When B L Nijhawan started out on his own without any support decades ago in 1974, he probably did not envision that his company would have plans to reach the US$ 750 million turnover mark by 2016. Under the leadership of his son Sham Nijhawan, his grandson Ankush Nijhawan is taking the business to the next level. By Reema Lokesh
Chartered Accountant Sham Nijhawan, chairman, Nijhawan Group stands with pride today. The vital link between the past and present, this finance wizard stepped into the business at the right time to assist his father B L Nijhawan (founder of the Nijhawan Group) to strengthen the business and expand its reach. A man who firmly believes in processes for business success, Sham admires his father’s conviction and commitment to start a business against all odds. However you cannot miss the pride his voice when he speaks of the achievement of his young turk, son Ankush Nijhawan who is redefining the way of doing business in the travel trade and beyond.
Though Sham Nijhawan’s strategies and astute vision gave his father the confidence to continue his mission, he underplays his achievements and firmly believes that there is so much more to life than just business talk. He says, “My father is a complete workaholic. He is unstoppable even at 91 years of age. A few years ago (when he was 88 years old) he shocked us by discussing work even when on ventilator support in a hospital. When it comes to me, I switch off from my world of business at around six pm. There is so much more that life offers to explore and experience than just work.” He totally agrees to the saying ‘work hard and party harder’.
B L Nijhawan, started his career in 1946 and is today a living legend of the trade. The group today thrives on his sales acumen and sheer determination to work in the unexplored territory in the regions of Punjab. Working at the grassroot level, he travelled across villages in the early 70s and 80s and proved to be a true entrepreneur building jobs, careers and homes in the field of travel and tourism. He worked out of a hotel for over 10 months as he had no support, no bank guarantees and neither offices. He built his empire steadily with sheer grit and gumption. B L Nijhawan points out, “I was boycotted, looked at with suspicion but I never drifted from my goal. I kept doing good work against all odds and criticism because within me I knew I was on the right track.” Many travel agencies were set up under his guidance. He founded the group as the GSA for British Airways in 1974. On a lighter note, there was a time when people in Punjab called British Airways (BA) as Bansilal Airways, which is the founding father’s first name. With his 69 years of experience in the business he has given the industry a company that is today a leading business house diversifying incisively each day.
The transfer of the baton within this company was also well defined from the father to the son. Today, armed with his grandfather’s well wishes and his father’s financial acumen, Ankush Nijhawan is managing director, Nijhawan Group. A graduate from Boston with a major in marketing and psychology, he is the young blood who has taken travel beyond its set boundaries. Though he was born with all the comforts and a well established job to set into, he decided to take the tough way to success by working like his grandfather from the grassroot level, walking through the bylanes of New Delhi to meet and understand their travel partners. In 2001 he wanted to pursue his MBA overseas but his father sat him down to discuss his future and convinced him to not do his MBA as he had taken a lot of responsibilities off his father’s shoulder. From a brick and mortar B2B Delhi centric business of US$ 40 million in 2002, Ankush Nijhawan, took the first mover advantage by adopting technology which has transformed Travel Boutique into Travel Boutique Online (popularly know as TBO) with its wings spreading pan India and in 55 other countries as well. With his vision and hardwork, TBO today is a leader in the online B2B travel space. The Nijhawan Group now also represents luxury hotel brands and has ventured into retail brands, catering and salons. This angel investor’s aim to be an established private equity investor is only a matter of time.