It is nearly seven in the evening when Carl Vaz walks out of an
intense meeting to meet us for a chat. From his plush office, you can see the last bit of light submerge into the sea at the horizon. It is the time when most of us are starting to bear signs of a tiring day. But Vaz looks fresh and raring to go. As someone who is the director of the regional Dubai Representative Office and runs his own brand management agency, Vaz spends long hours at his office with a passion for spotting challenges and conquering them. It all started in 1990. "I was born in India but I grew up in Kuwait and went to college in Cyprus," he says.
With Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, where his parents worked, the option of going to the United States for further studies was taken away. So, he came back to India for his post-graduate studies. "I started working with an advertising agency IB&W where I got the chance to work for clients like Modi Luft and Videocon Jetmatic," says Vaz, who later went on to work for agencies like Trikaya, Pratibha and JWT.
"While working with JWT's public relations division, I got a chance to work with Dubai Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM). In 1997 they opened their Mumbai office," says Vaz. Understanding people is an art that he believes has helped him a great deal over the last 15 years. "The experience is very enriching and helps you understand consumer psychographics. I know why people prefer certain brands, what they aspire for or what their perceptions are thanks to my long stint in advertising," he smiles.
When he started working towards promoting Dubai, one of his main goals was to influence travel agents, tour operators, tourists and the public at different levels and his background helped him in this.
"In 1998, I was invited to Bangalore by the Karnataka chamber of commerce to talk about Dubai. I made a presentation and then threw the floor open for questions. A gentleman put his hand up and asked 'Dubai is great for jobs, so how do I get a job there?' That's when I realised that Dubai was perceived as an employment destination and we needed to change that perception," says Vaz. While the Indian traveller was ready to explore foreign shores, they always opted for Singapore. "It has changed today, but back in the day, our task was to be the first choice for the Indian traveller," explains Vaz.
Today, Dubai is the number three destination. "There's adventure, there's something for the elderly traveller, spas for women and also shopping and culture. So, it is an all encompassing destination that offers you Arabic hospitality and culture mixed with 21st century comfort," says Vaz, whose team has actively worked on transitioning Dubai from being a stop-over destination to a complete destination in itself. "It was a challenge and I enjoy challenges," he smiles.
Vaz always wanted to be a pilot as a child. But for the lack of proper guidance he missed the chance. And in 2004, at the behest of his friend, he enrolled at The Bombay Flying Club to become a trained pilot. "I got myself a license, and have explored the skies of Malta and India. What excites me about flying is the same thing that excites me about scuba diving. They are activities that demand focus and concentration. They sound very strenuous but because you're enjoying it so much, it is infact relaxing," says the enthusiast, who loves flying and scuba-diving because it allows him to look at the world from totally different perspectives. "When you are up in the air, it is an amazing feeling to see some parts of the world fly past you. And when you dive, you see shipwrecks, live coral, eels and many beautiful creatures. These sights keep me calm and also entertain me."
Both the activities require precision and science to achieve excellence and that is exactly what drives Vaz in his work too. With shelves overflowing with awards, he feels that awards are essential to boost a business's morale. "During my advertising stint, my boss was not in favour of awards, but I look at them as recognition of effort and a morale boost. They also generate awareness and get a company noticed, which is why I always make it a point to collect awards with my team," he explains.
With long hours spent at work, Vaz unwinds with his family at the movies. "I enjoy animated films. My daughter is 14 years old and my son is 10, so they enjoyed Madagascar and we are eagerly waiting for The Dark Knight Rises and Ice Age 4," he says.
An annual vacation with his family is a must for Vaz. "We love Dubai and Thailand, but we love to see new places every year, which is why I believe that no destination competes with another. Every destination has something new to offer," he says.