Today we are delighted to speak to Samir Uberoi about incentive programs in India. Samir is one of the three partners of Designer Incentives & Conferences!
Samir has had a fascinating journey! In this episode, he tells his story, and talks about incentive programs, especially an incentive trip in India. He dives into what it takes to be a business owner and go through the rollercoaster life of an entrepreneur. He also shares some stories to inspire business owners, discusses his hopes and dreams for the future, and offers advice for entrepreneurs.
We hope you enjoy today’s captivating conversation with Samir Uberoi!
Samir Uberoi is one of the three partners of Designer Incentives & Conferences, a DMC based in India. Designer Incentives and Conferences is considered a pioneer in the UK for the MICE segment to India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bhutan. Samir has over 30 years of experience in the travel industry and has personally accompanied and been involved with the planning and operation of virtually all of the MICE programs of Designer Incentives & Conferences in these destinations. Travel is not just his profession but also his passion!
Samir studied finance in college. After graduating in 1990, he went to New York City to start a career as an investment banker. He ran into an acquaintance who used to be with a financial company. He was working for a travel company. When Samir asked him for some contacts in the finance world, he explained that he was about to start operating in India and invited Samir to his office to help him with his India program. He then offered him a job. Samir loved the world of travel and has never looked back since then!
Samir’s business partners started offering designer holidays in 1990. Then in 1995, they invited Samir to go back to India to join them. He agreed and he and his wife returned to Mumbai to join their designer holiday company, which specialized in tours and groups. They later started along the route of doing designer incentives.
A mindset shift
Samir started in a senior position at Designer Holidays and worked his way to a partnership. Switching from an employee to a business partner required a complete mindset shift. It was not easy because he had to learn to function in an entirely new way and take on a lot of responsibility.
In 1995, Samir’s partners received a request from a tour operating principal in France to handle some of their incentives in India, and they invited Samir to travel with them. They were all surprised to discover how interesting and challenging it was to do incentives rather than tours. They needed to make it clear that they were doing incentives, conferences, and MICE, as well as tours. They established Designer Incentives & Conferences as an offshoot of Designer Holidays so that people could identify what they were doing from an incentive and conferencing perspective.
When they started using incentive programs, they had to learn a lot! The challenge was to educate themselves first and then teach their partners, the hotels, and everyone they worked with that an incentive is not a tour group.
Sri Lanka and Nepal
They also work with Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bhutan. They feel fortunate to have worked in destinations where they could help people understand the difference between an incentive programs and a tour group.
Bhutan is not a party destination and is only suitable for more discerning groups. Even so, those who have been there described it as a trip of a lifetime! Samir believes that the post-pandemic Bhutan will become a sought-after experience because it is so interesting, and the people there are so happy!
The rollercoaster of running a business
Over the last thirty years, India has experienced some incredible changes. When Designer Incentives & Conferences was founded, in 1990, the country was very different from how it is today. Starting a business was a big challenge. Samir and his partners had many unforeseen issues to deal with, yet they still enjoyed building their team of about fifty people and developing close relationships with everyone. They loved both the challenge and the joy of starting and owning a business.
Starting and growing a business
As a business grows, new problems tend to arise, like staffing issues and problems with authorities. Those issues can be both challenging and rewarding. Even though you can usually foresee a few issues when you start a business, you will only get to know the real joys and challenges when you do it.
When they started the business, Samir and his partners faced challenging times and dealt with big problems specific to India that affected their business badly. Fortunately there were three of them to support one another and overcome the issues with the help of their resourceful team.
Samir and his partners
Samir and his partners are all very different people. It has been helpful at times in terms of creativity but challenging when they had opposing points of view.
Samir’s hope for the future
In Samir’s experience, the positives of owning a business have far outweighed the challenges. He hopes to stay in business for at least another thirty years.
During Covid, the vital thing for Samir and his partners was communication. They decided to be honest with their team about whatever they could and could not do.
They had to make some tough decisions, but the priority was always to look after the team.
Samir’s company decided to downsize at the end of 2020 and work from a smaller space with a reduced team. Now, Samir is feeling motivated and enthusiastic about the business and hopes to rebuild it as things continue to improve.
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