Manoj Tulsani is the CEO and co-founder of Dubai-headquartered Rayna Group which has carved a niche for itself in the travel and hospitality industry. In this inspiring interview, Manoj shares his valuable experience of how he blazed a new trail with the opening of Rayna Tours and Travels, which has now become one of the most successful destination management companies.
Hi Manoj! What's your background, and what are you currently working on?
Hey there, I am Manoj Tulsani! I grew up in Ajmer in the Indian state of Rajasthan. In the late 90s after the completion of my graduation in the commerce stream, I came to Dubai. At the age of 28, I, along with my dear friend Kamlesh Ramchandani, started Rayna Tours which has now emerged from a travel boutique to one of the UAE’s premier destination management companies. I am currently the CEO of Rayna Group which focuses on diversified business activities like real estate, construction, and transport, apart from managing travel business spread across different parts of the world.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Before starting Rayna Tours, I worked with Safeer Group of Companies. And later, at Time Machine Group of Companies, where I was promoted to the more responsible position as Marketing Head. After almost seven years into my professional career, I decided to explore an unchartered territory. That is when I began to deeply think about the possibilities of launching Rayna Tours in 2006. My love for travel, curiosity to discover exotic cultures, and my passion to reach out to more and more people, were the main reasons that inspired me to take up this huge risk. And no sooner, I and Kamlesh were onboard to taste the challenges, difficulties and obviously the success of entrepreneurship.
How did you build Rayna Tours?
We kicked off our entrepreneurial journey from a small travel outlet in Dubai’s Flora Grand Hotel. In those days, people traveling to Dubai used to book hotels in advance and often ignored the importance of tour reservations. And this is where we saw the opportunity; our target was to organize quality tours at low cost to the hotel guests. This proved to be highly innovative (at that time) and we began to get an amazing response which enticed us to open seven more outlets in two years. And by 2009, we had established ourselves as a full-service Destination Management Company with our main office in Old Labour Building, Abu Hail Dubai. Ten years later, it’s gratifying to see everything in place. We’re now active in both B2C and B2B verticals, besides our successful presence in close to 10 countries.
Which were your marketing strategies to grow your business?
We thought about tons of them. Some turned out to be lucrative and some others were unsuccessful. One of our major marketing strategies has been to invest in our own desert camp plus an extensive fleet of luxury vehicles, yachts, dhows etc. This has allowed us to guarantee the best rates in the industry for the majority of our services such as desert safaris to limo tours, transfers and dhow cruises.
Another great strategy was to get into the online world; Our website is now one of the largest all-inclusive platforms on the web to compare, select and book a vast spectrum of tours and holiday packages in a few easy steps.
We are really active on almost all social media platforms where we share our latest news, promotions, product launches, etc. We’ve also launched a user-friendly app for the convenience of our guests. More importantly, we have introduced several innovative programs in order to better serve and give back to our community of agents and travel operators, such as R Points. There is a dedicated technical team in order to ensure the unprecedented efficiency and top performance of all our online services. Besides our high-end technological solutions, we focus on traditional marketing techniques as well, such as printed ads, phone calls, face to face meetings, and direct emails.
What were the biggest challenges you have faced and obstacles you have overcome?
It was apparent from day one that we’re doing something different. l though the concept of getting started was quite easy, but the beginning wasn’t so smooth. As a complete newcomer in the industry, we ran into several unexpected obstacles and challenges.
There were financial constraints and the worst part was that we didn’t have a mentor or a good team or great experience or a fail-safe business plan to survive in this industry. We have had plenty of bad days, but what always kept us going was a strong belief in ourselves and our idea. There was a lot of struggles to find the right resources, a team with enough pool of employees and mostly, align our offerings to our customers’ interests. Despite anything, we have focused on a detail-oriented approach with top quality offerings and economic pricing right from the beginning. That’s what absolutely resonates with our end users and throughout made us a highly recommended choice among our customers.
In fact, it’s thanks to our genuine efforts and unwavering determination that we have now come a long way. However, I think tackling challenges is something ongoing and unstoppable as the industry is ever evolving, bringing in many uncertainties every now and then. You should be therefore always prepared to confront improbable situations and devise innovative solutions which effectively respond to the most difficult of problems.
Which are your greatest disadvantages?
I think I am a complete workaholic and really obsessive about the quality of our travel services and new offerings. But I must confess that I really enjoy what I’m doing.
One downside is that my busy schedule has sometimes posed difficulties in terms of making myself present for my dear ones as well as the team. Fortunately, I am blessed with a deeply talented workforce and a great family; my wife Rinkie, daughter Rayna, and son Aryan are incredibly understanding and always supportive of my ideas.
During the process of building & growing Rayna Tours, which were the worst mistakes you committed?
We have made lots of mistakes in the process of building Rayna Tours, but especially these were what encouraged us to move forward with confidence. In fact, every failure has given us only a valuable lesson. So I believe that there is nothing as mistakes. I would rather refer to them as experiments which turn you away from repeating the same folly again. So don’t be afraid to commit mistakes or more precisely experiment with your thoughts and ideas. You’re only winning when you learn and take home some valuable lessons from your slip-ups.
If you had the chance to do things differently, what would you do?
Well, this is strange but I genuinely don’t want to change anything about my business journey. As I told earlier, we had to face so many struggles in different phases of setting up Rayna Tours and Travels. And what’s amazing is that all of them had only made us wiser and better people. In fact, I am deeply grateful to this incredible entrepreneurial journey which has helped us to bring the best out of us.
Apart from mistakes, what are other sources for learning you would recommend for entrepreneurs who are just starting?
This may sound cliché but make sure that you follow your heart and be consistent with your ideas. And the most vital thing is to utilize all available avenues and resources to make yourself abreast of the up and coming industry trends and innovations. As the industry is evolving, you can now count on several innovative avenues for ideas and inspirations. There are effective podcasts, inspiring books, and guides which can help you to learn more and more.
So trust your entrepreneurial spirit, go ahead with your unique ideas, and make the most of the opportunities / resources available all around. Above all, always be open to challenges; they will get you out of your comfort zone while making you more spontaneous and spot on with pragmatic business decision makings. All these would definitely bring the result you deserve!
Where can we go to learn more?
You can visit our website and RaynaB2B website to know more about our products and services. Along with detailed product and services information, you’ll also come across exciting discount codes which you can apply for instant savings on your favorite tours and holiday packages. You’ll also find us on all popular social media platforms including Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.