Vinod Thimmaya (Co-founder and MD, Humming Bird Suites Pvt. Ltd.) shares how the venerability of the franchisee model helped their team leverage on a clear business opportunity.
Five years ago, when Vivek Madappa, co-founder and CEO of HummingBird (HB), was in conversation with a senior manager of a large company at a party, he realised that corporates were finding it difficult to manage their travel and hotel budgets. Hotels were over-charging and companies were looking for an affordable alternative. Finding a clear business opportunity waiting to be exploited, the present HummingBird team stepped in to fill the gap, tells us Mr. Vinod Thimmaya, co-founder & MD, HummingBird India. “Unlike hotels, our target audience was only the corporates. When you are so focused, you come up with many creative solutions for your clients. “I guess this is the reason why we are doing well in business,” confesses Mr. Thimmaya, as he shares more in this exclusive interview.
Q. Do share details of your career before you started HummingBird.
A. When I completed my engineering, there were just 5 companies that came to campus and since I was not in the top 10 per cent of the class, there was not much hope. Engineering was not my passion and I knew I would not like working in a manufacturing set up, so the best option was sales and marketing. I realised that in most companies the CEOs came with a marketing background. So the choice to pursue a career in this line was pretty simple. I took up a sales job and worked for 6½ years in Xerox & GE in Bombay. One day I realised I did not like working in an MNC and quit my job. The very next day I flew to Bangalore and convinced Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) to give me a franchisee to market credit cards in Bangalore. The business did well for eight years. We were within the top three franchisee for SCB and also held the franchisee for Tata Teleservices. We realised that as a franchisee, your business is at the mercy of the principle company and they did not want their franchisees to grow larger. The venerability of the franchisee model made us launch our own product where we could dictate our turnover and growth. Hence, we started HummingBird.
Q. What does it take to set up your own business from scratch?
A. One must do the following in order to set up a business:
• Learn to accept the fear of uncertainties in business and the fear of failure.
• Capital or the ability to raise it.
• To be able to build a team.
• The tenacity to hang in long enough, as you are sure to face roadblocks.
Q. What is your vision for HB?
A. Our business operates on the ‘hub and spoke model. It is a blend of the comfort of a home with the efficiency of a business hotel. We would like to refer to it as having three times the space at 1/3rd cost. This model provides the service deliverables of a business hotel at the operational cost of a guest house. The vision is to be the most admired company in the hospitality industry and provide the required ROI to our investors.
Q. How do you motivate your people and what role does HR play in this?
A. We have qualified professionals who work in the various departments, most of whom have grown within the company. I think people are motivated if the job is challenging, exciting, and calls for the individual to be a contributor. We create an environment to let people explore their talents. My job is to inspire people and it is their job, in turn, to motivate themselves. HR plays a vital role in building the organisation. It plans for manpower requirements, hires employees, and is responsible for the induction programme to ensure new recruits are attuned to the culture of the organisation. HR also helps other departments to budget manpower, develop roles, define KRAs, and review the outcome.
Q. What opportunities and trends do you foresee in the market, and how will you capitalise on them?
A. We believe that there is a huge opportunity for multiple service offerings to the corporations, as long as our brand can own a portion of their mindspace. We believe that many corporate houses will gradually start exploring an affordable alternative to a hotel that can help them save 25 per cent on their travel budget. So we will partner with companies to reduce their travel cost.
Q. Tell us about your leadership style. Any leader who you admire?
A. I follow the situational leadership style. The leaders I admire most are JRD Tata, Ratan Tata, and Barack Obama.
Q. Your secrets for work-life balance?
A. In 21 years of my career I have never worked beyond 6:30 pm or on Saturdays. As a family man I find it important to devote time to family and to hobbies. The time I spend with my children is priceless. We try to take five holidays a year. Fortunately, I have learnt to deal with stress. I do not want to reach the end of my life and realise that I compromised on any area of my life in pursuit of another. If one is content in life, the balance happens naturally.
Virtually Inspired Nomads
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