Having been named after one of the most popular names in the Arab world, Indian-born Jamal Abdulnazar, Chief Executive Officer, Cozmo Travel, pioneered the travel agency sector in the emirate of Sharjah. Today, the company runs a diversified travel business with a staff of 900 people and turnover of 1.2 billion over 100 branches spread across seven countries.
Inspired by his brother-in the field of travel Jamal Abdulnazar graduated university and flew into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) in search for a position in the travel sector. Walking into the office of the Manager for Air France in Jeddah, Jamal was offered a position in Dammam and this marked the beginning of his career in the field of travel and tourism.
With a passion for travelling, Jamal always wanted to gain experience in this trade. His breakthrough to the industry in KSA gave him the knowledge and expertise required to make a mark in the competitive travel world. He recalls, “My brother-inlaw was my mentor as he was working in the airline industry at the time and travelling around the world. I enjoyed meeting new people and attending international travel events. One of the most challenging tasks was one in which we had to evacuate almost 1000 stranded western expats from Sana, capital of Yemen to USA within a short notice of four hours. I was then heading an evacuation mission in Riyadh in 1991 during the Gulf War. We were commended for our efforts and awarded certificates of appreciation by Former US President Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright, then Secretary of State.
Birth of Cozmo Travel
Jamal joined the Air Arabia group in Sharjah in 2007 to manage a travel agency for Air Arabia Group owned by the department of Civil Aviation of Sharjah. Few years later when the project was nearing completion, the group CEO of Air Arabia entrusted Jamal with the task of opening an agency for the emirate. With all his experience in the travel and tourism trade in KSA, Jamal made his initial plans and invited some of his close acquaintances from finance, operation and IT. He then initiated the mission and vision of a fourmember Cozmo Travel team on January 1, 2010. The aim was to cater to everyone who needs to travel irrelevant of rich, middle class or poor; to cater to the individuals, corporates, budget and luxury seekers around the region; and spectrum of the GCC.As the name suggests, Cozmo appeals to the universe and is not limited to a particular country, culture or nationality. The agency began its operation in Rolla Sharjah with four people onboard.
Growth and expansion
Cozmo Travel received its IATA certification by April 2010. With a fast-paced growth plan, the agency soon ventured into different verticals. “When we started off, we found ample opportunities in the Northern emirates with huge catchment areas for communities who were underserviced when it comes to travel. We then focused on expanding our branch network into the suburbs of Sharjah to Dhaid, Kalba, Khorfakkan, Dibba and Halawan districts and even the industrial areas to cater to the needs of many communities who were not tech savvy. Thereafter, we expanded to Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and today we have about 40 locations in seven emirates. Internationally, we have branched out to Qatar in 2011, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 2012, Kuwait in 2013, Bahrain in 2014, India in 2015 and two cities in China in 2016- 17,” Jamal shared.
Technology takes over
Having started off with manual submissions, Jamal has walked on every possible path in travel and tourism. He recalls, “At that time in the industry, the ratio was 2:8 in terms of front and back office During one of my Fam trips in France in 1996, I walked into an agency and inquired about the methods they deployed. To my amazement, I found that there was no concept of front and back as everything was processed through the point of sales using an interface mechanism. I then ventured into exploring latest technology available worldwide that can help us reduce cost on operation. Being the pioneer travel agency in the region, our role was to interface the point of sale to the back office. I then witnessed how technology and automation can change business for good. Today Cozmo pays major importance to technology and automation. We are one of the few agencies in the region that spends considerable resources by investing into the latest technology. IT no longer acts as support services for Cozmo; it rather drives our business.”
Jamal believes that three integral factors driving business forward are people, technology and innovation. Cozmo Travel’s B2B platform, ‘Travtrolley’, supports an individual or company to start its own agency. All contents are plugged in such as hotels, visas, global car rentals, etc. The agency has also diversified its business last year to car rentals by introducing ‘Sayara’ with a fleet of over 500 vehicles. With businesses being challenged every year, technology plays a pivotal role to ensure profits.