In 1984, at the age of 50, when most people were looking to retire, Kesari Patil left his brother's company Raja Rani, and with little money started out on his own. He started off with a rented 10x10 sq ft office in Matunga, a typist and his wife Sunita, offering trips around India. His one selling point was he had 21 years of experience of working as a tour conductor.
On his first tour, he took 13 people to Rajasthan. The next was 45 to Kashmir. "One satisfied customers can buy 100 others," he says, seated in his posh office in Mahim. Two of his children, Veena and Shailesh, joined him two years later, in their twenties, and now the whole board is made up of his children and their spouses.
Now he is 73 and the chairman of the company, which operates to 100 destinations in India and 1,000 worldwide, employs 400 staff, and has an annual turnover of Rs 300 crore. It sets itself apart by appealing to Maharastrians. It is going to open its first office in London this year and create a franchise of offices overseas.
Raja Rani Travels
'My father did not want to sit in a village. He wanted to make something of his life.' Raja Patil, who started Raja Rani in 1962 in Mumbai, is widely considered to have pioneered domestic tourism in India. In 2002, he was tragically murdered at the age of 72, but his Mahim company, employing 60 staff, with a turnover of Rs 22 crore, continues to be run by his sons Abhijeet, Bharat and Vishvajeet.
Patil's journey began when he moved to Mumbai from his village Palghar in his early 20s and joined the Indian Railways. He had a pass to travel all over the country but had to sleep on the pavement. He gave up his secure job to start a travel house in 1962. He put up hoardings on the railway track and distributed leaflets promoting his company, based at a small office near Dadar station. He did not move off the pavement until his business had been going for five years. Today the company is looking to go online and looking at venture capital.