“A traveller is the one who crosses borders, soldiers seldom do”, says Pradip Madhavji who has seen his life change from a successful banker to a tourism veteran. With close to four decades of experience, Madhavji has played different roles in the tourism industry. Today, the honorary consul general of Columbia and the chairman of the travel, tourism and hospitality committee of the Indian Merchants Chamber (IMC), Madhavji started his career in 1959 as a banker with a nine to five job at Dena Bank. After working there for about 17 years, it was only in 1977 he crossed paths with the tourism industry; this was the time when he quit Dena Bank as the in-charge of the bank’s entire foreign exchange operations.
Madhavji remembers, “In 1977, one fine day I saw a job advertisement for the post of commercial manager at Thomas Cook Overseas. This was the first time I thought maybe I should get into this industry, and I applied. Very soon I cleared my first round of interview and was told that my final interview will be in London. That was the moment when I was excited and also nervous at the same time as it was the first time I would be travelling abroad. From that day till now, my entire life took a different direction. I got a chance to visit many countries, some of them being very exotic destinations like Monaco, Bora Bora, French Polynesia, Yemen, etc.”
After starting his career as a commercial manager in 1977, Madhavji played an instrumental role in 1982 during the Indianisation of the company as required under the then Foreign Exchange Regulations Act [FERA]. One of the products which he introduced in Thomas Cook was the traveller’s cheque, which was one of the most successful products then. Madhavji explains with a smile, “I don’t think this current generation would have even heard about a traveller’s cheque. That was one product which made huge profits for us in those days. But yes with time many new products have evolved, today it is the plastic money which is in fashion.”
Madavji retired from Thomas Cook India after a service of 25 years, as the executive chairman of the board. During his period at Thomas Cook, Madhavji played another role as the elected president of the Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI) for the tenure 1998-99 and 1999-2000. Madhavji states, “TAAI was the best association then as it used to represent the entire travel and hospitality industry effectively. As a president of TAAI, I was present during the execution of the bond of friendship between our association and the UNWTO. “
Madhavji is the recipient of the Pacific Area Travel Writers Association (PATWA) international award in recognition of his lifetime contribution to promotion of tourism in India. He is also the recipient of the ‘Kutch Ratna’, the highest honour bestowed by his community for leadership qualities and contribution to the tourism industry. Earlier this year he was bestowed with the Life Time Achievement Award by TAAI.
70 plus and young
Today, the 70 plus year old Madhavji is still actively promoting tourism. He is also promoting Columbia as its hon. consul general based in Mumbai. He says, “Columbia is one of the most beautiful destinations. Currently a lot of Indian travellers are not travelling to Columbia, but in future we will surely see an increase in footfall.” Apart from this he is also the chairman of the Indian Oceans Tourism Organisation (IOTO) which is headquartered in the Sultanate of Oman. In IOTO with the assistance of Grant Thornton he has compiled a paper for the Mauritius based Indian Ocean Regional Association on the feasibility study of tourism promotion to the 20 countries of the Indian Ocean Rim.