General managers of hotels usually carry business cards, not tool boxes.
At least, that’s what Community College Initiative (CCI) Program alumnus Pradeep Kumar thought before his internship at the Best Western Lakeway Inn six years ago. Pradeep studied tourism and hospitality at Whatcom Community College as part of the CCI Program in 2011-12. While practicing his hospitality skills, his concept of leadership grew, too. He saw the Best Western’s general manager chip in on every aspect of the business, including electrical repairs.
“I asked him, ‘You are the GM of the hotel, why are you working (on repairs)?’ He said a team leader should know all the things and we should always lead by example,” Pradeep recalled.
Pradeep took that lesson home to India, where he uses it in his own business, Delhi by Locals. The company, which Pradeep founded in 2016, offers themed and customizable tours that showcase the Delhi’s landmarks, history, culture, and food. Just two years after launching, Delhi by Locals ranks in the top 5 among almost 600 tour companies for New Delhi tours on TripAdvisor.
Pradeep, who worked as a tour guide prior to the CCI Program, credits the program with propelling his career forward. While in the U.S., he absorbed business and life lessons in all his experiences—from the quotidian to the extreme. After being dissatisfied with a camera purchased at Costco, for example, he was surprised to discover the company’s 90-day refund policy. “I could not believe that and from there I learnt a good business cannot be successful without its (customer) service. I do everything to make sure my clients are happy,” Pradeep said.
He also tried skydiving, snowboarding, and flying a plane in the U.S. Those adventures, he said, made him more comfortable with the risk involved in starting his own business.
Paying It Forward
An active volunteer and youth mentor, last year Pradeep co-founded Learning by Locals, a non-governmental organization (NGO) funded by part of Delhi by Local’s profits. Learning by Locals runs English and computer classes several times per week for youth in Sanjay Colony, a slum in Delhi. The NGO also hosts workshops on social issues, organizes field trips, and helps young people connect to job and internship networks.
Another CCI Program alumnus, Anand Prakash (India, Scottsdale Community College, Media, 2011-12) is one of the core members who joined Pradeep in co-founding Learning by Locals. Pradeep and Anand see the organization as an avenue to give others the kinds of life-changing opportunities they gained from the CCI Program.