Monday, March 4, 2024

Chasing Dreams and Building Ventures: The Ray Vaz Story

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In this interview, Ray Vaz, the co-founder of OneBoard, shares his journey from Goa to entrepreneurship. Despite a promising career in hospitality, Ray heeded the call of entrepreneurship in 2009 when he started his own travel agency, VKTS. An “aha” moment came when he made more money in 15 minutes than he did in a month. The financial struggle was a driving force for him to become an entrepreneur, and he received crucial support from his family and friends. His co-founder Ryan Prazeres introduced him to OneBoard, a startup focused on organizing the unstructured experiences sector. Ray’s grand vision aligns with his love for travel, and he aims to visit every country in the world.

Ray’s journey reflects the resilience needed in entrepreneurship. He emphasizes that even in the darkest times, the only way to go is up. Keep pushing forward, and you might be surprised by your moment to shine.

Can you take us on a journey through your life, sharing your background and the moments that lit the spark of entrepreneurship in you?

Well, born & brought up in Goa did my schooling in Don Bosco’s Panjim.. was more focussed on sports than studies in those days. Basketball was the sport i enjoyed the most, however during one session i saw some boxing classes being conducted just went to check it, the coach let me use the punching bag and before i knew it i was enrolled, within a couple of weeks i participated in a amateur boxing tournament and fell in love with the sport.

Being born to a Goan family working on the cruise liners, my career path was pre determined after my H.S.S.C i did my B.Sc in hospitality administration and catering technology from IHM Bangalore, through campus interviews got my first job with J.W. Marriott Mumbai, worked for aprox a year but Goa began to call me back as i was away for almost 4 years, managed a transfer to Goa Marriott Resort, however there was constant push from my family to apply for a job for the cruise lines which i completely dreaded, as it was 8 months on board without any off’s only breaks in between, whenever i received a call for interviews or taking it further i would always put it off with some reason or the other.

So the spark came in 2009 when my father had to purchase an airline ticket and i had a friend who i with connected who had recently started a travel agency, when i met him he mentioned why don’t i start the same, after pondering about it i decided to give it a try in sept 2009 i registered as a home based travel agency under the name V.K.T.S. , my first sale where i made 3250 in 15 minutes as compared to 8000 i was making per month while working that was the moment i knew i am going to be an entrepreneur for life.

What’s the story behind why you chose to start your own startup? What was that “aha” moment or driving force?

The current start up OneBoard was not started by me, the founder Ryan Prazeres approached me in Aug 2021 where he had started the start up when he was running a hostel chain and saw the need for his guest to know about more experiences around also the driving for has been to solve the unorganised experiences sector.

Were there any personal struggles or defining moments in your life that influenced your decision to venture into entrepreneurship?

Yes, personal struggles were earnings, i was not earning enough salary to meet my expenses and commitments, realised as an entrepreneur there was no limit to how much i could earn it was simple , More time = more earnings = More motivation

In the early days, who were the people who stood by your side, believed in your vision, and encouraged you to take the leap into entrepreneurship?

There were only a few who encouraged me but no one as much as my Mother, i didnt have any capital to start she was the one who offered me her gold bangles to take a loan on and was always there to support and push me forward, my uncle Dexter who guided me on the business aspects, My close friend Brianna who took loans / Credit card to help me with funds. More recent times theres not been a bigger support then my wife Yachika.

Could you recount a vivid memory from the early stages of building your startup that left a lasting impact on you?

Yea, i had got a bus ticket booking for the first time, it was from a friend working for an upcoming 5 star property, since i was not aware if the passenger would find the location etc i decided to be at the bus pick up point and assist. I met the passengers and there was an older gentleman a foreigner who i made a conversation with and he asked me some questions about me and my business, i was honest with him and that was it . next day i was called to the property to meet the G.M. i was a bit worried as i thought something went wrong, to my surprise it was the man i was talking to the previous evening he mentioned that all their travel needs henceforth will be handled by VKTS, this paved the way for vkts.

Entrepreneurship often requires sacrifices. What are some significant personal sacrifices you made on your journey?

Certainly there were a-lot of sacrifices made Sleep comes to mind first, Standard of living was dropped to sustain the business sometimes, Relationships well not much time couls be given to building a relationship as being an entrepreneur your first love in your business .

When you were forming your initial team, what qualities did you seek in your co-founders or team members, and how did you find them?

Well, with OneBoard i was one of the co founders found by the founder, i look for personality and behavioural traits first as this cannot be changed later. We mostly find our team members through references.

Think back to a time when you faced an unexpected challenge. How did you navigate through it, and what did you learn from the experience?

This was sometime back where i had client with massive requirement for travel and needed credit for a month and i didn’t have the cash flow or the means to meet the requirement. i was completely low, the next day i got up with a different mind set that if i cant handle it on my own may be able to tie up with other agencies and by the end of the day i had 4 other agencies that agreed and i was able to sort the requirement. my learning is one is limited only by ones mind and nothing is impossible.

Share a moment when you felt like the odds were against you, but you found the strength to persevere. What kept you going?

Well, 6 months of joining OneBoard our CTO and Co founder parted ways and with the entire tech being built by him and we were down and out being a tech start up i found the strength through my founder Ryan who started learning tech and always pushing on and never giving up and this rubbed of on me.

How has entrepreneurship impacted your personal life, your relationships, and your daily routines?

Well i realised early that being an entrepreneur one needs to be flexible when it comes to your routines if i cant do something that was planned i don’t get worked up about it, Personal life impact is the work and personal life balance well that non existent as you are married to both and both need your time when they need it :-).

Tell us about a critical decision you had to make as a founder that shaped the course of your journey. What was going through your mind?

Well, i wish to travel to every country in the world and experience the culture, with OneBoard that dream may come true.

Tell us about a critical decision you had to make as a founder that shaped the course of your journey. What was going through your mind?

Not as a founder myself but as founders, we took a major decisions to pivot and the pivot meant all that we built till than was not going to be used, but but with this decision we had a more clear path and focus to what we can do and the value we can offer.

Who or what serves as your North Star, motivating you to press on, especially in challenging times?

My Co – Founder Ryan would be the companies north star with a never give up attitude, motivating us and surging on always, no matter the challenges that are ahead of us.

What is that one advice you would like to give to the entrepreneurs reading this?

Being an entrepreneur is anything but easy, on days it may feel like you have no hope but always remember when your down or at your lowest there only one way to go and thats up. Keep at it as you never know when your time to shine is coming.

Ray Vaz’s entrepreneurial journey is a testament to the transformative power of determination, perseverance, and the unwavering support of loved ones. From humble beginnings in Goa to the founding of VKTS and later involvement with OneBoard, his story is a reminder that entrepreneurship is a path filled with challenges and sacrifices. However, it’s also a journey that offers boundless opportunities for growth and success, as long as one keeps pushing forward, even when the odds seem against them.

Ray’s commitment to exploring every corner of the world aligns with OneBoard’s mission to provide travelers with organized and unique experiences. Through his experiences, he offers valuable advice to aspiring entrepreneurs: in the face of adversity, always remember that the only way is up. Keep pursuing your dreams, and your moment to shine will come. Ray’s journey is a testament to the transformative power of unwavering determination, perseverance, and the support of loved ones.

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