Prema Ram, who started her career as a college lecturer, joined the travel industry quite by chance. Now she is working as GM, Sales (Karnataka & Kerala), Air France.
How did you become interested in hospitality business?
GM, Sales (Karnataka & Kerala)
It may sound strange. I was a college lecturer for the MA- Sociology course and had simultaneously registered for M Phil degree (prior to a PhD) in Bangalore University. I chanced upon an advertisement calling for a professional to start up a travel agency. Since the Managing Director of the agency was a well known motorbike racer (Sherif Dayan) whom I had a fancy to meet. I applied for it purely with the objective of meeting him for an autograph. He offered me a job, I stepped in. And, there began my tryst with the travel industry. What is your current role at your company?
I am currently with AF/KL as General Manager -Sales for Karnataka and Kerala; responsible for selling AF, an online service from gateway BLR; AF/KL product services from other gateways, i.e. BOM and DEL and offline sales from Kerala. What plans - immediate and long term - do you have?
In the challenging environment that the aviation industry is currently in, one needs to look for quick-fix strategies and re-orient the way we engage with customers. My immediate plan is to work on a canvas impinging on these objectives. As a travel industry professional what is your ambition? Where would you like to see yourself ten years from now?
I have had the good fortune of working in the Industry for three decades, and can go on till eternity. The learning opportunities are enormous in this industry and the organisation I work in. I plan to combine my work experience and qualifications and go back to teaching at some future date. Perhaps a second innings in the teaching profession. Who or what has been the greatest influence in your professional life?
My peers at work have influenced me greatly. Team members have had an impact on me at every stage of my career. My perspectives on relationship, customer- engagements and professionalism are derived from the people I work with. A truly enriching experience! As woman, what were the challenges you had to face in your professional life? What is your advice to young girls who enter the sector?
My advice is that one should work towards maintaining a work-life balance. This is essential and well accepted in the corporate world, so one needs to carry no guilt about demonstrating it. What matters in a meritocracy is alignment with the organisational goals and that deliverables are met. In short, work smart, not hard. What is the secret of your success?
I have this intrinsic belief that only three ingredients are required to produce a high-performance team - simple ideas, simple people and simple tools. What is your proudest moment (till date) in your job?
In my previous assignment, I was responsible for the launch of KU Cargo freighter in 1991, followed by 9W in 1993. But undoubtedly, the highlight of my career was the launch of AF operations in BLR in 2005. Tell us about your family.
My husband Ram is a CA and has been doing private practice. We have a daughter Sharanya, a linguist, an Honours Graduate from the School of Foreign Languages, JNU, New Delhi; and a son, Sumant who qualified with a dual MS from Ann Arbor, Michigan and is an Oral Surgeon in the US. What are your hobbies?
Learning new stuff. To this end, I have successfully completed a three-year MBA programme from The Open University Business School, UK. In addition I hold a Six Sigma green belt certification from KPMG for which I qualified in 2005. The stress busters are crafts like embroidery, painting and gardening.