Home > Lifestyle > High Profile E-Mail this page || Print this page
‘Saving Travel Time Is The Overriding Criteria When On Business’

Ashank Desai, chairman and managing director, Mastek Ltd, breezes through his jetsetting lifestyle, in conversation with Reema Sisodia

In retrospect, how would you trace your journey from the initial stages of establishment to the present times?
Travel has been an integral part of my endeavour to building the image of Mastek and India across the globe. It has helped me develop the enterprise from country to country gradually. From my first business trip in 1986 to Munich, till this very day, travel has been an indispensable aspect of my professional life. I have traced the transition from the initial phases of travelling on a shoe-string budget as a backpacker, to the present day wherein travel has become both convenient and comfortable. The journey has, hence, been full of contrasting incidents and experiences. But to describe it in a nutshell, ‘challenging’ is what comes to mind. Undoubtedly, travel has been the prime facilitator in building the Mastek empire.

In 15 years of globe trotting, which destinations have featured on your map and how frequently have you been travelling?
Over the past 15 years, schedules have varied from approximately eight to nine times a year, essentially international, in Asia, Europe and North America. As for domestic travel, I don’t even consider that as travel any more. In the forthcoming months, I would be travelling across continents, tapping new sectors especially in the Far East. Business potential exerts a direct influence on the frequency of travel and destination visited.

How would you describe yourself as a business traveller?
Being a people’s person, I enjoy meeting new people and getting acquainted with diverse cultures. What I look forward to most when jetsetting is interaction, communication and dialogue. As a discipline, I make time for a customary jog. If time permits, I also make an effort to visit interesting and unique places of the city. I have a penchant for collecting books. Hence, I scout around for editions that would add value to my collection. Visiting bookshops across the world is a ‘must do’ on my list. Sitting in a hotel room does not inspire me at all.

Making performance the benchmark, which airlines would you position as creme de la creme?
I don’t think I would classify any one airline as numero uno. Each airline has its own exclusive features. However, British Airways (BA), Delta (DL), Singapore Airlines (SQ) and Air-India (A-I) are airlines that are unrivaled, in my opinion. Convenient timings and excellent connectivity are my foremost concerns. Keeping these as yardsticks, all the above international airlines meet my expectations.

One of the core contentions amongst airlines is in-flight service. Which airline would you classify as the unmatched contestant in this category?
Air-India, Singapore Airlines and Delta are definitely top of the line in terms of in-flight service. SQ has a special touch to it ensuring a complete flying experience. Personal touch, coupled with empathy and variety of offers on flight, gives them a definite edge. But in terms of comfort especially with respect to cabin seats, Delta scores over SQ. The revamped first class is a treat for the weary business traveller.

“The revamped First Class of Delta is a treat for the weary business traveller”

Do you consider frequent flier programme memberships a vantage point?
Well, one does derive certain benefits as a member of a frequent flier programme such as seat preference and confirmed bookings. Meal preferences and other specifications are also catered to. Personally I think, Delta offers a very responsive frequent flier programme. However, despite being part of most frequent flier programmes, I still have to reap their benefits.

Does domestic travel contend with international travel at all?
Travelling within the country is definitely less stressful and our domestic airlines, whether Jet or Indian Airlines, are extremely efficient in terms of service and performance. Exemplary service comes naturally to Indians. I personally prefer staying with Indian hotel chains as their level of service is first-rate and personalised.

What factors influence your choice of hotel?
Saving travel time is the overriding criteria when travelling on business, which effectively makes strategic location the benchmark to choose a hotel. The hotel should be located in proximity to the venues of my scheduled appointments, as most of my meetings are slated well in advance. I prefer hotels that are centrally located as it ensures minimum wastage of time commuting from point A to point B. The availability of Indian cuisine also plays its small part. The Marriott, Holiday Inn, Six Continents and the Hilton are my preferred choices.

In order of significance, what aspects do you perceive as crucial with regards to travel?
To begin with, time for me is a decisive factor. Thus, various mediums, which facilitate travel, have to prove gainful with respect to time. Keeping in mind our hectic schedules, convenient flight schedules are vital aspects of business travel. Value for money, especially with respect to hotel properties, is also fairly significant. The preference and availability of Indian meals would be an added bonus. Due to the frequency of travel, I have a separate parallel luggage ready at base to nullify the hassles associated with pre-travel arrangements, proving to be an effective time-saver.

Lastly, is there a specific episode from your wealth of travel experiences that you would like to share?
I could think of a few, but I’ll tell you about a fairly recent incident, during my stay in Japan. As I mentioned earlier, jogging forms part of my daily regime. As I took off for my morning jog around the Emperor’s Palace in Tokyo, I soon lost sight of my hotel. As the Japanese are early risers, almost everyone in the entourage was dressed in business suits already headed to work. In this impeccably dressed crowd, I was practically the only person wearing shorts, asking frantically for directions in an alien place as language proved to be a major barrier. It was a strange morning and this experience still lingers in my mind.