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Education and learning can never be wasted

  ...says PRACHI GARG, owner of GhoomoPhiro, an event management company for corporates. With MBA and journalism degrees up her sleeve, this new-age power-packed lady tells Advanc’edge MBA how the business acumen running in her blood helped her fulfil her long-cherished dream of turning her passion for travelling into her own company.  

Q.  Tell us about yourself and what prompted you to start a business of your own?
I am a simple small town woman with big dreams. After my Class 12, I got introduced to the ways of a big city when I started doing my graduation in Computer Science from Delhi’s Miranda House. Before that I had always been within the confines of a small town in Uttar Pradesh called Bulandshahr.
However, I was always interested in going out and exploring new places. Travelling has been a passion that I have nurtured ever since I was a child. So starting a business that involved travelling was always at the back of my mind.

Q.  What is GhoomoPhiro all about? What is the kind of work that you do at GhoomoPhiro?
Starting this business was more like giving wings to my passion. The fact that I named it GhoomoPhiro also came very spontaneously. One day I was sitting with my father when he suggested that since my area of work revolves around ghoomna phirna, why not name it GhoomoPhiro. So I started off very casually, but slowly, this company became the most important aspect of my life.
At GhoomoPhiro, we organise corporate tours and events. It can be a single day event, a weekend programme or else a trip of four to five days. I inspect everything on my own – first starting from the quality of the hotels, living arrangements, amenities offered and, most importantly, the food offered. I feel quality matters a lot in a niche business like this one. So I try and ensure that I offer the best possible package to my clients. This way they are satisfied and I am content that my job has been done well.

Q.  After your graduation you were working in an IT company as a programme manager. What made you realise that you needed an MBA degree to further your career?
I always wanted to do my MBA after gaining a few years of work experience. This is how I had chalked out my career path long ago. I view my MBA degree holistically. I could see it connecting the different dots in my life and giving me a newer perspective to go ahead. And honestly speaking, the MBA degree helped me immensely to develop my contacts and reach out to a much more cosmopolitan diaspora.

Q.  You were already into business when you studied MBA. How did you manage to balance work and education together?
I would want to give full credit to my time management skills for that. (Laughs) In fact, I cultivated this habit of multi-tasking right from my college days. At Miranda House, I not only studied Computer Science diligently, I was also associated with different societies and college groups. I was an active member of the Dramatic Society, president of NSS (National Service Scheme), part of Quiz Society and also an intrinsic member of their Creative Society. I also used to send out my writings to several publications and freelanced with them. I even wrote for Advanc’edge magazine while I was preparing for CAT. (Smiles) So handling multiple things while giving equal attention to each one of them individually was something I was quite used to doing since my college days. Naturally, I didn’t face any problems when I had to juggle my business and education. In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed my journey!

Q.  Was there any specific reason that led you to start GhoomoPhiro?
Starting a business was always at the back of my mind. And since I hail from a business family, giving shape to an enterprise all by myself was not an alien concept for me. In fact, I was aware of the intricacies and challenges of running a company ever since my childhood.
To be honest, although I enjoyed my stint in the company I worked for, a part of me always yearned to start something of my own. I thought that, instead of toiling eight hours every day in an organisation, if I had to work for 20 hours for my own start-up, I wouldn’t mind! After all it would be my baby and I’d bear its complete responsibility – be it success or failure. 

Q.  When did you realise that an MBA degree might be crucial in your stint as an entrepreneur?
It’s not just about the MBA degree, I feel any kind of training or education is never, ever wasted. My computer science, journalism and MBA degrees put together have made me the person I am today. And whatever I have learnt from each one of them is put to the best possible use, now that I am running a company.
But specifically, I’d say my MBA days have helped me expand my social circle immensely, and building contacts is extremely crucial in a business. While studying, we all were like a family and today, I can say that the networking that I established during those days is invaluable and will be an asset to me in the days ahead as well.
I would want to add that my stint at Great Lakes was the only period of my life when I got the luxury, or to put it precisely, the right platform, to experiment with my business ideas. 

Q.  You have mentioned that you come from a business family. Did that influence your decision to start a business?
Absolutely. My parents are in the publishing business and they are my biggest strength. They encouraged me and helped me carry forward my decision to start a company. Since they were both already running a company, they knew the nuances of the trade and what it takes to successfully start and run a business. So they gave me enough support to sustain through this challenging journey.

Q.  You could have easily carried forward your father’s business. Instead you chose the harder way and started your own business. How challenging was that? Share with us your ride.
Yes, I could have worked in my father’s company. Even now I help my Dad with whatever I can contribute. But I always wanted to start something completely on my own. My parents had always taught me to listen to my heart. They had encouraged me to do things my way ever since I was a child. So when it came to business, I wanted to pursue my passion – travelling. I felt this business would help me travel more extensively, and naturally I’d feel enthused about my work. And my parents were supportive of my decision and never stopped me.

Q.  You have worked as a salaried person and now you are at the other end of the table – you generate salaries of your employees. How challenging is that role reversal?
The role reversal is certainly challenging, because now at this juncture of my life when I am running a business, I am responsible not only for my family but the sustenance of my employees’ families as well. So I must say this makes me a more cautious and mature human being. The responsibility is also giving me immense satisfaction at the end of the day.
I am thoroughly enjoying this challenging journey. I get an amazing thrill every day to go to work, come up with strategies of expanding my business, deal with my employees and clients and basically run the company I am so passionate about.

Q.  Is running a company, however small or big, tougher than working in an MNC?
When I am working for someone, I certainly put in hard work and concentrate a lot in order to achieve the best possible results. But when I am running my own company, the dynamics change completely. I will settle for nothing but the best every time my company delivers to the client. It’s a different ballgame completely, because the onus to succeed is completely on me. So I push myself to the limits to get appreciation from my clients. I will not call that challenging, but describe it more as a rewarding experience. My dedication and expectation levels are on a different high completely.

Q.  Share with us some of the day-to-day challenges that you face.
While running a business, I am bombarded with challenges continually. But the best part is that I never feel bogged down by them and look for interesting ways to sort them out. For example, I’ve even ended up cleaning my floor and my room on days my maid doesn’t come! This was certainly never the scenario when I worked in the IT firm. But trust me, I love everything that I do for my company. I never crib.
At times when the work demands, I often stay back late and finish a particular assignment. But I don’t have a problem because my company is my baby and it’s my responsibility to ensure all the requirements are properly met. 

Q.  I am sure you will agree networking is an important part of MBA programme. Any advice for students who want to become entrepreneurs?
Yes networking is certainly crucial in business and it’s an ongoing process never to be neglected.
But I would like to say that students mustn’t treat any lead as insignificant or irrelevant. Life is strange, and many a time the smallest and the apparently insignificant lead can convert into the most lucrative of deals.

Q.  Many entrepreneurs start companies to take forward their office work in a more personalised and niche manner. In your case it was not the case. What made you choose something completely different?
I am a travel-crazy person so there was never any doubt that I wanted to choose travelling as the main theme of my business.
There is one more thing I am interested in. So if not travel, it would have been something to do with it, and that’s food. (Laughs) I love to eat and so again opening a business on food would have been like indulging in the varied gastronomical delights, which I am extremely interested in.

Q.  Many students pursue MBA after their computer science. But you have done journalism as well along with the two. How did you manage to fit journalism into your scheme of things?
I have always loved to write ever since I was a child. So I thought that a journalism degree would be excellent to hone my writing skills. I already had a degree in computer science. I used my writing skills to come up with impressive technical articles that received a lot of appreciation.
Moreover, I am a person who loves connecting dots from various fields. I feel there is so much to learn in this life. And now that I am running a company, I can utilise my education in the best possible manner because I end up doing multiple things.

Q.  What are your future plans with GhoomoPhiro? How are you planning for an expansion?
Right now, we are organising corporate trips. Along with this, in future I am planning to organise trips for school children in 7th, 8th,9th and 10th standard.
There is also a distant plan of starting a trip for single women in groups of five or six people. Many women are clueless about their travel plans. They also face restrictions from families in the various stages of their lives. And yet, some of them do want to explore unknown territories. I want to help such women discover the uncharted territories of this world.

Q.  Any particular advice for MBA aspirants who dream of becoming entrepreneurs one day?
Concentrate on your education first, but at the same time, dare to dream. Life is very long, so there is always scope to travel down unconventional routes. It is okay to defy conventions and travel along the road less taken. I would suggest that the best time to take up newer challenges is during your MBA days. MBA gives you an exposure to a lot of new things. So it’s the best opportunity to get experimental at this juncture of life.