- Human Resource
Ms. Heena Munshaw, Managing Director, Beacon Holidays Pvt. Ltd.
A firm believer in the fact that women pay more attention to detail than men, Heena Munshaw has applied this wisdom and her own skills to launch and nurture an outbound travel business with a difference.
Beacon Holidays (Mumbai) was born of Heena's inherent love for family voyages and her understanding of the need to offer travelers a clear and complete picture of their destination.
Identifying a niche sector, at the right time
"I loved to travel with family. Yet, I was often disappointed by travel agents who had insufficient knowledge about the products they sold and hence, could not advise their clients on a suitable destination. I sensed a vacuum in servicing - insufficient knowledge. I simply chose to fill the vacuum," observes Heena.
Beacon Holidays setup shop in 1990, much before India's upper middle class had discovered the joys of zipping off to exotic locales in Turkey, South Africa or New Zealand. Back then, Indians still understood ‘down under' to be a phrase, not a much used nickname for Australia!
In a sense, Beacon Holidays' success can be traced to its being launched at the right time - just before the liberalization of the Indian economy expanded the upper middle class - and in the right space - prior to upwardly mobile Indians expressing their desire to travel to foreign lands.
Know-how as a USP
Even so, Beacon Holidays perceived its success would come from its focusing not merely on the larger picture, but on the details. Instead of a travel company, it calls itself a destination marketing company. True to this nomenclature, it invests time and monetary resources in understanding every destination it offers. Shares Heena, "Our greatest investment is sending our team to travel and research every destination hands-on. Consequently, we have Aussie specialists, Kiwi specialists, South African specialists, and so on. Mostly, these specialists are recognized by the relevant country tourism boards. In short, we only sell what we have seen and experienced first-hand. Suffice it to say that we literally go the extra mile for our clients!"
These specialists also engage in regular destination training programmes for Beacon Holiday's clients, that is, smaller boutique-style travel agents to major agents who look after ticketing and visas while Beacon handles the ground arrangements.
Beacon also adds to its product (destination) know-how from the experience of its key partners - national airlines of every Beacon destination, the country's tourism board and diplomatic missions, inbound tour operators and major hotel groups and tourism suppliers. Each partner contributes valuable information that helps establish the destination in the Indian market, as well as develop new products as the destination matures.
Focus on expanding product portfolio
"Innovation is a key driver of our business. We are committed to continuously discover, develop and introduce niche products (read ‘untapped off-beat destinations') to our clientele," says Heena.
In a sense, Heena's earlier working stints in her family agency marketing the QE2 luxury liner wherein she developed new products and created a leisure division; and subsequently in a medical equipment company where she supervised the launch of the most advanced technology systems into the country instilled in her the worth of continuous innovation.
Catering to a wider audience
Undoubtedly, there are benefits of being a pioneer in any field, such as being in the perfect position to pitch a discovery to a wide audience. For instance, Beacon Holidays suggested Australia as a great outdoor destination for Bollywood - this led to Major Saab being shot there. Since then, we know how many Bollywood units have shot extensively Down Under! But that was not all. Heena made the most of her training as a commercial artist from Mumbai's JJ School of Arts to propose several Australian locales as a backdrop for the famed Kingfisher swimsuit calendar. As a result, the 2006 calendar was shot mainly in South Australia, Queensland, Sydney and the Kangaroo Island. More recently, she conceptualized destinations in Thailand for the Kingfisher swimsuit 2009 calendar.
|Our greatest investment is sending our team to travel and research every destination hands-on.|
Success and more success
Accolades and awards have come Heena's way. From being called upon to speak on interesting subjects like Does the interactive traveler exist in India? for Tourism New Zealand and South Africa - A world in a country for the Counsel General of South Africa across India, she has collected marketing, brochure, and product development awards for her company's efforts from the tourism boards or airlines of countries she has worked with.
Inspired and focused, she forges ahead in her mission to enrich people's lives with unforgettable experiences. "We will continue to grow as a true leisure company, thanks to our many clients who avidly vouch for our service. I strongly believe client referrals are our best publicity. So we will keep up our focus on knowing our products and matching these with our clients needs," opines Heena.
Being a woman in business
Married at 18, a mother at 21 and single mother since she lost her husband 12 years ago - evidently, Heena has balanced many roles in her life. Has the going been tough, especially because she is a woman?
"Yes, she says, "at times when you have to make the hard choice between your family and having to travel for work! Especially since I was a single mother, I used to worry about my kids when I left them and traveled. Professionally too, sometimes it is hard to stand up to very successful and powerful men, and stand your ground. You need to be tough!"
Judging from the Beacon Holidays growth story, we are left in no doubt that Heena Munshaw has mastered the art of resilience.
Charu Bahri is an author, freelance writer, columnist and [part-time] manager - projects and information systems at J Watumull Global Hospital & Research Centre. More about her at http://charubahri.googlepages.com
Issue Bg96 Mar09