CHENNAI: The travel agency industry has seen a lot of changes in the past few years with the arrival of app-based room and cab booking services across the globe. Even after many travel agencies shut down, a few worked consistently and stood the test of time. One of them is Sree Travel Agency. Sixty-eight-year-old K Elanthirayan, managing director of Sree Travels, which is one of the oldest travel agencies in the city, talks about the business and his life.
When did your interest in travel begin?
Right from when I was studying in school, History and Geography were my favourite subjects. Nothing else interested me as much as exploring different places, and my world then was very small. I had eight siblings and my family was struggling to help us study.
When did you foray into business?
I was working as a mechanical inspection officer in one of the companies on Mount Road. In 1980s, three of us went on a trip to Malaysia and Thailand. We observed that the video cassette business in that country was booming, so we got back and set up the business here at Kolathur, together. It was called Sree Video Vision and it was an instant hit. A couple of years later, we began Sree Electronics to sell TV sets and home appliances.
When did you shift to travel business?
After three to four years of Sree Electronics, we incurred a major loss and lost all our money. It felt almost impossible to come out of it and friends too had left. So, I finally decided to channel my love for travel into a business and began Sree Travels in 1987.
Why is it called Sree Travels?
Sree has the initials of the names of two of my friends and mine. S came from Sarathy, R from Raja and E from Elanthirayan. We added an ‘E’ to make it a word.
How was the business back then?
People were willing to travel. However, they had a few doubts about their safety. My first trip was with 500 employees of a company called Vijay Garments in MEPZ to Hogenakkal, Salem and Coimbatore. As I had visited the places previously, the organisation was perfect and it was a hit. I also organised a honeymoon trip to Kulu Manali in December for senior citizens. As many as 70 couples joined us. After this, orders kept pouring in one after the other.
Which is your most memorable trip?
There are so many, but if I have to mention one, it has to be China, two years ago. There were 27 travellers and at the hotel, there was some bag change and the bag with their passports got mixed up with the garbage and went to the dumping yard. After retrieval, six passports were completely drenched and torn. So, I was running from pillar to post, from Indian embassy to all offices concerned and finally got them done in five days. I was happy that the people who believed in me did not have to suffer.
What is your business mantra?
Create a happy environment and things will fall in place automatically. Also, if it is travel business, you have to check for the problems in a place than its merits so that your customers don’t have any trouble.
How are you at home vs office?
I am the same, happy person. I wake up by 4 am, make business calls, read the paper, spend time with family, come to work and sleep by 8.30 pm. It all has become a part of my life and I am the same everywhere.
What are your future plans?
I plan on visiting as many places as possible. Today, I am 68 years old and I don’t want to stop till my feet keep moving.