Sapna Ramachandran – smart, confident, vibrant and full of energy, is the proprietress of her own travel agency Verdant Travels at Ernakulam. Any holiday package anywhere in India, at affordable prices and the right person to turn to is Sapna. She shares with Small Enterprise India how she gave up her job with the Le Meridian group to start out on her own.
“I operate from home, and that saves me of office rent, and expenses. I have lots of contacts and an already well established clientele from nine years of service with the Oberoi group. My mantra is dependability, credibility and goodwill”- asserts Sapna. “I do not advertise., and prefer exclusivity. People come to me because of the excellent services I offer and it gets carried by word of mouth and my clientele increases. Sometimes, people tell me they get a better deal elsewhere. I do not try to stop them, but when faced with hassles, inevitably they revert to me”- smiles Sapna.
A graduate in Economics Sapna was deeply interested in geography .“I wanted to be a geologist but there were no such courses available in Kerala and I had to be satisfied with graduating in Economics. Right from the beginning, I was never interested in procuring a job on the basis of recommendation.
Her first appointment was with ISCOT( International School for Computer technology. She joined them as academic counselor, which was actually in house marketing, to get people to enroll for the course. That was her first entry into sales. After nine months, her friend suggested an opening in Consolidated Shipping Company- a Dubai based one. Sapna joined them and was in charge of reception cum documentation, customer care and problem solving. After nine months of working with CSC, the shipping company invited her to join them at their Dubai office.
In the mean time, Sapna received a call from out of the blue asking her whether she would be interested in joining the Oberoi group, to man their customer care centre. Growth in Oberoi was tremendous and fast paced.
She proceeded from manning the business centre to guest relations, front office operations, and they groomed her to be more systems oriented. Next, she was asked to handle the instant reservations desk. Steadily she made a network of shipping agents, travel agents, and eventually she was recommended to handle sales. She was promoted as the regional sales head for Kerala. A quantum leap in her career graph.
In 2006, she decided to move out, desperately needing a break from the tremendous work pressure. A friendly client asked her to join their team as project manager HR. At about the same time, she enrolled for a course in German. and she bagged a post with Le Meridian, heading sales. Here she was handling high end conferences like the Volvo movement, the Ericsson conference from Germany etc.
“I am extremely indebted to the Oberoi group for the grooming I received’- states Sapna. After one and a half years with the Le Meridian, Sapna decided to give her entrepreneurial aspirations a shot and resigned. A colleague’s friend asked her if she could handle it if he could help her by bringing in clients from abroad.
“I consulted an old friend of mine from Menon and Pai who advised me to go ahead. That’s how I decided to open Verdant Travels. I wanted the V of Verdant to resemble a blade of grass and got a friend to design the logo. Plus With my experience over the years, I started contacting old clients and, they started approaching me. I help organise conferences, for individual as well as group clients. An Apollo tyre is my clients.
Clients from varied corporate offices ask for holiday packages and I check out and even draw out an interesting itinerary. Vehicle for commuting is arranged too. I do bookings all over India. I personally negotiate with the hotels for the best rates and availability. So, I am a one stop shop for all reasons- affirms Sapna confidently.
With every client, she works out a budget, assess the time they have on hand, and ask them what they would like to do when on a holiday and based on these, a personalised itinerary is prepared. North Indians arrive in Kerala in the month of December. January, Feb and March see the advent of a lot of European clients. From mid April, sales meets and conferences start off. “August and October, I get a lot of Arab clients. So I am kept practically busy throughout”.
Sapna does it all single handedly. “Most importantly, I want to grow steadily at my own pace. I do not want to dilute credibility and want the best for my clients” says Sapna.