Off hours: The pleasure of leisure for tourism executive

Geet Bhalla, the co-founder of HolidayMe.com, which launched in 2013, says he is still in the process of becoming a good chief executive.

Geet Bhalla says becoming a chief executive is a process – one that for him is just starting. Antonie Robertson / The National
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Geet Bhalla is the chief executive and co-founder of HolidayMe.com, a platform offering travel services such as flights, accommodation and activities to customers in the Middle East. Mr Bhalla, from India, set up the business in August 2013 following a career in finance and banking technology working for companies such as Thomson Reuters and Misys. A resident in Dubai for 14 years, the 38-year-old currently lives in the Meadows.

How do you spend your weekend?

Fridays I usually cook breakfast for my daughters, who are 11 and six, or take them out for breakfast. If the weather is nice, we head to the beach. Late afternoons I also try to get some of the well-deserved rest and sleep that I don’t manage during the week. On Saturday mornings I engage in some kind of sport or a bit of yoga. I read in the afternoon, I catch up with friends or arrange for casual meetings with my staff. Saturday evenings are usually at home or at a nice place for dinner. It’s a mix of relaxation, spending time with family, reading, working out and meeting friends.

How did you become a chief executive?​​

I co-founded the company, so it all happened together. I worked in the corporate world which got monotonous after a while, and starting the company was always in my cards. I felt I had gathered consider­able corporate experience and wanted to put some of that learning into action. I’m still in the process of becoming a good chief executive. I’m still learning new things every day. Becoming a CEO, in my view, is a process and it has just started for me. More than that, my plan was to start a company and improve every day at running it.

What is your go-to gadget?

It’s my iPhone 7 Plus. It takes care of my urge to be at work, keep updated on news and be connected socially. It also has my music, which helps me relax.

What was the lowest point of your career?

I think there have been challenges, rather than low points. In my case, it was almost a year back – where we had to convince a lot of people to back us and believe in our story while we were still out there trying to achieve it. I think the vision, execution strategy and the team got us there in the end. But ensuring the growth of the company, which needed fundraising, did take a lot of perseverance and sleepless nights. It was an extremely humbling and learning experience though.

What advice would you offer others starting out in your business?

Be sure of what you want to do. Spend some time thinking about what is it that you really enjoy doing, what drives you.

Do your research. Study all nuances of not only the market, but also how the business is done, how much capital is needed, where you want to be in the first year of operations, what’s your plan after that. It’s absolutely essential to plan it before actually doing it.

Go for it. Once you think the plan is achievable, just go for it. There might be many detractors around to pull you down. Don’t listen to them, believe in yourself.

Perseverance. This is the most important one. Don’t give up. Absolutely be at it. And while doing so, make sure to keep taking stock of the plan you initially set out to achieve.

What is your most indulgent habit?

Food. Being a Punjabi (North Indian), food is in our DNA. I love all cuisines and enjoy food.

What do you have on your desk at work?

My laptop, phone, a notepad, a picture of my daughters and my Kindle to catch up on some reading whenever I get free time at work.

What can’t you live without?

I absolutely need my cup of tea every morning to kick-start my day. And my phone.

What car do you drive?

A Porsche Cayenne S.

How do you achieve a work-life balance?

I try to switch off for at least an hour once I get home, until my kids go to sleep. I have dinner with them and wake up to see them off to school when I’m in Dubai. If I’m travelling, I speak to them at least once a day. I spend a lot of time with family over the weekends, cook for them or go out for a nice meal. At least one day a week is reserved for them.

If you could swap jobs with anyone, who would it be and why?

I thoroughly enjoy what I do. In a few years, I wouldn’t mind running a casual restaurant by a scenic beachside.

lgraves@thenational.ae

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