Instilling soft skills in chauffeurs

N. Ramakrishnan | Updated on March 10, 2018

Ram Badrinathan, Founder & CEO, GlobalTHEN

In the travel industry, the bottom of the pyramid is the driver.” Ram Badrinathan, Founder & CEO, GlobalTHEN.

The next time you hire a cab and find the chauffeur keeping time, being courteous and keeping the vehicle clean – things you generally don’t expect of cab drivers – there is every chance that he may have gone through a training programme.

One that focuses on soft skills for drivers rather than teach them how to drive. And, offering such a service is Global Travel & Hospitality Education Network (GlobalTHEN), the brainchild of 40-year-old Ram Badrinathan.

Ram obtained a civil engineering degree from NIT – Surat and joined the advertising industry in Kolkata. Then he was involved with a firm that was developing interactive multimedia for marketing communications for its clients. An urge to obtain a management degree took him to Hong Kong, after which Ram got into an e-business consulting company. It was here that he got involved with the travel and tourism industry, which was the launch pad for his idea.

Ram says the service industry in the emerging markets was getting developed and he realised there was hardly any training being imparted, especially in the travel tourism sector. “I knew there was going to be a huge talent shortfall,” says Ram.

He was still with PhocusWright, a consultancy firm for the travel and tourism industry. It was here that Ram came up with a programme to train staff in the travel and tourism industry, which was well received. However, Ram was not quite content with what he was doing. At the same time, PhocusWright was also going through a transition.

This provided the opportune moment for Ram to do something on his own. He founded GlobalTHEN in 2011. He had been in touch all along with Sourabh J. Sarkar, founder of KarmYog Foundation, who, Ram says, has done a lot of pioneering work on education, especially using interactive multimedia devices.

GlobalTHEN was incubated by KarmYog Education Network. The concept appealed to a whole lot of professionals in the travel and tourism industry, some of whom even invested in Ram’s start-up. This included the likes of Deep Kalra, Founder & CEO, MakeMyTrip, the online travel portal; Alok Mittal, Managing Director, Canaan India, a venture capital firm; Peter Harbison, Chairman, Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation; Philip Wolf, President, PhocusWright; and Rajiv Vij, CEO, Carzonrent. Ram raised about Rs 1.8 crore from these angel investors in 2011.

“I could have done something for the travel agents. But I wanted to do something for the bottom of the pyramid. In the travel industry, the bottom of the pyramid is the driver,” says Ram. The training programme is built around the concept of an ideal driver named Pawan. The narrative focuses on concepts such as punctuality, courteousness, cleanliness (both personal hygiene and the vehicle’s), safety and customer service.

Food business

His next programme was for the food business – the quick service restaurants or fast-food companies – where again the counter staff had to be trained in soft skills, behaviour, attitude and customer service. The other two products that GlobalTHEN has developed are for customer service, and front office and selling skills for the travel industry. For the food industry, Ram has offered to even help recruit staff and train them.

“We have trained 7,000 drivers in about a year,” says Ram. He now hopes to replicate this training business model for other verticals. He says he will confine himself to the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors.

Published on May 19, 2013

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