This Women's Month, we chat to Zeenith Rahiman, Air France KLM Royal Dutch Airlines commercial director, who has been with the company for over 15 years and involved in travel marketing for just as long.
Rahiman lets us in on why she chose a career in travel marketing, what excites her about working in the airline space and some of the challenges she has faced and overcome.
What does a day in your life look like?
I wake up at around 5.30am. I jump into the shower, then say a prayer, and onto my favourite part of my day which is waking up my beautiful boy with a kiss. Next up is the morning school run. I get into the office at 8am; from that point, no day is the same. That is what I love about my job.
Can you tell us more about yourself. What made you choose a career in travel marketing?
I’ve always had a passion for travel and am a firm believer that your thoughts shape your future. As a little girl, I was fascinated by the Pyramids and the Dutch reclaiming land from the sea (that said, it seems only fitting that I landed up working for Egypt Air and KLM in later years!)
I studied and obtained a diploma in travel and tourism and that’s how my official career in travel kicked off.
My 15-year career at KLM has evolved in so many ways. I started out in reservations and ticketing and then went on to apply for a position in pricing. Thereafter I moved into business analysis.
My next step was as a marketing and revenue manager where my creative side was unleashed. For the past three years, my role has been as the commercial director for Southern Africa with the marketing department as part of my scope.
What about the work you do excites and/or inspires you? Especially with regards to travel marketing within the airline space?
Seeing the results of campaigns or strategies that yield the results we planned is always something that both excites me and inspires me for future strategies. I still get excited when I hear one of our ads on the radio, on a billboard, or read an article that my team and I worked on. Working for Air France and KLM is exciting as we market two airlines with two completely different brand identities. As different as they are, I love how complementary the two brands are.
Close to my heart are the CSR activities we are involved in. One of my favourites is KLM’s sponsorship of Vision 4 Change which is an organisation that assists school children who are visually impaired.
Intuition and understanding our customers’ preferences and wants guide me in evaluating what strategy is needed, whether a campaign will work and if it is worth the investment. My intuition has never let me down.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
The strong women in my life have been and continue to be an inspiration to me. My two grannies, my mum, my step mum, my sisters, aunts, cousins and friends.
What are some of the challenges you have faced and how have you overcome them?
My dad was initially not in favour of me choosing a career in travel and tourism. He preferred something more 'traditional' like studying to become a chartered accountant, which I understood as accounting was a subject I was good at. I used my 'marketing' skills to persuade him to let me follow my dreams.
What is it like working for Air France and KLM?
Air France and KLM is a great company to work for. They recognise hard work and reward you for it. They are big on encouraging you to think big and drive innovation and creativity wherever you can, which is always great. Challenging, yes, but so fulfilling. I am proud to work for Air France and KLM. My blood is blue!
It’s Air France and KLM's 100th birthday this year; what does the brand have planned in terms of marketing?
The 100-day countdown to our 100th birthday began on 29 June with the arrival of our new 787-10 at Schiphol the next day. Between now and October we are launching a very exciting campaign based on sustainability, children and the next 100 years. That campaign will be launched on 94.7 in August.
Then a couple of days after our official birthday (7 October 1919) we will celebrate our 100-year party with the KLM CFO, Erik Swelheim, who will join us from Amsterdam. It looks set to be a big celebration indeed! KLM looks back with pride with a focus on the future. KLM is committed to 'Fly Responsibly'.
We believe the best way to predict the future is to create it.
What is it like being a woman marketer within the aviation and travel space in SA?
It might sound surprising, but the aviation and travel space is predominantly female.
As a woman in the marketing and travel space, I think that together with market research and analysis it is my 'female instinct' that I rely on. Intuition and understanding our customers’ preferences and wants guide me in evaluating what strategy is needed, whether a campaign will work and if it is worth the investment. My intuition has never let me down.
What is your message for Women’s Month that you’d like to share with women within the airline space and/ or considering a field in marketing?
A powerful quote from Oprah Winfrey: "Excellence is the best deterrent to racism and sexism".
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