Travel Agency – Going places

In recent years, travelling for work and for pleasure has become an integral part of our lifestyle. Unlike till a couple of decades ago, when travel would be mainly for religious purposes, today, people travel within and outside the country for business and to simply take  a break from routine.

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A lot of nitty-gritty is involved in travelling including booking tickets for travel, arranging for stay, food and for local transport. There is a sizeable expense involved as well as uncertainty. If travel is not planned well, it could result in waste of money and inconvenience. The point is, there needs to be somebody with thorough knowledge and access to information to help the traveler in planning the travel.  This is where the business of travel agency emerges as a very useful resource.

You could think of starting a small set up with minimum capital, staff and space. Look for a space of about 200 sq. ft in an area convenient for customers. The approximate deposit may be Rs. 50000/- and a monthly rent of Rs. 10000/-.  A computer, printer and a laptop may be estimated at Rs. 80000/- and furniture at Rs. 30000/-. You will need to spend about Rs. 2000/- on registrations and licenses, plus Rs. 10000/- to print marketing material like brochures and leaflets. Taking into account salary to one employee, repairs and maintenance, phone and electricity, depreciation, EMI etc, broadly you can make a net income of about Rs. 35000/- per month.

It is necessary to be a member of the Enterprising Travel Agents Association. You may also register as an approved travel agent with the India Government through the Ministry of Tourism. Refer to this link to do so – http://blog.indiafidings.com/wpcontent/uploads/2014/04/guidelines. It is also beneficial to be a member of the International Air Travel Association. Look up http://blog.indiafidings.com/wpcontent/uploads/2014/04/guidelines for the same.

Travel agency is a highly customer centric service. Customer satisfaction is critical. You need to be very thorough while planning the itinerary for your client as the smallest mistake can cause very big inconvenience. For instance, you need to know the check in and check out time of hotels so that you client does not end up paying more unnecessarily. Consider the lay over time between two flights and make sure it is enough to go from one terminal to the other to change planes. Several such details and information must be at your finger tip to be able to give excellent service.

Competition is tough in this sector. Try offering your own specialized services like package

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Image Courtesy – Google Images

tours and customized tours. Design special packages for senior citizens, newly married couples etc. Offer group discounts and early bird discounts. You will have to invest some amount for advertising and publicity. Print brochures and leaflets and also use social media.

Always keep in touch with your old clients since they not only patronize you regularly but if they are happy with your service they become your human advertisement.

All in all travel agency business is highly dynamic, exciting and has limitless scope to grow. With DeAsra’s support you can go places with this enterprise. You can get in touch with deAsra team and your Udyogmitra on 020-65365300/11 or access our free of cost business guide on the website. Board the flight to prosperity!

Franchise – Freeway to fortune

A successful business finds growth prospects in expanding the capacity so as to cater to a larger number of consumers. So a restaurant with ten tables may add ten more tables and increase the staff. An office may move from a smaller place to a bigger one where it can accommodate more staff, computers and serve more customers. What next? A couple of branches in other cities? Probably an office overseas? In line with this thinking, comes the next business model – that of franchise. Franchise means the authorization given by a business organization to another individual or organization to carry on a specific business activity. Franchise is necessarily geographical expansion with multi-location representation of a brand. These are not offices/ outlets owned by the principal organization, but a network of independent businessmen/ owners representing an established brand at multiple locations. In short, a hierarchical partnership of sorts!

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The foundation of franchise business is that the original brand enjoys a high degree of popularity, visibility and demand. The franchisee representatives must ensure that they deliver quality in consonance with the brand promise of the original brand. At the same time, the franchisee gets a ready brand equity as his business rides on the principal brand’s image and it saves him the effort and investment to start brand building from scratch.

Normally a franchisee is expected to make a certain minimum investment. Often the principal business lays down certain conditions to be fulfilled by the prospective franchisee, like – a certain capital investment, commercial space, basic infrastructure etc. He may specify the minimum area, frontage etc. The franchisee outlet must bear the same appearance, work style and quality of service so as to maintain brand perception.

Naturally when you visit a certain fast food franchisee outlet of an established brand in any city, you would find the same colour scheme, décor, furniture, staff uniforms and menus. The marketing communication and Point of Sale material is normally designed centrally and distributed to all franchisee outlets.

Franchise conceptOften part of the production process may be carried out at franchisee level, especially in cafes and restaurants. In such cases the exact preparations and processes, even storage method etc must be laid down clearly to franchisee staff. The principal must keep a keen follow up to ensure that the quality standards and brand style is maintained.

Sometimes franchisee outlets fail in delivering the promise of the brand. This harms the image of the original brand which has been cultivated painfully over long years.

Most franchises therefore involve a centrally controlled customer relation management system which draws customer feedback from all locations. This helps in maintaining critical parameters.

While several franchises have been greatly successful not only across nations but even abroad, some have failed. Reasons have been varied, from excessively heavy franchisee network to lack of central management. It is however worthwhile to explore the possibilities of this modern day business model to get on the fast track of growth.The franchising business model is widely and increasingly used by entrepreneurs seeking growth through geographic expansion.

Notices and Signages – More than meets the eye

A beautiful name board with logo on the façade of a store, a restaurant or even an office is the first to catch an eye and make an impression. The décor, the smiling staff comes next. They all go on to imprint a certain image about the business in one’s mind. But another rather undermined communication that does its bit not just in imparting information but in building the image of a quality conscious and customer-centric business is – Notices and Signages.

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These are simple boards with directions, instructions and useful information. More often than not, we don’t take much note of these unassuming boards. However, if one were to give it a second thought one would realize that their presence actually makes a lot of things easier and convenient.

 

Think about the time when we want to find an address in the city. We end up asking the paanwala, rickshawwala, sometimes even the traffic police. Now albeit with the use of internet applications it is much easier to find places, our streets and chowks do not have sufficient direction boards to guide a tourist. But in developed countries every road, highway, airports and public places have prominently placed direction boards with clear symbols and words that makes it delightfully easy for a stranger to find the way!

Similarly, instructions in the business place makes life easy for a consumer/ visitor.

Such communication also takes the form of product manuals, Specials’ Board in restaurants or even the menu card! While designing any of these communications, one must keep in mind that it must be simple, polite and clear to understand by a lay person. A very common but effective example is that of “No Smoking”. We often find such notice – “Thank You For Not Smoking”, which makes it sound much more polite and compelling at the same time. Humour is often an effective way to convey short instructions as humour prevents it from sounding stern.

blog-1-pic-decThe handbook or Manual that comes with products, especially electronic or gadgets, is an important communication that helps the customer use and maintain the product effectively. Unfortunately, we usually ignore it and end up without using majority of the features.

Instructional and informational communication answers questions before they even arise in the customer’s mind and thus creates a positive impression in their mind.

It helps the consumer to use the product to its fullest and also take care of it. It also brings in complete transparency which goes on to reflect the integrity of business. All in all, notices, signages, manuals, menu cards and such communication serves a much wider purpose than just passing on information. It speaks a lot about your business and a wise, creative use of it augurs well for its sustained growth.

Coming together for better business!

It’s a known fact that when people of common interests come together, they bring synergistic results. It’s no different for starting or growing a business enterprise. The state government recognizes this and has started the Maharashtra State Industrial Cluster Development Program (MSICDP) to encourage development of enterprises in small groups or clusters.

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MSICDP runs under the authority of the Directorate of Industries which is based in Mumbai, and which comes under the Government of Maharashtra, Industry, Energy & Labour Department. The Directorate of Industries guides the District Industries Centers in every district to implement the Program.

The primary objective of the Program is to enhance the productivity and competitiveness of small and micro enterprises and to empower them by providing common infrastructure and facilities.

For this the Directorate of industries promotes development of business clusters.  A cluster denotes a group of enterprises located within an identifiable and as far as practicable contiguous area, and producing same/similar products/services. An appropriate cluster is identified by the District Industries Center by creating a report enunciating the common salient features of a group of enterprises.

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Eligibility to join the Program –

  • Minimum 10 Micro, Small working units in the same or similar sector located within an identifiable and as far as practicable, contiguous area
  • Existing clusters in Zone ‘D’, ‘D+’, ‘No Industry District’ & ‘Naxalite Affected Area’ as per PSI-2013.

Two tier activities under the MSICDP to develop clusters are –

  1. Capacity building (Soft Intervention) : This involves activities like field trips to successful enterprises, introduction to new technology, participation in exhibition etc so as to encourage interaction, exchange and camaraderie among members of the cluster. The basis of the intervention is the Diagnostic Study Report (DSR) submitted after studying the current situation in the cluster regarding productivity, technology status etc. The report pinpoints the present lacuna and forms the basis for determining the plan of action to increase productivity and competitiveness.

  1. Setting up of Common Facility Center (Hard Intervention) : This involves actual setting up of necessary infrastructure to be used by the enterprises in the cluster. Enterprises need several facilities for the smooth running of business as well as to make them more efficient and competitive. These facilities may be quality testing labs, training centers, packaging centers, R & D center, design center, logistics facility, raw material storage facility and many more.

A Detailed Project Report (DPR) must state that the CFC is appropriate and feasible for a given cluster.

The project under consideration is approved by district and state level committees which appraise the project as per guidelines. Once the CFC is set up, its operations, administration and maintenance are managed by what is called a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV)! We will talk about it soon, in our next communication.

Man vs Machine? Not really!

Modern business has undergone a paradigm shift with the advent of automation. Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times poignantly portrays the transition where machines started replacing human hands, to increase speed and volume of production, as also to eliminate human error. In recent years, digital technology and robotics have further automated processes. In fact terms like timers, sensors, programs and fuzzy logic have become familiar in day to day living.

The Japanese brought in some breakthrough concepts in automation as every human error in the manufacturing process could aggregate into huge losses to the enterprise. These concepts and methods were accepted and applied in industrialized countries across the world to maximize production and profits.

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Having said that, ‘people’ still remain the soul of any business and no amount of automation can substitute the ‘persona’ of a business enterprise, people are still the most important asset of any business and are only followed by machines and other infrastructure.

The magazine Fortune 500 once published, along with their list of Fortune 500 companies, a report on the ‘Best Companies to Work for’. Interestingly several companies were common to both lists, which means that the companies which were good employers performed well in figures too. Happy employees performed better, thus making the company do well.

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Whether it is a blue chip company, a medium size corporate or even a small business, the people in the organization project the nature of its working. A gentleman was asked for his cellphone at the security gate, before entering the premises of a top automobile company. When the visitor frowned at the request, the security officer politely asked him to step inside his cabin and explained to him how a cellphone can be used to disguise a weapon! The visitor saw the point and was happy to abide by the company rules. It was the security officer’s courteous demeanor and his efforts to allay the former’s doubts that made a very positive impression.

We find such courtesy and meticulousness in smaller businesses too whether it’s a restaurant or even greengrocers. The cleanliness in the restaurant kitchen, the clothes and body language of the staff, the ambience, all go on to reflect quality of the entire experience the place offers!

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But if the people in the organization are inefficient, uninterested in their jobs, have no standard work processes, no amount of infrastructure and automation can help the enterprise sustain.

So, when we are talking about Man v/s Machine, let us remember that while the machine may ensure standard quality in the product, the quality of the organization as a whole is judged by the people inside!

Author: S.R. Joshi

The author is the Director at deAsra Foundation. deAsra Foundation is a Section 25 company, a not for profit association formed to contribute to social welfare by enabling entrepreneurship, which will create employment opportunities.

This article was originally written in the Marathi Magazine- Yashaswi Udyojak (July 2016). This post is the translated abridged version of the same article.

 

Quality – Maintenance leads to sustenance

It is clear that consistency in quality is essential for sustainability in business. As competition becomes fierce, every enterprise has to roll up their sleeves and strive to stay in the fray. Good quality, customer focus and adaptability are the important factors that help a business for a long haul. To achieve this, it is important to keep all the resources running effectively and efficiently. Regular maintenance, mundane as it may sound, is an indispensable part of doing this.

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A consultant had to travel to Belgaum on business. He hired a car and driver and informed him about the day and time of travel. The car picked him up as scheduled. However, as they proceeded, the passenger realized that the seatbelt would not clasp and there was a lot of disturbance in the CD player. As the car traversed a mucky road in the rain, the driver had to drive very slowly because the tyres were worn down. He admitted that they had not been changed for a long time.  The customer was very dissatisfied with the whole experience. He conveyed it to the owner of the rental service but he did not take it seriously. A few months later when they casually met the latter was complaining about the business not running too well and the customer knew all too well why!

This is but one example. We all get these experiences several times. Think about the stained tablecloths in restaurants, broken faucets in hotel washrooms, broken down lifts in office complexes, out of order traffic signals and stores that have run out of products that they have advertised! Lack of regular stocking, maintenance, repair, cleaning, refilling, checking, all lead to a very disappointing product or service experience. Such lapses can be the cause of complete failure of businesses unless mended in time. There are also enterprises, who take efforts to rectify these lacunae and lay a lot of emphasis on maintenance and are able to bring back business on even keel.

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The interesting thing is that often an outwardly attractive thing ends up proving to be dysfunctional and sometimes an overtly dull and unassuming thing may actually surprise with quality deliverance.

Both inward and outward readiness matter in business. There must be congruence in ‘What Seems’ and ‘What Is’. The outward appearance is a promise that attracts customers. The actual experience is what gratifies the customer and keeps him bonded with the enterprise.

In short, quality is not a one-time thing. It is a constant and consistent process for which maintenance is the key. Maintenance of resources leads to sustenance in business.

Author: S.R. Joshi

The author is the Director at deAsra Foundation. deAsra Foundation is a Section 25 company, a not for profit association formed to contribute to social welfare by enabling entrepreneurship, which will create employment opportunities.

This article was originally written in the Marathi Magazine- Yashaswi Udyojak (August 2016). This post is the translated abridged version of the same article.

 

Treading from Customer Satisfaction to Customer Delight!

We have always been hearing the phrase ‘Consumer is King’, but have started experiencing it only in recent years. Before liberalization in 1991, the consumer was at the mercy of the producer and supplier and had to be satisfied with whatever was available on offer.

However, 1991 onwards, as the Indian markets were thrown open to global players, competition turned fierce. Now manufacturers and suppliers had to woo customers to capture bigger market share. They realized they had to walk that extra mile to please the consumer by understanding their needs and fulfilling them to the T.

In the last 25 years of liberalization, we have seen a significant change in the scenario. More professionalism, better service and distinct consumer orientation are a part of the trend that has started taking roots.

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Manufacturers and service providers have now started taking proactive steps to understand customers’ expectations and their preferences. The objective has now gone beyond customer satisfaction to customer delight which meant giving them an experience that would make them come back to the manufacturer/ service provider again and again. Let us take some examples.

A family booked a room in a hotel. The hotel asked them about their arrival, further itinerary and their food preferences. Incidentally, the family was fasting on one of the days during their stay. To acknowledge this, the hotel management enquired if they would like a ‘fasting’ menu. The entire staff was courteous and warm. On the day of their departure, the manager himself asked if their stay had been comfortable and if they had any suggestions to help them give better service. Overall, the guests got a very pleasant experience, were made to feel very special and they felt an immediate bonding towards the hotel. Professional enterprises believe in creating better customer relationships, more than the increase in the number of customers.

A friend booked a cab to go from Pune to Thane. The owner of the cab service asked for all the details of the customer’s destination and timings. He texted the driver’s name, contact number and car number well in advance to the customer. The next day the driver called a few minutes before the scheduled time. The car was clean, filled with enough petrol and ready on time. The driver helped the passenger load the bags into the boot. He asked him the exact destination and entered the details into the GPS system. He was wearing clean clothes, refrained from picking up his mobile while driving and was very polite in his mannerisms. The owner of the cab service also called to ask if everything was going as per schedule. The whole experience of the trip was very safe, comfortable and enjoyable. So much so that the customer later contacted the owner to give him a very positive feedback!

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The long and short of it is, that modern business must go that extra mile to make the customer happy. We must admit that a lot of our systems have improved significantly. We can order a gas cylinder on phone and it is delivered in time. Railways are improving their hygiene and safety standards. Things are getting better and will continue to do so in the future because the customer is now the centre of the market universe!

Author: S.R. Joshi

The author is the Director at deAsra Foundation. deAsra Foundation is a Section 25 company, a not for profit association formed to contribute to social welfare by enabling entrepreneurship, which will create employment opportunities.

This article was originally written in the Marathi Magazine- Yashaswi Udyojak (February 2016). This post is the translated abridged version of the same article.