Wednesday 10 June 2020

The Lockdown Diaries Part 4: From the Dream to Reality

After gaining my MBA degree from Massey University in 2010, I was at crossroads with my career. The question was whether to continue to grow in my IT career or to spread myself horizontally into general management. By 2012, I was no longer enjoying being in IT. I was dragging myself to work every day. It was a joyless situation to be in.

I have always been open to reaching out to my friends when I am down. I called my very good friend Wendy from MBA one day (Yes, she is the one Uma and I were going to escort to Morocco along with a group of her friends!). Wendy suggested a meeting with her friend Mo, who was doing IT contract work in Wellington.

We three met for coffee at a cafĂ© in George Street, Palmerston North. Mo was explaining to me the ups and downs of IT contracting. While he was talking, I had this sudden Eureka! moment out of the blue! 

You see, most people who haven't visited India have a mental picture about it, most of it being stereotypes because of what they read in India. But if you had visited India, you would agree with me it is a lifechanging experience. Why not take Kiwis to India and provide them with an authentic, unique and personal travel experience? Weird, right?

I thanked Mo and Wendy, came back home, and had a chat with Uma sharing my idea with her over dinner. She didn't hesitate and told me to pursue it if that is what I had wanted to do. This was in October 2012. For the next few months, we did our research looking at how the tourism industry works, what the other travel companies do, and crunching the numbers. We also had our Kiwi friends enthusiastically participating in our focus group meetings.

On the 10th April, 2013, we met with Bobbie O'Fee at O'Fee and Associates. The same day, we registered our company BlooMoon (NZ) Limited! Our brand was called Take Me 2 India. Uma designed our website. Our Facebook page was up. And the word started spreading.

Jocelyn, my other very good friend from MBA and her husband Chris immediately registered with us for a tour of India with their 3 children! I personally escorted them through South India for close to 3 weeks in December 2013. While they loved their experience, their honest feedback on where we needed to improve was highly valuable to us. How blessed have we been!

In March 2014, I gave up my 6-figure salary and resigned my job as the IT Manager at Sime Darby Commercial NZ Ltd. I must really thank Uma and the boys for the sacrifice they have been through. Our lifestyle changed overnight. Never thinking twice about buying gourmet bread turned into looking at the price tag twice!

Uma and I continued to look at ways of growing the business through creativity. We looked at the behaviour of International tourists visiting New Zealand. Most of them travel only to popular tourist locations like Auckland, Rotorua and Queenstown. Having lived here since 2004, we know New Zealand has much more to offer. That gave the birth to Take Me 2 New Zealand.

As months rushed by, our happy guests started asking for more destinations. We started extending trips from India to Sri Lanka and Maldives, New Zealand to Australia. We decided to consolidate all destinations into one single brand - Take Me 2 The World!

And came our biggest milestone at the time! Jocelyn and Chris wanted us to design a South America holiday for their family this time. I invited my long-time friend Erika, a Columbian-born NZ resident, to work with me. She not only helped to design the itinerary, but also made all arrangements and escorted the family to Peru, Chile and Ecuadorian Amazon!

We have never looked back since then. Well, not until COVID-19 put a dampener anyway! Uma's cousin Eswar and brother-in-law Aura from India became part of the Take Me 2 The World family. We opened our India office in 2014. 

We made our New Zealand inbound tour operations into a B2B model, primary working with overseas travel agents, but without compromising our motto of authenticity, uniqueness and personal attention. We became members of Tourism Export Council of New Zealand and got ourselves Qualmark endorsed.

We have always run Take Me 2 The World with the 3i attributes our senior partner Eswar has advocated - Integrity, Intention and Intensity. We have made mistakes and learnt from them. Each one of us have played our roles, contributing to our growth. I have been reflecting on some of the key moments in our Take Me 2 The World journey. Let me share them with you next week.

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