Mini Sajan Varghese: The Saga of SAJ 

Entrepreneurship is what the new generation Keralite women are fond of. Lately, many young Keralite women have shown courage to venture into the risky terrain of entrepreneurship. If the things progress with this pace, the number of successful woman entrepreneurs outnumbers the number of successful male entrepreneurs in the state in near future. At present, there are several extremely successful woman entrepreneurs. In this edition, we love to introduce you one such exceptional woman entrepreneur.

Mini Sajan Varghese is the Chief Executive Officer of the SAJ Resorts, one of the units of SAJ Holdings PVT Ltd. She is the wife of Kanjirakattu Sajan Varghese, who is one of the directors of the SAJ Holdings PVT Ltd.

She started her career as an accountant, and, later, became one of the most superior decision-makers in the SAJ’s hotel business sector. Her journey was slow, but steady.

Her life story will defiantly inspire all women, who wish to mark their unique signature in the world, to see the field of entrepreneurship as a brilliant option. Let’s speak to her.

Why and how did you enter the challenging business of hospitality?

It was my husband’s suggestion. I entered into the business sector, nearly one year after our marriage. Initially, I joined as an accountant in the finance department of our flight catering company ‘SAJ Flight Services’ as I had immense experience in the field of finance. Then, I slowly climbed the corporate ladder towards the top of that company, thoroughly learning each and every segment of the business the company does.

How was that journey towards the helm of the company?

It took more than six years. In those days, the SAJ Group was more into the flight catering business. There were several aspects in that business. I had to invest a considerable amount of time to learn each and every aspect. The food safety was the most important aspect. I even attended a course in London to learn that aspect thoroughly. Though my husband was there to support me, it was not like spoon-feeding. I was made to learn and take decisions by my own.

What was the motive behind your company’s move to try the strategy of diversification by investing in the hotel business?

During the year 2006-2007, our total turnover from the catering business came down due to the introduction of the low-cost carriers, with considerable reduction in catering supplies. Also, bankruptcy of few private carriers, together with crores of dues from national carriers, led the company to take a strategic decision to diversify into asset based hospitality segment.

We learnt that it is easy to construct a hotel, but is hard to maintain the quality and to meet the high expectations of guests. Fortunately, our hotels have a huge pool of dedicated staffs, mostly women. Our hotels cater to all kinds of customers, including tourists and businessmen.

Why should one prefer SAJ?

There is a credibility factor attached with the brand name ‘SAJ’. Since our catering business days, we have been enjoying a global recognition and reputation. We assure quality food and services. Many celebrities and bureaucrats prefer and, even, recommend our hotels.

Say few words about the SAJ’s single lady travelling scheme.

Most of International flights land in Kochi at odd hours, so the female travellers who travel in those flights are forced to check into hotels at those hours. When such female travellers reach our hotels, they find here secure and safe as they are often received by female staffs here.

Nearly fifty per cent of our staffs are female. Whether it is our customer or staff, we assure safety to each and every woman in our hotels. Our hotels even have lady security officials. Most of our female staffs, even locals, find it convenient and safe to work during night hours in our hotels.

The SAJ Group also aims to empower women. We impart skills to women, mostly local women, and help them earn a decent living.

The SAJ hotels are famous for its quality and delicious food. Say few words about it.

The SAJ is very keen to provide safe food to our customers. I am a trainer of food safety. Since our catering business days, we have been sincerely following the policy of offering quality and safe food. We give immense care in the quality of the raw materials we procure, the personal hygiene of the staffs who prepare the food items, the way the raw materials are stored and many other elements necessary to ensure the quality, safety and taste of the food we cater.

Though we have all kinds of cuisines, we primarily promote regional cuisine. We have a special sea food restaurant, where our customers are offered special regional dishes.

What is your goal?

I want to make the brand ‘SAJ’ a more popular and globally recognised brand.

What is the peculiarity of the SAJ’s spa?

Actually, SAJ Earth Resort is a one step solution for all needs of all type of travellers. Tourists and businessmen utilise it to get relaxed and rejuvenated. It is convenient for the guests who stay to attend marriage functions, as it has a beauty salon attached, with experienced beauticians and hair dressers.

Say few words about your husband.

He is a man with great vision and foresight. In fact, he is my mentor. Before he takes a decision about anything, he puts sincere effort to learn about it thoroughly; it is the quality that I have tried to copy from him. He is a unique person, and always stands apart in a crowd whether it be the way he talks or be the way he behaves. So, I also try to create a unique signature in whatever I do.

We know you are a writer. How that journey began?

Yes, I do write. Until the year we exited from the catering business sector, I had been regularly writing a column for the Europe-based official publication of onboard catering association. I was approached to write that column, after our company secured the Mercury (Silver) award for SAJ flight services. I was the first Indian to be approached to represent our country in that magazine. It was a great honour.

Say few words about your new projects.

At present, we have four ventures in the hotel business segment: SAJ Earth Resort (Cochin), SAJ Vagamon Hideout (Vagamon), SAJ Jungle Village (Thekkady), and Saj Luciya (Trivandrum). We have upcoming projects in Kumarakom, Marari and Alleppey. We are going to launch a tour operations division under the banner ‘Incredible Kerala Tours’. The division will offer both inbound and outbound tourism services.

“The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something. It is as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but there are few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today. The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer” –Nolan Bushnell.