On a pleasant spring morning last month, Paul Roll, the witty managing director of Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau, Atout France, gave a presentation to a group of journalists about the latest reasons to visit France and why the Indians and Chinese were going to be amongst the top five visitor groups to his country by 2025. During his talk, he shrugged away the fact that Paris listed amongst one of the top must-visit destinations in the world, and added instead that while every traveller wants to visit Paris at least once, it was the challenge of having them come back again that drove his team at France’s tourism authority. “Travelling merely to view architecture and buildings is ‘cold tourism’. What a repeat visitor looks for is ‘warm tourism’ – which is all about the people, the culture, living life like the locals,” he explained.
The very next day, I happened to meet Urvashi Bahuguna Sahay, the founder and CEO of Excluzen, a lifestyle e-portal that sells luxury experiences such as ‘golf and whisky tours’ online. Granddaughter of freedom fighter and former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, HN Bahugana, and daughter of newly elected Chief Minister of Uttarakhand Vijay Bahugana, Sahay armed herself with an MBA and spent more than a decade of her adult life in the corporate world of UK and Singapore. She recently took a sabbatical from her job at SingTel, Singapore, to launch her luxury website. “It was a big risk,” she says, acknowledging that her family’s network helped in building top-tier partnerships in a short period of time. “It’s all about the people eventually. Business is not just about money; it’s about having someone put their faith in you.”
Another couple of days later, I had a late-evening, laugh-a-thon chat on the phone with an ex-colleague. While sharing stories of our recent lives and the latest news and moves happening in our industry, we also talked about how precious it is when colleagues become friends. “It’s never just a job, you know,” he philosophised. “At the end of the day, it’s always about the people.”
My favourite maverick entrepreneur-author Seth Godin recently wrote a blog post titled, ‘It’s not business. It’s personal.’ He ended the three-line post with: “Work with people who take it personally.”
There are times we assume ‘systems’ define the functioning of our lives, and so we allow them to dictate our responses to circumstances. But entire businesses, corporations and governments run on people and their relationships with each other and the environment. No matter what you’re trying to create, sell or buy, it’s not about the product. It’s always about the people.