UNIGLOBE has established itself as an internationally recognised consumer brand that offers value-added products and services to travellers. In an interview, Ritika Modi, Regional Director, UNIGLOBE Travel shares the successful journey of her company.
Ramajit Kaur (RK): Brief us about the origin, growth and success of UNIGLOBE Travel?
Ritika Modi (RM): The brain behind UNIGLOBE Travel is U Gary Charlwood, who founded the organisation in 1979. The idea that led to the inception of this travel franchise company is quite interesting. As co-founder of the successful Century 21 Canada, Charlwood recognised that a co-operative consumer marketing effort similar to the franchise system developed by Century 21 Canada could be very effective in the travel industry as well.
Using a master franchising template, UNIGLOBE was launched from its international headquarters in Vancouver, expanded across Canada and America in the 1980's, Europe in the 1990's, and Asia, the Middle East, and Southern Africa in the new millennium. Today, UNIGLOBE is the world's largest single brand travel franchise organisation and has over 700 travel agencies doing business in 50 countries worldwide. The company has an annual sales volume of more than three billion dollar. This success and growth can be attributed to the company’s focus on its target market of mid-sized corporate travel accounts and leisure travelers.
RK: What inspired UNIGLOBE Travel to take the franchise route to expand the business in India?
RM: While running a successfully travel agency back in the early 1990’s, I was concerned and conscious about the future of small to medium sized travel agencies in the growing globalisation and penetration of large TMC players. With this in mind, I researched and sought out UNIGLOBE Travel which was the best fit for the fragmented small-medium sized travel agent market. I then acquired the regional master franchise license of UNIGLOBE Travel under the umbrella of The VK Modi Group of Industries. The South Asia region includes India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Maldives. UNIGLOBE Travel (South Asia) began operations in 2002 and currently it has 48 agency locations across India with an annual sales volume of Rs 900 crore, making UNIGLOBE Travel (South Asia) one of the top five travel management companies in India.
RK: What is the USP of UNIGLOBE Travel?
RM: UNIGLOBE is the only travel franchise system in the world that is focused purely on the business of the franchisee. It is all about a way of doing business that delivers the highest possible return for its member travel agencies. And of course, we are flexible enough to introduce new ways of doing business as the market changes and evolve. The new ways of doing business could involve better technology, training or other elements, which we are geared to develop and implement.
Another USP is the UNIGLOBE Franchise Owners’ Association (UFOA) which is set-up to encourage an inter-relationship between its franchisees and also encourage franchisees to participate in strategic business development decisions.
RK: What are the eligibility criteria for selecting the franchisees for the company?
RM: For a system to work efficiently and effectively, it is important that the members of the network are like minded and conscious or desirous about growing their business. For a travel agency to be eligible, it needs to be IATA accredited agency with a minimum turnover of Rs five crore or more. The UNIGLOBE franchise systems is proven to deliver results for existing travel agency owners who have a customer base which comprises of corporate and/or individual clients.
RK: What kind of training and support does a franchisee get after partnering with your company?
RM: Training is one of the cornerstones in the successful implementation of the many programs provided by UNIGLOBE. With a comprehensive ongoing schedule of skills training, we provide leading edge sales and operational trainings not only to the franchise owners and their managers but also for frontline consultants and sales representatives. Our training programs comprise of a menu of more than 20 instructor led trainings. Besides this, ‘Agency Development Consultant’ is assigned to the new agency to help them implement the UNIGLOBE systems and standards. The consultant schedules all the trainings, technology implementation without overwhelming the agency owner or his team.
RK: How many franchised stores do you presently have? What are your future target locations to expand?
RM: In India, UNIGLOBE currently has 48 travel agency locations across the nation. We are also looking at expanding the network to other countries like Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Maldives, which are a part of the South Asia region.
RK: Any advice for the young entrepreneurs?
RM: It is very important to keep an open mind. The young generation must believe in new concepts and remember that just because something has never been done before, does not mean that it can never be done. It is important to follow your gut instinct because successful businesses are built on enthusiasm and visualisation. Most importantly, when getting into a franchise relationship, ensure that you understand the pros and cons well and have clarity on ‘why’ you want to get into a franchise relationship.
RK: What are the future plans of the company in terms of expansion through franchising?
RM: We are planning to take the count of our franchisees in India to 100 in the coming years.