Interview

Raj – the CEO who inspires others to dare to dream and excel better

There are people who just don’t live their lives, but try to make a signature on whatever things they do. They will always have their own way of dealing with things. Raja Gopaal Iyer, CEO of Uday Samudra Leisure Beach Hotel and Spa, Kovalam, is such a soul.

Raj, as he is known among people, always has a different outlook on doing things. His way of managing people is also unique. According to Raja Gopaal Iyer, Managers should not be just bosses, but leaders. He is a true leader who inspires others to dare to dream and excel better.

Recently Raj published a book of his ideas and thoughts, which he has been scribbling on a note book while dealing with different people and situations. ‘Raj Inspirations’- was released on 1st December 2019 by TP Srinivasan, former UN Ambassador, at a function in Thiruvananthapuram.

Uncovering of the book – Raj Inspirations

Manoj Attingal of Tourism News Live caught up with Raj on his inspirational quotes, his vision on life and his thoughts on different aspects of the tourism sector. Here are the excerpts from the conversation…

What was your inspiration to publish a book like this?

The quotes in the book are from the scribbling from my daily notes. I used to write down notes, while dealing with different people and situations. Once I have gone through them, I thought of compiling them to make a book. This book took some of my precious time, but they all are written considering various situations, which hold their individual meaning. This book is from my heart and soul with personal experiences considered.

Can you share some of your favorite quotes from the book?

From the book – Raj Inspirations

“Yes, I may have some flaws, but a few things about me are dynamic and extra-ordinary. I feel I am a special edition.”

“Don’t waste your time throwing stones at every barking dog on your way. Keep moving towards your destination.”

“A true leader is always a student. Learning and knowledge has no limits.”

“When we lift others, we ourselves rise.”

As the CEO of Uday Samudra, what is your vision about the industry?

Raj Vision, as I spell my vision, is to climb the mountain of opportunities, challenges and dilemmas with drive and determination based on excellent insights and realistic vision for the future. What I learned from in-depth research and analysis will construct the strategies on right fundamentals for the beneficial of my company. From this we learn, adapt and improvise as the best for the situation and the time.

It echoes in my mind repeatedly that ambitious times call for outstanding leadership to take the hospitality industry to its pinnacle. Reason behind was that the hospitality industry has stepped into a completely new dimension, with changing business models and constantly evolving market dynamics, which is definitely a time for introspection and evaluation.

Uday Samudra Beach Hotel

In the changing world, what do you think the future prospect of Kerala Tourism?

We have to seek new areas of tourism, other than mere site seeing and picnic. ‘Destination Wedding’ is getting popularity recently. More customers are looking at Kerala as the destination for wedding parties. We have everything here, good beach front, backwaters, moderate climate and less costly when compared to other popular destinations in India and abroad.

We can even conduct royal weddings here in Kerala same as in destinations like Rajasthan. We can arrange elephant, horses, even palaces can be re-created. We can provide them with our traditional art forms, ethnic foods and entertainment. Think about a ‘barath’ arranged in backwaters with an array of decorated shikaras and houseboats accompanying the groom’s houseboat.  We can put forth such novel concepts.

Wedding party arrangements at Uday Samudra, Kovalam

If you ask what Uday Samudra can offer, I would rather say it will be as per the requirement of the client. We can cater the things as per their expectations. What is their concept, theme, budget – we can arrange everything according to it.

The tourism industry of Kerala has been going through a bad time recently. The Nipah outbreak, floods and the hartals and strikes have affected industry adversely. How far we have recovered from it? What are your recommendations for a better tomorrow?

I feel, first of all we should stop talking on the past and make the future bright. The solution is very simple; the strategies what we have planned to rebuild Kerala tourism to be implemented first.

Secondly, the promotion of the destination has to have a better view in the market and bring better business. Make use of the social media to improve our reach.

How can you improve tourism or business in the state when you have the maximum Hartals? The attitude of the political parties should change first. Hartal like menaces should not be repeated in our state. Recently the tourism stakeholders has organized a protest against hartals in the state, the outcome of which is so far positive. Everyone is expecting to have our tourism industry to be exempted from strikes and hartals.

Next thing is to improve our destinations, which can be done jointly with the government and the entrepreneurs in the destinations. With joint responsibility, this can be achieved easily. For example, in Kovalam, make a joint committee of the local authorities and the hoteliers, to improve the facilities like proper toilets, ensuring hygiene, eliminating plastics, thus providing better environment for the guests. I am sure it will definitely bring changes.

Kerala’s honeymoon packages were popular before, we should try to get them back. A Bollywood couple can be called on for promotions. We should have Kerala beyond backwater and beaches. Propagate our products with Bollywood and Hollywood artists who can be brand ambassadors and make it revive Kerala as a romantic destination.

Kerala lacks golf tourism, casinos and pubs. Consider bars to be open till 12 midnight. We can also think about providing water sports, sea planes etc., in major beaches. Making our atmosphere suitable for night life is also another option, as part of diversification strategy.

You have been awarded a doctorate degree recently.  Tell us something about it?

We should be students always, learning new things. I always think that it is never too late. Do not worry about the time, as long as you are moving ahead in life. Do not compare, but compete with yourself. Your results will be fruitful.

The Doctor of Philosophy in Hospitality and Tourism Management certificate is provided by the University of Swahili, which is an Indo -American University chartered with Government of Panama and Campuses all over the world as per charter with Government. It is an affiliate of INQAAHE, which is the only International Accrediting Organization recognized and listed in a global level.

What is your say on Social Responsibility of the business world?

I have always been trying to be a social person. In UDS, we organize and participate in a number of social responsibility movements every year.

Ocean Love was one of the campaigns, aimed at saving the oceans from further degradation, which was officially launched on the 10th of April, 2017, at Groove Beach, Kovalam. The participants of the event where the CEOs of coastal hospitality facilities. The conference took a pledge to ‘Protect the Ocean & Marine life’ and has further decided to draw up a plan for a long term and sustainable plan of action for the Ocean Love campaign”.

Blue Ramp – Touching the sea, touching lives’ was another programme organized by UDS on 3rd December 2018, the World Disabled Day. The programme envisaged giving the disabled children an opportunity to see and experience the sea. It was the second edition of the programme. It was first organized in August 2017. The programme was organized in association with like minded organizations such as Bond safari, Kovalam Surfers, Kovalam Skating, Divine Super Market etc.

Blu Ramp – organizing team

The event could fulfill the dreams of the children from Center for Rehabilitation of Differently-abled (CRD), Polio Home, to soak their feet in the blue waters for the first time. We also plan to create a blue ramp for the children to access the beach.

from Blue Ramp

Raj has started his career with Oberoi, Delhi. Later he joined the Taj Group and served for 8 Years. While studying for Hotel Management, he used to work as part time waiter to take care of his education expenses. The hardships he has faced in his young age might have contributed for his determination and ability to face difficult situations in life.

Raj has two daughters; the elder one is graduated in Business Administration from Bangalore and doing her MBA. She plans to join her father’s company – Raj Hospitality, once she completes her training. His second daughter is doing her 1st year hotel management in Kovalam.