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Discipline – The Fuel for Achievement

Nasir Jamal Khan, Chief Executive Officer of Al Naboodah Travel & Tourism Agencies LLC in a conversation with TBME's Charmaine Fernz talks about his life's experiences, professional growth, and importance of being disciplined in life…

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The one line which best describes Nasir Jamal Khan is ‘without discipline and hard work, it is difficult to be a top professional’ by Jahangir Khan (the former World No 1 professional squash player from Pakistan). Being born in Pakistan, his life was a busy shuttle between the country and UK due to family reasons. He eventually completed his graduation in Pakistan, post which, traveling became a passion but was restricted due to lack of funds being a student.

Life’s Lessons

The next step for Khan was to enter into the big world of professionalism, where he proved his mettle and got selected by American Express as a trainee. He was one of three selected from several 100 applicant posts many interviews to get the job. This proved his perseverance and determination. The job paid him well with a starting salary of Pakistani Rupees 6,000 with benefits.

As Khan fondly remembers, “American Express, for me is my foundation in terms of training and travel, it has made me what I am today.” Khan got the opportunity to work across several departments giving him a window into the world of front office, back office, sales and even, finance and management. Finally, culminating into a management trainee.  Within a very short span of time, he was appointed supervisor in the American Express United Nations branch. This opportunity opened up many contacts as he had to deal with several foreign entities as well as international airlines. After a successful two-year stint, Khan had to make a move to Saudi Arabia, once again due to family reasons.

The Career Path

Having moved to Saudi Arabia, Khan joined the Saudi Tourist and Travel Bureau Limited (STTB). During those years, Khan says it was ‘the’ travel agency to work for as STTB was known for its brand, professionalism, and clients. The company had almost 11 airlines as GSAs other than businesses such as corporate, retail, cargo and bigger corporations. He worked in the sales department and was soon promoted to sales manager, then manager sales and operations and finally, deputy regional manager. He was lucky to have the opportunity to establish the first Emirates Airlines office in Saudi Arabia as STTB were their GSA in the region. Khan was personally involved and responsible for set-up of the office, staff and airport operations including sales. These responsibilities fell into the hands of a GSA until such time all approvals were attained in Dubai.

This was a big exposure for Khan at the same time, a major responsibility too as he was in-charge of the whole operation. As Khan puts it, “I am thankful to the Royal Family and owners who supported and trusted me in my career growth.” He is very proud of the fact that though STTB was managed purely by British management during his tenure. He was the only non-British national to hold the position of deputy regional manager. His hard work during his tenure with STTB paid off with an expansion that was almost five-fold in 11 years. Khan moved on from STTB in June 1994.

Moving on from STTB, Khan was offered a job in Gulf Air in Riyadh. This was a dream that for fulfilled. He joined them as district sales manager, soon promoted to area manager. Once again, he was the first non-GCC national to be appointed in this role. This was of great significance as within GCC countries, it was a policy to appoint only GCC-nationals. He broke the record being the youngest area manager in the role. His performance was well-recognized as the airline grew substantially during his tenure. He moved on from Gulf Air in November 2004.

It was during this time that Khan moved to Dubai with a role in Al Naboodah Travels joining them as general manager in November 2004 to CEO today of Al Naboodah Travels. The 13-year journey with Al Naboodah Travels has been significant as Khan has seen the company grow substantially over the years.

Khan very proudly reminisces saying, “It is a track record in my career not to have a big gap between my jobs. I have been lucky to start off with every company immediately.”

The Personal Journey

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is of great significance to Khan. He met his wife and got married in the Kingdom and also raised three sons. Khan has many fond memories of the place as he grew up there, his children grew up there and it was the place, he established his career in the travel industry. For Khan, life has been a blessing in Saudi Arabia with close friends and fond memories.

The Motivating Factor

Khan loves a challenge and is of the opinion that the travel industry is full of challenges every day. One cannot stop learning in this industry and things are constantly changing. He despises a routine job and finds it mundane and boring. As he puts it, “I love when I have a new challenge with something to achieve. This satisfies my soul, brain, and heart. You also feel proud of yourself with your achievements.”

Khan attributes his work ethics to his trainers at American Express who taught him the business, shared knowledge thereby helping him grow. He shares the same sentiments as he believes sharing knowledge helps people grow. He is very particular about his staff and personally sits through every staff selection. He is proud of his past and current employees. Many of whom he has nurtured, have now moved on to good positions. He says, “I find myself lucky that I have found the best people who are hungry to learn.”

Biggest Challenge

The biggest challenge Khan faces is that of staff attrition and retention. This is especially in the GCC as most people employed are expatriates. This is an uphill task as getting staff replacements take time with a lot of factors and procedures attached to it. The next challenge in Khan’s view the respect for a travel agent. According to him, “A travel agents role has to be taken seriously as they represent an airline to the end consumer and vice versa.”

The Professional Drive

Khan is very driven by an optimistic attitude. He is proud of his achievements and feels it is important to fully understand one’s job and responsibilities. He is also a firm believer in the adage that, “whether it is for a challenge or problem. If you know what the challenge/problem is then you have solved 50% of the problem. This proves you are in the right direction”. Khan believes that if you perform your duties with the right attributes, your team will follow and nothing can go wrong. One must love your work, it is only then that they give their 100% and feel like work is a holiday every day of your life.

Travelling has been a passion and will always be for Khan since his young age. He believes that “I have started in travel and will retire in the same industry”. As a professional, he is of the view that he is a task master as he believes in doing his best.  He further adds, “I always tell my staff, I am running at a particular speed which is required to run this level of business, you have to run with me. If you are slow, you will be left behind.”

Being firm to his beliefs, he states that the key to success is discipline; procrastination just leads to failure. Tomorrow never comes. In the travel business, one has to be on their toes with growing competition. He never leaves his old school of thought and always fall back on his principals but also believes in moving with time though not at the cost of his principals.

On A Personal Note

Khan had a love marriage in 1986. He married in his 20s at a young age. He says, “When we had our first child, I really did not know how to handle a child.” He has three sons and believes they are the replacement for a brother he yearned for as he had sisters. He further adds, “I am very proud of my wife and children. Whatever I am today is just the teamwork at home. My wife understands me and the nature of my work as I travel a lot and spend a lot of time in the office.” His wife ensures she cooks his food despite having a maid at home and in his opinion, makes the best food.

Speaking in fond remembrance, Khan still attributes his confidence to his role model and leader his dad. His dad instilled in him all the principles and work ethics. Unfortunately, Khan lost his dad in 2008 and mother in 2012. Principles are everything to Khan, who is very strict and is thankful to his father for instilling these principles in him. He is also a stickler for all things neat and clean; add to it being in-depth. He cannot stand a callous attitude and feels he takes everything very seriously in life, which is a weakness.

Peace is his motto and believes that one can do a million things in peace or else it would be a challenge. In his opinion, he is considered a father figure among his office colleagues and friend circle. On a lighter note, he says, after all these years, I am still learning time management.

Donning the Dad’s Role

Khan believes in being a friend to his children and feels he is a very loving and caring father. However, rules are rules in the house and there is no compromise on these aspects. Having married early, the smaller age difference helps him relate well with his kids. He fondly remembers saying: “My mother would say when my kids and I are at home, one cannot make out who is the father and who is the son.”

The Role Model

Khan reminisces very dearly about his dad saying, there are some things my dad left with me for life. He would say have respect for people’s time and respect an individual. As no one is one bigger or less than you. Never tell yourself, I know everything. And finally, when you are handling somebody’s business or finances, be extremely vigilant and honest for every penny.” Khan proudly says that his dad did not just make these statement, he trained him with live examples of people in history, lives of world leaders and even prophets.

Puerto Vallarata

Hobbies

Travelling is an all-out passion. He loves to watch movies, which can occupy his brain outside of his work. However, they have to be action or suspense movies which get you involved with the characters. No romantic or sob stories work for him. His all-time favorite movie is ‘The Heat’ and his favorite star – Robert De Nero.

He does not have the patience to wait for things hence football is a preference to cricket. He loves to watch Tennis. He played squash and is a fan of Jahangir Khan and Jansher Khan, who are his favorites. He was also a light feather-weight boxer having won many trophies. Finally, his love for debates and being a speaker has won him many a gold medal. Interestingly, his favorite topic for debate was ‘Life is a tale told by an idiot’.

On Relax Mode

Cancun and Puerto Vallarta in Mexico. In his opinion, they have the most beautiful beaches coupled with nature and turquoise color crystal clear water. . He further adds, “If you go snorkeling, you will be amazed by the sheer beauty which your eyes can see underwater.” In addition to the beauty of the place, Khan loves the food, people, culture and overall ambiance of the destination.

Food

Khan considers himself a meat eater and loves barbeques. He dislikes vegetables but totally loves fresh fruits.

Principles in Life

  1. Never underestimate others and respect individuals
  2. Listen to your parents and learn from their experiences
  3. Keep your family and health first. There is no compromise
  4. Keep your commitment and fulfill it
  5. What one can achieve with peace; you cannot achieve with strife
  6. Education should be a priority; knowledge can never be compromised
  7. Don’t let your desires control you. If you can control your desires, nothing can bring you down