He is one of the most popular “guys” in the travel fraternity who is friends with almost everyone. A man who comes from a high bureaucratic background, who spent his college days running an Internet Café, became the youngest travel trade person to be an active part of an association (ADTOI), lost close to 140 Kgs with the help of friends who are like family and who mastered the trick of turning every challenge into an opportunity. Vineet Gopal, Chief Executive Officer, MEET Travel, is once again much in news (after lying low for some time) for his upcoming show – Meet The Folks Event, which is set to redefine the way consumer travel shows will be held ever. It was our privilege to feature this dynamic young man who is living his 40s fabulously!
Priyanka Saxena Ray
I may not have stayed in regular touch with Vineet, but he has always come across as an extremely genuine and warm person every time we have interacted. With rarely a bad word to say about someone, he laughs at the thought of being a favourite topic of “gossip” for many in the travel industry. First, his weight was a topic of discussion and then his magnanimous weight loss became an issue of much interest. Like I said, he is undoubtedly a popular guy!
Born and brought up in Delhi to an IAS father, Vineet Gopal, younger of the two brothers was always a mischief maker, who loved to watch his father in action. Even as a little kid, he would find ways to be of some help to his father and took great pride in doing so. After finishing his Graduation from SRCC, DU, he was pursuing his MBA when tragedy struck and he lost his father at a young age. “I matured overnight. Suddenly my idol was not around me anymore and I didn’t know how to deal with that loss. I was sure I wanted to be an entrepreneur and my first experience at being so was opening up my own Internet Café along with an ISD/STD booth,” reminisces Vineet.
After receiving a brief training at a travel agency, Vineet opened Engee Travels in August 1999 as a purely ticketing agent. They were the PSA for Jet Airways, Air Sahara and a few others. While the company kept doing decent business, it didn’t really sky-rocket, till Vineet started tapping his father’s bureaucratic contacts in 2002 and soon became the youngest agent to be catering to the travel needs of Indian political circle.
Business grew and he became the youngest MC member of ADTOI, charming the people in the travel trade with his good humour and gentleman behaviour. “My obesity became my landmark. People who would meet me once would not forget me and remember me as the “fat guy”! I was always keen on entering the exhibitions’ space and from 2011-2012 I was a consultant with the ABEC Group for the launch of their IITE exhibition in Mumbai. Besides few others, I was also the force behind the launch of V-Connect (where V stood for Vineet), which was floated in partnership with a travel trade partner. Under V-Connect, we conducted 3 successful shows, before parting ways. I was the founding member of OTOAI – Outbound Tour Operators Association of India and drafted the very constitution of that association. In 2013 I founded Representation World and soon my kitty was overflowing with clients,” shares Vineet.
However, the world of Representation is not as rosy as it looks. There is a lot of under-cutting and instability in this industry because of too much competition. Having made a conscious choice to lie low on the Representation front, he was keen on entering the exhibition space again but was not very sure of the module to be followed. “My young colleague forced me to attend the GRUB Fest and it was there that the idea of MEET popped up! We did our research as to why travel consumer shows are not very successful and realised that the biggest challenge with these exhibition is creating footfall. Therefore, we decided to hunt for a venue that already experienced good footfall and where having booths and stalls would mean definite business for the exhibitor,” elaborates Vineet, his enthusiasm for the show clearly reflecting as he talks about it.
A tourism carnival at Pacific Mall (one of the biggest and busiest in West Delhi) where travel experts will be available to seal a holiday package for the endearing travellers dotted with lucky draws almost every hour seems like an extremely plausible forum and will surely garner good business for exhibitors. Well, this is not where Vineet is limiting his plans. “In November this year, we will take our show international where it will held in a similar pattern. Next year, MTFE will be held in Ahmedabad in end of January and in Chandigarh end of February. In 3 years from now, we want to be in 10 major cities in India, which are important from the point of view of travel business,” he concludes with a twinkle in his eye, the excitement almost palpable in his demeanour.
He gives credit of his humongous weight loss to his two pillars – Riaz Munshi (and family) and Himanshu Patil, who are not friends but family to him and who have stood by him through thick and thin. And while some of the lost weight has found its way back, he is determined to go back to being fitter – once work allows. A travel aficionado who loves the luxuries in life, including cars, Vineet treats cooking as a stress buster and loves to cook for his family and friends. Well, cooking or not cooking, he never lets anyone leave his premises on an empty stomach. A man who is born on World Tourism Day (September 27), hospitality and tourism in ingrained in him and it wouldn’t be wrong to day that Vineet was born to be a travel professional!