to accepting challenging roles right from the start of his career, Rakshit focused on turning around and scaling up the businesses for various organisations he worked for in the last two decades. TravelBiz Monitor recognises him for his determination and having made turning around fortunes of a business, irrespective of the market conditions, as his second nature.

Rakshit Desai today is the Managing Director of FCM Travel Solutions and is responsible for the Indian interests of the Australian retail travel outlet, Flight Centre Travel Group. In his role at FCM, he is responsible for scaling up the company’s position in the Indian market and has been successful in doing so as the company has grown 2.5 times in terms of revenue since he took over the responsibility in 2014. This can be termed as one of the biggest turnarounds for a company under Rakshit’s leadership, but the journey of success for him started much before FCM.

With degrees in business-related disciplines from the London School of Economics, Griffith University in Australia and Sydenham College, Mumbai, Rakshit started his career as a Consultant at the London offices of Roland Berger in the year 2000. At Roland, he developed and delivered a number of high-impact projects (strategy formulation and implementation) across multiple sectors for high-profile clients – primarily CEOs/CFOs and Boards of major multinational corporations.

In Rakshit’s words, “At an early age of 10, I was fascinated by the red fire engine truck and wanted to be a fire engine driver. With maturity, I understood that a business career would suit me the best. There was no plan of action to join the travel industry but this industry is lucrative enough to attract anyone. My earliest internship was at a travel company. One thing that has remain constant with me throughout my career is the push to challenge my limits. I always chose difficult and not so easy jobs. I took responsibilities of taking businesses from zero to cloud nine.”

After Roland Berger, Rakshit joined Thomas Cook in 2003 and was entrusted with the responsibility of transforming the company’s business in Canada, a country where Thomas Cook never made money. “If you ask me, it looked like a suicide mission. To turnaround a business which never did good was a challenging task, but our persistence helped and gradually by understanding the market, we accomplished success it handsomely,” he emphasised.

"When I came to India for Thomas Cook’s travel business, the company was under immense pressure of performing well as its other product in commerce exchange domain was well established. Many said to me that this new entity will succumb to pressure. Without giving ears to negativity my team worked on adapting to the market and focused on customer demands. It has been a journey of perseverance all through out. Be it Europe, Canada or India, I always tried to find solution to the challenging tasks assigned and to god’s grace, success has been eventually achieved.”

After accomplishing gradual success for Thomas Cook’s travel business in Canada, Egypt, the UK and few other markets of Europe, Rakshit returned to India in 2008 as the Executive Director for Thomas Cook’s travel services in Mumbai. He tried to turnaround the fortunes for the company in the travel space. Within a time frame of 3 years, since Rakshit took over the charge, the company grew its revenue from INR 1,000 cr to INR 2,000 crore in the travel space and its retail outlet went up to 70 from 30. “When I came to India for Thomas Cook’s travel business, the company was under immense pressure of performing well as its other product in commerce exchange domain was well established. Many said to me that this new entity will succumb to pressure. Without giving ears to negativity my team worked on adapting to the market and focused on customer demands. It has been a journey of perseverance all through out. Be it Europe, Canada or India, I always tried to find solution to the challenging tasks assigned and to god’s grace, success has been eventually achieved,” Desai exclaimed.

The success stories are always filled with highs and lows, and Rakshit is no exception. There came a time period for him when he was left questioning himself whether to stay in this industry or leave. At the age of 35, he was in dilemma about his career. It took him almost one and half year to be back on track. He left Thomas Cook in 2012 and eventually joined FCM Travel Solutions in 2014.

“You need to have belief in what you are doing. Taking up challenging jobs which have never been done before needs a personal belief that act as a motivator. There will be times when your plan of action become redundant and you have to adapt yourself and transform to something different. With skills to adapt, my journey has been incredibly eventful,” said Rakshit.

For Rakshit, it is his family that has made the biggest sacrifice in helping him establish his career. “I have been living an ecstatic life where I take approx 100 flights a year and travel across borders. I have no reasons to explain why I should regret doing this job. It is my family who has been compromising on my behalf. Since the start of my career, I lived away from my parents due to my distant job locations. When I got married, within a month I had to shift to London and after that I had to be in Germany for next six months. I left a newly wedded wife in a strange city alone for almost six months. How big can that be for a sacrifice from a wife? When my children were born, I wasn’t there. When they first learned to walk, I wasn’t there. I was busy building my career. I don’t think there’s any sacrifice from my end. You have to credit my family for being my support system. They are my biggest motivators.”



Rakshit’s principles for running a business are simple and straight forward. He believes that if a company understands who are its customers and is ready to serve their needs, there’s no stopping. “I have always focused on delivering what my customer wants. If you have passion for doing a business, are disciplined and provide optimum supply to your customers demand, your business will run smoothly.”

Also, for Rakshit, team management is one of the most important aspects for a company to succeed on a long run. He believes that most of the times it is not the Director, MD or CEO of the company who accomplishes a difficult task, but it is the employees who make it happen for them. “Each member of a team is equally important for me. Each one can be an expert in a task which you are not. In a team all the qualities are shared and that’s what I like best because it is the knowledge that carries the most important value and if it is available for everyone, there is a mutual success.”

It’s a universal fact that experience is the best teacher. The same applies for Rakshit. He said that whatever struggle he underwent in the past, today they are experiences. “The past experiences have been helpful in completing challenging tasks today.”

“I talk to a lot of people outside the travel industry to draw parallel to what is happening in other industries. I have been influenced a lot by the Wright Brothers. They showed the world how to achieve something that was never done before. World called them crazy until they invented, built and flew the world’s first successful airplane.”

Coming from modest roots, Rakshit today is an inspiration for anyone who doesn’t want to settle for simple lifestyle, but always push their limits. His team mates call him the man of instinct as for him its not always the fixed mechanism that works, but that what is the best at one given point of time. “You have to be brave enough to take risks. Generally businessmen tend to delete emotions from their business but for me emotions are necessary. It is very difficult to be passionate about doing something and not be emotional for the same. A business is an emotional construct. Even while working with a team, you have to sit down and convince them and make them believe what you are doing is right and money cannot always be the driving factor.”

According to Rakshit, the period from the late 90s to the early 20s has been incredible in terms of technological advancements and demographic and political changes worldwide. “You cannot exactly predict what is coming next. The generation has changed so have the demands. You have to prepare your business in such a way that it is ready to adapt any given situation. Disruptions have occurred in the industry in last decade but that have happened due to deregulation and inappropriate usage of technology and other related services. We have to be disciplined in the usage of technology. No one knows what future will bring but what I know is that if we choose the sustainable path, it will be easy for us to adapt to the new.”

anurag.tiwari@saffronsynergies.in
 
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