LALIT Sheth, the 56-year-old owner, chairman and managing director of Raj Travel World in Mumbai, allegedly committed suicide yesterday by jumping off the Bandra-Worli Sea Link in the Maharashtra state capital.
According to local authorities, heavy economic losses exacerbated by the slump in international tourism may have driven Sheth to end his life.
Sheth had reportedly asked his driver to stop his car on the causeway – which links Bandra and the western suburbs of Mumbai with Worli – while returning from a meeting in Bandra. He then asked the driver to proceed forward slowly while he made an urgent call. Shortly afterwards, the driver realised that Sheth had plunged off the bridge and into the sea.
Police later recovered Sheth’s body from the shore near Worli Fort, and a suicide note in the vehicle’s backseat revealing that Sheth had decided to end his life in the belief that he could no longer fulfil his family commitments.
Headquartered in Girgaum Chaupati in south Mumbai, Raj Travel World started out from humble beginnings in 1976, offering package tours to Kashmir, South India and Nepal. The company commenced international operations in 1979, offering itineraries to Bangkok, Manila and Singapore, and quickly transformed into one of India's largest outbound tour operators.
However, the situation started to unravel in the mid-1990s, when Raj Travel World took a crack at the aviation industry and launched an air taxi operation called Raj Air. The single aircraft venture failed to take off and ended up shutting down after incurring massive debts. An India interstate bus tours foray in 2006 also failed to reap dividends, further hurting the company's bottom line.
Raj Travel World, which currently has 79 offices and over 1,000 employees across India, is believed to owe money to several banks and tour operators, as well as IATA.