Strong lives are motivated by dynamic purposes. And when it comes to Dinesh Dhamija, Founder and CEO of E-Bookers, there can be no greater purpose in life than flying high in glory. Born in Australia, Dhamija grew up in India, Mauritius, Afghanistan, Czechoslovakia and Holland. He married an airhostess - hence it's no surprise he lords over a huge travel empire spanning across continents. After completing his MA in law from Cambridge University, Dhamija started his career with IBM and in 1980, along with his wife Tani, opened a discount-travel agency, Dabin Travel Ltd, at Earl's Court in London, which went on to become the Flightbookers travel agency in 1983. Flightbookers grew to be one of Britain's top 10 travel agencies.
Even as he was running Flightbookers, Dhamija got the chance to run the sales, marketing and support services of Royal Nepal Airlines as their Regional Director for Europe. He established sales for a network of travel agencies in 12 European countries to support Royal Nepal's flights to London, Frankfurt and Paris. Unfortunately, in 1995, the Royal Nepal Airlines terminated its agreement when the Communists came to power. In 1996 came a piece of what Dhamija calls "absolute luck". He was introduced to the huge possibilities that the Internet offers. "A friend of mine in Germany who developed a (software) booking engine called Sabre, brought it to me and said, "Why don't you use this?" Though he was initially wary, he launched an Internet arm of E-bookers. He began to see the benefits when the orders rolled in. In 1999, he spun off the Internet arm as E-bookers raising £40 million.
In 2000, E-bookers bought off its parent company, Flightbookers, for £10 million. So, what marks out Dhamija? The fact that his travel business survived two of the biggest busts in recent history-the dotcom bust and the 9/11 attacks. E-bookers shares in the Nasdaq plunged from $43 in 2000 to $2 in 2001. Yet his business survived. Says the Founder and CEO of E-bookers: "We built a website around a business. We didn't build a business around a website."
In fact, E-bookers makes 30 percent of its sales through shops and call centres. To avoid competition with low-cost, puddle-jumping carriers like Easy Jet, it focuses on the mid- and long-haul market. Dhamija made a cost-effective move by moving E-bookers' central office with 400 jobs out of Britain to New Delhi in 2002. The move paid dividends with sales rising nearly 52 percent. Nearly all of that growth was organic, rather than through its steady stream of acquisitions.
Dhamija is worth over £100 million and figures regularly in the UK rich list. Dinesh and Tani Dhamija, along with their two sons, live in Westminster, London. And his favourite place to relax? No doubt, it's in a lush green golf course. "I see travel as a dream of everyone, because they want to get somewhere else. You're selling something to people that lets them go across the world," he says with optimism. After all, his dream did pay off.