In this article, we speak to a born and bred Aussie who also has a passion for traveling.
Richard Coller is the Director of Professional Readiness Program at the SP Jain School of Global Management at their Sydney campus.
(Disclaimer: He was one of my professors when I was studying in Sydney.)
We talk to him to find about Aussie perception of traveling and also try to figure the perception they have about India.
D: Hi Richard. I would like to start with thanking for giving me your valuable time. I really appreciate it. Before we move on to the actual purpose of this interview, I would ask you to introduce yourself briefly.
R: Certainly. My name is Richard Coller and I am a Director of Professional Readiness Program at the SP Jain School of Global Management. I am born and bred in Australia, specifically Sydney. I am 63 years old now so I have 63 years-worth of life in Australia. In Sydney I live in the Southern Suburbs, close to the airport. Sydney now is recognized as a global city and of course I say that with a lot of pride.
D: So you are an Aussie through and through.
R: Yes absolutely!
D: Fantastic. Moving on then and coming to the topic of discussion: travel, my first question is what does traveling mean to you?
R: Well, I will have to probably answer that in two ways. Firstly, from a professional perspective and secondly, from a personal perspective.
D: So if I can guess right, you mean it in terms of business & leisure travel?
R: Yes. That’s correct.
Talking about business travel, that is where I have done majority of my travel, basically as a requirement of work. I have travelled extensively right throughout Australia and also, to some extent, around the world. The places include parts of Asia mostly South East Asia, The Pacific, USA, Canada and little bit of Europe.
Coming to the point what it means to me, I think travel is extremely important. For e.g. in the professional sense, you start to appreciate how differently business is done in culturally distinct places. It gives a new sense of outlook to your emotional intelligence. Imagine you are traveling from one region to another and while on the plane you are resetting your mindset to align with the culture of that region or in terms of how you behave professionally at another destination. So it is very enriching from that point of view. Plus, I have a fabulous network of people all around the world who I still keep in touch with.
Now, from a personal point of view, traveling has given me the opportunity to go around with my family and let them have an experience to the point where now they are very well travelled. My wife, every year, plans a trip with her group of friends. I also encourage my daughter to travel and she has trip planned up for this year.
I promote this activity very much because I believe travel introduces you to a much bigger learning curve.
D: Absolutely agree to you on that Richard. I mean to get genuine exposure about how the world works, travel is the best option. Today I am going around ANZ by myself and I have that confidence that I will be able to manage because of my past expeditions which gave me a lot of knowledge. I have traveled with friends, family & by myself and every time I have learnt something.
R:Precisely my point. You learn different cultures, lifestyles, cuisines, languages, etc. So personally I find travel to be very enriching.
D: From a purely leisure perspective, have you taken any travel initiatives? Like with family/friends but without any work in your bag?
R:Yes, absolutely, in fact one of our favourite family vacations spots is Hawaii. We visit the place frequently. It is quite a convenient place to travel because you have Hawaiian Air flying 4 times a week at night and you reach at 9 in the morning which is perfect to start your day.
D: Yeah, I mean flights play a significant role when it comes to making travel plans. Since I am here promoting travel to India, I am very happy that we have direct flights going to Delhi from Melbourne & Sydney.
Anyway, I would like to come to my next question now. If you had to talk about Australians, who are your age group, that is the group closer to retirement age or retired, how would you describe their travel preferences. I am asking here in terms of you guys preferring long/short holidays, explore/adventure/relax, experience seeking or stick to the usual track?
R: Well I would say that my segment is the prime market for travel companies.
D: For sure. In fact, this is the reason I have put forth this question. I want to know about the prime market because this market has the luxury of both time and money which makes it the most appropriate time in your life for traveling.
R: Exactly. Now, a lot of us in my circle travel frequently and major reason for that is a term you must have heard, ‘bucket list’. That is what they are doing, ticking off their bucket list.
How they travel, ummmm, tricky to define because it depends. I would say the majority probably go on something that is organised, packaged, or semi-packaged.
I don’t think a lot of them go with a ‘go with the flow’ mindset. They would prefer something planned and set, especially with places where they have never been to in the past.
So to have that security, planning their travel with a tour operating company is in some ways gives a surety that they will under care.
D: Definitely understand what you are saying here Richard because a majority of our clients belong to this market that we are discussing and that is what we strive to provide, ‘PEACE OF MIND’. We want them to know that there is someone out there who is looking after you. In those regards, we provide them local POCs for every destination and all employs dealing with operations, including the Director, are accessible 24x7. Plus we try to connect with them, in intervals, to take regular feedback about how their tour is working. So yeah, this is an important part of the experience and we understand that responsibility.
Anyway, coming back to preferences, would you agree they have a certain adventure/exploration needs in them?
R: Yes yes. In fact if I had to talk about my circle, one very popular destination where people travel to is Africa which is of course known for its wildlife.
D: Oh, that is very interesting. In that case, I should definitely invite your friends to India because we have one of the most incredible Flora and Fauna in our country. I mean even you would be surprised to know the amount of rare species we have in the region.
R: Indian wildlife is something even I have do not have much clue about. May be I can do some research since you have mentioned.
Apart from Africa, Europe is somewhere you would find people traveling to.
D: I am guessing that’s because most of the people have their roots there?
R: That is correct.
D: Alright. Coming to Asia now which you mentioned you have been to. Some countries you could name that you have been to?
R: Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, India but only Bombay.
D: Good you mentioned India because my next question was on that. You said you have only been to Bombay. So, let me just take that as ‘not being to India’ which brings me to an interesting thought here.
Now suppose you walk into a travel retail store offering various destinations. You sit down in front of a consultant and you guys discuss your travel options. You tell the consultant that you would like them to suggest something interesting. The consultant thinks about it for a while and suggests an India programme, how do you think you would react and what would be your concerns? I am trying to understand your perception about the place.
R: There are 3 elements to this answer. Firstly, I hear that a lot that since you have only been to Bombay, you have not really been to India which is a fair enough assessment and I accept that.
Secondly, coming to the perception. Well if you had asked me this question 10 years ago, my answer would have been very different than what would it be today purely because I am working at a university which gets a lot of Indian students.
But now, because of this uni, I have learnt so much about India than I did in my entire life.
This learning has fostered into an interest to the point I actually want to travel the place.
I meet people from North – South – East – West parts of India and naturally when I come back I google some stuff to find out some of the most amazing things about the place.
I mean people here would probably just imagine India in terms of Bombay/Delhi/Kolkata, the hustling and bustling cities with uber rich and uber poor people, pollution and population.
But through the medium of internet, I have got the access to visuals of places from inside of the country and some of the things I see is breath taking.
D: I completely understand where you are coming from Richard and I ll tell you why. I have been going around Australia – New Zealand in the past month due to which I have had many interactions around traveling to India. What I have observed is a lot Information Asymmetry about my country. I do not know what is the exact cause. It is may be the media here being selective when it comes news about us or may be because there has not been enough distribution of information about the country by our government. So, this is definitely a concern because this could be a reason why a lot of Australians may not have India on their bucket list.
The most people are aware about here is probably the Taj Mahal.
But the interesting part about India, which is something I explain to everyone who has not been there, is that India is more than a continent than a country.
We have 29 states, each state has its own languages, cuisines, arts and traditions. We have the greatest natural wonders, incredible depth and fascinating history.
So we have something to offer to everybody and that is what I want the outside the world to know.
R: I concur with you here and as I said, thanks to the students I have heard a lot about what you have just mentioned.
Couple of places that really have my attention are Goa & Kerala.
D: I can already understand your love for the sea which I would say is true for most of the Aussies.
R: Well we definitely are water people.
D: Oh we have a lot of sea for you.
So that should be enough talk about travel which brings me to my last but off the topic question.
When my batch had our orientation, of course you were one of the speakers. You began your speech by mentioning that if there are any Arsenal fans in the hall, they are free to leave.
Well, guess what, I was the only Arsenal fan in the hall ! And now that I have had this opportunity today, I would like to know about your rivalry with Arsenal fans. Do you support Spurs?
R: Hahaha. Look number one, there is nothing great in that all. We have the same thing in Australia about some of the football teams. Some teams are looked upon as elitist and my personal view is Arsenal are one of them.
Am I a Tottenham fan? Um, I do like them certainly because I watch them at times but I would say the same for Liverpool and Manchester City because of the brilliant football, specially these 3 teams in the last of couple of years.
I would also like to mention that I was never a fan of Arsene Wenger.
D: Wow! That is interesting. I mean he was famous even among the rival fan bases specially because how learned he is.
R: I know, it is difficult to explain. I mean on their day, Arsenal would play the most scintillating football and there was no stopping them. The way they would get the ball from the back to the front was like symphony.
But still, I am just having a hard time articulating this point and it is not that I hate them or anything.
D:I guess I will take that answer.
Liverpool vs Tottenham in the CL finals though, two teams you like. Who would you be supporting?
R: Ummmm, I am just hoping it is going to be a wonderful game but I think I will be inclined towards Liverpool.
D: Same here. All the best to us for that and that brings us to the end of this interview.
Thank you so much for your time Richard, I really appreciate you giving a part of your schedule to your former students. It was a very interesting chat where I am sure both of us have learnt something.
R: Oh yeah we did. It was a pleasure speaking to you too Dhruv. Wish you all the best.