International Women’s Day: Saluting Tourism’s Leading Ladies – Subashini Balakrishnan, director, KBK Tours & Transport, Malaysia

The fight for gender equality is for everyone, and necessary for economies and communities to thrive. With this in mind, International Women’s Day 2020 galvanises all women to work towards an equal world. In support of this campaign, TTG Asia and TTGmice are featuring women leaders in the travel, tourism and business events industry this week. Today, we speak to Subashini Balakrishnan on her search for that ever-elusive work-life balance, and how she would like to use her position to support females in the tourism industry.

Why did you leave an IT career in a MNC to lead KBK Tours & Transport?
I grew up witnessing my father, K Balakrishnan, establishing KBK Tours & Transport with heaps of passion. Even today, he sincerely enjoys his work and does it with great passion. At the same time, I understood that KBK’s services could be diversified and expanded as the company was focused mainly on ground handling at that time.

This thought was constantly running through my mind and I could no longer be comfortable in the corporate environment. I knew that (my dream) would only materialise if I channelled my attention solely on KBK.

So I quit the corporate world and dived into the tourism industry, which was new to me! However, I felt this was a field worth exploring and tourism is an amazing industry with so much potential for further growth.

What fresh take did you bring into the business, and how have you revolutionised your father’s business since taking over two years ago?
One of my policies is to attend as many tourism events as possible. Such events greatly help to build our network and understand the industry from various dimensions.

Since I joined the company, we have diversified our operations and services to bring in tourists directly from overseas and we are no longer solely dependent on providing logistic services.

Our products and services have been re-defined to cater to the needs of tourists from various market segments. Nevertheless, I constantly review and update our standard operating procedures to ensure KBK is aligned with current market trends.

Do you enjoy what you do today?
I absolutely love what I do! I simply enjoy getting up to go to work each day. Tourism has created an ongoing opportunity for me to explore the diversity of Malaysia, meet people from various cultures and backgrounds, handle various travel processes, attend travel tradeshows, and so much more. Every working day is different.

How is it like juggling both the business and your young family?
Well, managing both business and family is quite challenging. Fortunately, my husband, parents, parents-in law, brothers and children have been super supportive. They are my pillars!

Each day, I set a schedule and my priorities, and execute my business and family chores accordingly. I start my day as early as 04.30. This allows me to have sufficient time and space to ensure work-life balance.

How do you create a more family-friendly work environment?
I give my staff time-off to run their personal errands, and when necessary, allow them to work from home. I believe when one’s staff are happy, they will also be productive and loyal to the company.

If you had all the time and resources, how would you use your leadership position to support fellow females in the tourism industry?
I would like to offer internship to females taking up tourism courses so they will be able to have a hands-on experience in the trade. I would also like to give webinars for women of all ages and backgrounds on career opportunities in the travel trade. Who knows, some women may be looking for a career change (in the travel industry).

How do you promote gender equality in your workplace?
Promotions and incentives for staff are based on performance, and have nothing to do with one’s gender. I encourage all my staff to attend relevant training programmes to strengthen their skill sets and abilities. The work environment is friendly, one that promotes respect between (colleagues).

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