Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Manoj: Kamlesh Ramchandani and I (Manoj Tulsani) are the founders of Rayna Tours and Travels. Fueled by our deepest interest in travel and entrepreneurship, we kicked off our business journey a decade ago from a small travel counter inside a five-star hotel in Dubai.
To be honest, at that time, we had totally no experience or background in the industry. But we’ve come a long way from there; our venture has now grown into one of the UAE’s leading destination management companies with earnings exceeding $40 million per year. Our service portfolio includes a vast collection of tours, excursions, and holiday packages to choose from across the world. We’re also leaders in international visa services and worldwide hotel reservations. Based out in Dubai, we now have branches in different parts of the world, such as India, Cape Town, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and Turkey.
Kamlesh: We’ve been in the industry for over a decade and have now become a niche provider of destination management services in Dubai. As a one-stop, customer-oriented business for all travel needs, our main organizational goal is to design and craft travel services and packages in such a way that each of them ideally responds to the dynamic market trends as well as our clients’ specific travel requirements. We offer our full suite of travel solutions through our wholly-owned Rayna Group.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Manoj: It’s surprising to note that both Kamlesh and I ventured into the business with substantial experience however in totally different areas. My first job with Safeer Group of Companies (as a marketing executive) landed me in Dubai from Ajmer, Rajasthan. This was soon after my completion of graduation in commerce stream from Bombay University in 1999. Later, I worked with the Time Machine Group of Companies. I truly enjoyed my job and each day of a little less than a decade of my career with both these companies was exceptionally rewarding, so it was somewhat a gut feeling to call my successful job quits and start Rayna Tours with Kamlesh in 2006. I began the new innings in my professional life with nothing but just driven by my love for travel and passion to meet new people.
Don’t let people discourage or doubt your capabilities. Believe in yourself and always be willing to listen to the unique demands of your customers.
Kamlesh: Manoj and I worked together in the Safeer Group of Companies where we discovered our significant passion for travel and entrepreneurship. We always knew that we’ll start our own business someday but just didn’t know what this would be. Speaking of my work experiences, before moving to Dubai in 1998, I had worked in different roles in my hometown (Rajasthan), including employment in an ISD (International Subscriber Dialing) / STD (Subscriber Trunk Dialing) PCO and a brief experience as a tour organizer. Later, I found myself drawn to the idea of training people. I think being exposed to diverse jobs and interests actually gave me the confidence to think bigger and re-invent the travel industry by launching Rayna Tours.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Manoj: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step! As we got the first step right i.e. launch, the subsequent procedures and steps were not as smooth or easy as we thought. With our startup inside a hotel, our focus initially was to help the hotel guests in planning and executing perfect Dubai tours. It’s strange but true that we really didn’t stick on to any methodology or a solid business plan to grow our startup further. That said, our innovative business idea came to our rescue; the idea of arranging tours to hotel guests created a fast sales cycle, as more and more people traveling to Dubai counted on our efficient tours and packages.
Kamlesh: Our business wasn’t an immediate success. It definitely wasn’t easy for us to take our idea off the ground; we didn’t have a website or any proper channel to get across our viable offerings to the targeted market. In fact, before we hit the market and got our mix of product, pricing and marketing/sales efforts right, it took some serious trial and error for us to design an effective business strategy that really worked for us. Moreover, as we gained more response, we realized how important it’s to win the trust of our customers in order to strengthen our foothold in the industry.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Kamlesh: The idea of launching our own startup came out of our mutual passion for travel and entrepreneurship. We luckily saw an opening as back then no one actually owned the market space in organizing professional tours and excursions for hotel guests. This realization actually became the seed for our business launch. So we just started off at the right time with the right idea. But after a few days, the obstacles began to unfurl one after another; we, being quite a primitive venture, didn’t have an adequate investment or a strong support system and had to pool our entire personal savings to fund our business.
Manoj: So we had to put our entire effort to convince the guests about our services and win their trust. The results began to show up as we went from a single outlet to open 15 more outlets in just two years, before establishing ourselves as a one-stop destination management company. It’s more than 13 years now; our efforts have taken us off much beyond we were imagining. It’s extremely gratifying to see that we’re now able to cater to the travel requirements of any budget or preference. As we continue with our steady growth, the company has made a very successful presence in more than 10 countries, besides our headquarters or main office in Dubai.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Manoj: We take the aspect of customer retention very seriously as we strive to offer them the most exceptional and personalized travel experiences regardless of how big or small their requirements are. Right from the beginning, all our tour services and packages have been centered on exceptional customer experience. We first brought in direct customer strategy with the best price guarantee by investing in our own desert camp as well as the fleet of vehicles, yachts, dhow, etc. Next, we launched an exclusive online portal (for both B2C and B2B customers) plus several convenient travel apps all backed by the most advanced features and highly secured transactions. This has given our customers the unique chance to compare, select and put together their perfect holiday under one roof at reasonable rates.
Kamlesh: Starting out with the simple concept of organizing tours to our hotel guests, we’ve evolved a lot and come a long way. With our ongoing transformation, we continue to focus on all growth aspects, mainly the realignment of organizational goals and service portfolio in accordance with the dynamic market trends. The whole business procedure has thus become far more flexible and budget-friendly, making it super convenient for our clients to compare, choose, and compile their travel requirements both online and offline.
We’re equally aware of the role of social media as well as other tools in order to retain our customers. You’ll find us on all social media platforms where we constantly interact with our patrons, respond to their queries/concerns and update them about our recent product/service launches, latest discount promotions, etc. There are also loyalty programs to keep our valued customers coming back to us. We even have an exclusive team that conducts audits (from time to time) to analyze customers’ dynamic trends and demands.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Kamlesh: We now lead the travel market in Dubai by holding almost 20% of the country’s market share. As we continue to evolve and grow, we look forward to increasing our market share in the UAE from 20% to 35% to 40% in the next ten years.
Manoj: We also focus to strengthen our international presence while ensuring seamless sales and customer support at every level. We’ve already expanded into some of the key global markets and plan to open more overseas in the next few years.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Manoj: Keep learning, be always open to innovative trends and take valuable lessons from every challenge; these are some of the greatest things that we have learned along the way. Apart from these, what is of paramount importance is to make sure that your business functions within a framework of utmost integrity and also complemented by sound ethical standards.
Kamlesh: Along with these, we’ve known how important it’s to build the right team and also ensure customer satisfaction at every level. It doesn’t matter if a guest drops into book/make a purchase or even just to inquire about our packages; we make it a point to guide them with the most genuine suggestions and reliable services. And we’re extremely proud of our brilliant team members who are largely instrumental in bringing our innovative plans to fruition.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Kamlesh: Backed by an exclusive technical department, we’ve employed our own in-house tools for accounting and inventory management. Moreover, we use ticket management systems and applications of top quality standards to follow-up with our guests or partners.
Manoj: Our business tools/platforms revolve around our customers’ ever-changing demands, indicating that all of them are up-to-date and complemented by the most comprehensible features. Precisely, we adopt an innovative approach when it comes to our business technology, as it deftly combines our own set of high-end proprietary tools and processes with the most advanced and industry-leading technological solutions. This, in turn, helps us to ensure that our customers in every vertical (including B2C and B2B) are always treated with the best options available in the market. This is probably one of the major aspects which help us to stay top of the industry as well as our competitors.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Kamlesh: Being completely new to the industry, we had to face an endless list of challenges in the beginning. But, we learned something new and more meaningful as we faltered each time and remarkably came out of it. This has actually inspired us to set bigger and bolder goals along the way.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Manoj: If you’ve got a great business idea, let the world know about it! But don’t be dispirited at any point in building/developing your business; it’s worth taking all risks and facing challenges in order to get your idea finally stand-out and recognized.
Kamlesh: Also, don’t let people discourage or doubt about your capabilities. Believe in yourself and always be willing to listen to the unique demands of your customers. Most importantly, as the business environment is fast evolving and becoming more complex, be flexible and always be ready to encounter the most unpredictable uncertainties. This surprisingly will open up avenues for bigger and more resourceful opportunities.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Kamlesh: We’re always looking to welcome candidates who are talented, passionate, and looking to work in a fast-paced, enthusiastic environment. If one would like to be a part of our award-winning team, drop us the CV to our recruitment team or directly visit our career page on Rayna Tours’ website.
Where can we go to learn more?
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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