Naman Budhdeo was born in Nairobi, Kenya and immigrated to Canada in 1976. Upon graduating from McMaster University with a Bachelor of Commerce degree, he immediately started down his path as a serial entrepreneur and innovator in the travel and technology space. Naman started his first business in 1999 and sold it in 2001. In 2005, Naman launched FlightNetwork.com with the goal of disrupting the way Canadians booked travel online. Near 10 years later, Naman leads a team of almost 400 employees, in 5 offices around the world. Naman has been recognized for his success, having been a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in both 2009 and 2010, and recognized as one of Canada Top 40 Under 40 in 2011. His company has also been listed by PROFIT Magazine as one of Canada’s Fastest Growing Companies for 5 consecutive years (2010-2014).
Q: What inspired you to launch an online travel agency?
A: Like many entrepreneurs, my inspiration came from things around me. My parents have been entrepreneurs in the B2B travel space so I always grew up around the business of travel. My spin was to build a B2C online agency and focus on amazing technology to compete with the giants of the industry Priceline and Expedia.
Q: What were the biggest challenges/surprises to running an online business?
A: One of the biggest challenges in a virtual world is that competitors are truly global. Anyone can enter our markets at any time. However, this same challenge also provides FlightNetwork with opportunities to enter other markets. We recently launched our brand in 14 different countries and we are seeing tremendous growth already.
Q: How often do you travel for work?
A: I travel about 10 times a year for work, mostly conferences and visiting our suppliers and our advertising partners.
Q: Where do you travel to the most? What do you always recommend to other people who visit there?
A: I travel to Paris once a year with my wife. The one thing we always do is rent a pair of Vespa Scooters for the day. It is an amazing way to see a lot of Paris from a different perspective. We have had friends do it and it is always their highlight when in Paris.
Q: Where is the best place you have traveled to?
A: The best place I have been is South Africa. Some of the best hotels and lodges in the world to experience wildlife, mountains, two oceans and wine.
Q: What are your preferred in-flight activities?
A: I multi task by catching up on emails, and listening to a movie. Not watching but just listening.
Q: If you could visit one place in the world you haven’t been to yet, where would you go?
A: Antartica! Once of our suppliers "G adventures" does trips there. Something about how untouched it is with the mix of wildlife really appeals to me.
Q: Tips on how to get work done on the road?
A: Maximize doing work when you are waiting or in transit. Whether that is in the airport, on a flight, in a taxi or anywhere you are waiting.
Q: Tell us about your biggest travel mishap.
A: This goes back many years to when I was backpacking across Europe after university. A friend and I lost all of our documents in Santorini, Greece. It made for a long few days in Athens trying to replace everything, this was back in the days when people used traveller cheques so we at least had money. The problem was we could not replace our rail tickets, which meant we could not continue on to Spain as planned. So instead we relaxed on the island of Corfu for 3 weeks, not a bad consolation.
Q: Most impressive airport.
A: I love Hong Kong, it is amazing landing on the island. It also has some great restaurants and world class shopping, which helps in picking up a last minute gift for my wife.
Q: The best hotel you’ve ever stayed at.
A: Four Seasons Maldive Landaa Giraavaru Four Season service.
Q: Who is the most interesting or famous person you have met on your travels?
A: I sat next to Chris Angel on a flight from Las Vegas to Toronto. I was reading a celebrity magazine and there was an article on him and Jennifer Aniston having a romantic relationship. I showed it to him and he said don’t believe everything you read.
Q: What are your travel rituals?
A: I love experiencing local food whether it is a 3 star Michelin restaurant or a local hole in the wall. I do a lot of research on restaurants before I go and I actually plan out every single breakfast, lunch and dinner before I go.
Q: How do you get over jet lag?
A: I try not to think about what time it is at home so I don’t think “should I be tired?”
Q: What is your best travel advice for jet setting entrepreneurs?
A: Get your Nexus card if you don’t have one, also get an American Express platinum card so you can skip security lines and get into most airline lounges.
Q: Aisle, middle, or window?
A: Aisle for short flights and window for long flights