Lastword

The handsome young man, clad in full sleeve shirt with a necktie, briefcase in hand and an enticing smile lighting up his face, was a regular early morning fixture at the Prasanth Nagar road near Ulloor in Thiruvananthapuram those days. It was the latter half of the 1980s, and as a co-resident in the State housing scheme there, I got introduced to E M Najeeb, the young entrepreneur, who had, at the tender age of 22, already set up the now-iconic Air Travel Enterprises (ATE), the forerunner to scores of similar outfits across Kerala.

As Najeeb graduated to high-flying adventures across continents, the early bird in him discovered the possibilities in global tourism, persuading himself to set up such pioneering ventures as The Great India Tour Company (GITC), and several offshoots thereof.

Sometime in early 1994, we both shared a brainwave in the form of an international quality English magazine to highlight Kerala, or rather, India, as a unique destination on the global tourism map. Najeeb himself had a passionate desire to publish something of value. We soon agreed upon a formula, and proceeded to set up The Great India Publishing Foundation, under which Travel Market India (TMI), the first-ever such publication from South India, was launched in June that year.

Industry leaders from across the country refused to endorse the audacity behind the idea called TMI, for, in their worn out gospel, promoting India was the exclusive privilege of the beneficiaries of the Mumbai-Delhi-Agra-Jaipur tourism quadrilateral! We, however, proceeded with the journal, spreading copies through India’s embassies across the world, and carrying them to such prestigious events such as ITB-Berlin, WTM-London and ATM-Dubai. I have to gratefully record here that my very first foray into global tourism was courtesy Najeeb, as we together attended ITB-Berlin 1995.

For the next 36 months, I led TMI and ensured it lived up to its promise and strove to keep India, with special reference to Kerala, in the limelight. In 1997, I moved on and proceeded to establish Destination Kerala.

We had the privilege to feature Najeeb on the cover page of one of our issues under the Interview of the Month series in which he spoke of the immense potential for healthcare tourism employing Kerala’s modern medical facilities.

Almost around the same time, Najeeb’s illustrious brother, Dr. M I Sahadulla had returned to serve his native state in India after a prolonged innings as a surgeon of eminence in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Dr. Sahadulla, with the active participation of his brother, established the Kerala Institute of Medical Sciences (KIMS), which today is the global brand ambassador of Kerala as one of South Asia’s top healthcare institutions. Again, Destination Kerala had the privilege to feature Dr. Sahadulla on our cover under the Interview of the Month series, in which he spoke prophetically of the healthcare boom that was about to sweep Kerala off its feet.

KIMS stands out as one of the shining examples of what sibling synergy can achieve in a difficult world. It was indeed a matter of profound satisfaction for Team Destination Kerala to associate with the KIMS mission through an innovative initiative such as CEOs Croon for Kerala Kids (CCKK), combining commerce with compassion to spread a bit of cheer among the otherwise dispossessed among us.