Shamim Ehsani is the co- founder and marketing director of the Tribe hotel, a five star hotel in Kenya. It’s a family business he started with his brother. One of the speakers at the recently concluded SheHive Nairobi, Shamim shared his lessons learned from working in the hospitality industry.

A unique experience

“Coming back to Kenya from Boston I had no knowledge of hospitality. My brother and I started this hotel from a consumer point of view. After traveling across the world, there are things we despised in many hotels. we hated  having to pay for Wi-Fi, uncomfortable beds, bad showers, thin walls , billing disputes, empty minibars , non-functional plugs,  scratchy sheets , stupid hotel policies, breakfast ending at 9.00am, overstuffed and  under stuffed pillows and lack of generosity. These inefficiencies became our guide to developing a brand. We made an entry point into business by identifying the hospitality market gap in Africa built a luxury hotel.”

Have a proper vision

From the onset, Shamim and his brother wanted a hotel that looked to have been inhabited by a new-age tribe for a short while before embarking on a nomadic journey. The hotel didn’t have to look brand new rather they wanted a warm habitable place. In their architectural design antiques, crafts and interior decor all come together to complement each other and tell the story of this futuristic tribe.

Have a unique proposition

The tribe’s proposition is its team and the ambience of the hotel. It has a diverse team with unique personas. Apart from their qualifications, the vibrant team possess unique eccentricities that are amusing. Shamim knows his team by name and respective qualities.

“Dan loves bird watching (weird); during the interview Anthony had a funky jacket and Lilian loves and adores fashion and magazines. Nick, Ken, Jackie, Carmeline have warm personalities and great smiles. My staffs appreciates good food and have great taste in dining, we often find ourselves visiting similar places.”

Branding

Shamim and his brother wanted to revolutionise the industry. The hotel was instrumental in reorganizing the industry from the conventional rack rates set by tour operators into best available rates. They put a huge focus on media and social media. They further contracted a reputable Hollywood PR company to take the hotel up to a celebrity status. Years into the industry the PR efforts paid off, they have bagged accolades since 2010 such as the Hot List awards, and World Travel Awards to name a few.

Accept criticism

Despite being told off by a big consultancy that brand name (Tribe) would be the windfall of their venture, Shamim’s team stuck with their guts, cocked their guns and went ahead with their name. Shamim felt that the consultant was a little bit conservative whereas he felt the Tribe name was punchy, kickass and powerful.

“Initially they wanted to brand our hotel as Moto however Motorola began campaign with a similar name.”

Leadership

Shamim attests that Tribe hotel has been able to maintain leadership in the industry through authenticity. Competitors can mimic your idea but that doesn’t mean that you remain complacent. Through a robust leadership and comprehensive training, the hotel had the highest rate of staff retention. The entire team undergoes a courtesy and hospitality training for months before getting into operations.

Advice to women entrepreneurs in hospitality

As a woman in hospitality, you need to get staff to buy into your vision. We encourage our staff to be friendly to customers. Our staff are approachable and confident. We train staff to acknowledge that they are equal as any guest. We are flexible to let staff interact with clients after work.

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