By PAUL LETIWA pletiwa@gmail.com
Posted  Wednesday, August 31  2011 at  18:59

Running a successful business means being a good manager, being interested in systems and controls, and being organised.

Gifted entrepreneurs are distinct and can turn small ideas into big ones. That is what Mr Hamed Ehsani, managing director of Village Market, did.

In 1992, while driving with his brothers, an exciting idea was born — construction of a shopping and recreation mall within Nairobi.

It would be a convenient, fun, comfortable, and safe destination with the right mix of shops and services, and the right balance of retail and entertainment for the residents of Gigiri and its environs.

That would end up being the popular Village Market, which has grown into a leading shopping, recreational, and entertainment complex.

Mr Ehsani shares his thoughts on investment and what it takes to manage a business empire.

How did the idea of setting up Village Market come about?

Twenty years ago, as my brothers and I were driving to Limuru Golf Club, the idea was born. We had studied the growth of the city and anticipated that Gigiri would become an important hub within a few years.

How did you get the capital?

The capital for our investments was not very high and much of the investment at early stages was financed through bank loans. Family funds provided the initial capital.

Does such a business pay?

The real estate business has been rewarding, overall, in Kenya.

What is particularly rewarding about The Village Market is the sense of community among the tenants and our frequent guests. It is also a meeting place for people of diverse backgrounds.

How do you deal with stiff competition?

I look at the bigger picture. When new competitors come into the market, I see that as a sign of growth of our economy and our market, and I take a lot of joy in that.

Competition is good because it helps you refine your management and marketing methods and skills. I don’t play dirty and have helped our competitors with the knowledge I have gained and provided them with guidance whenever possible.

What are your marketing plans and how is your model different?

We have emerged from a market where the consumer did not have much choice and the supplier dictated to one where there is plenty of choice and where consumers demand service and quality. Marketing plans are evolving around the needs of customers.

Our model is based on maintaining our uniqueness in every possible way.

We try not to follow the direction everybody else is taking and look for other scenarios. We try to predict trends and the current and future needs of our clients.

What are some of your business challenges?

Initially, the retail industry was a little underdeveloped, meaning that we had to really nurture our tenants, coach them, and get them to buy into our vision of The Village Market.

The industry has some great innovators now — tenants we are learning from and trying to keep up with.

What are the Village Market’s future plans?

We are optimistic about the future. Retail is emerging from infancy in Kenya and we want to be a driving force in its development.

We want to continue to innovate, push boundaries, and introduce concepts that will keep us at the forefront of the industry, locally and globally.

Does having a lot of money make you happy?

Happiness is not about what you have or what you own; it is detachment from material things that brings happiness.

There should be a spiritual element in one’s life that is the cause of true happiness. The joy one experiences through material things is short-lived, whereas spiritual joy lasts.

Which is the most expensive thing you have ever bought?

I am not too much into purchasing expensive and luxurious things. As long as it serves the purpose and is of high quality, I am satisfied.

Brand names don’t interest me that much. Probably, property purchases are the more expensive items.

What is your worst money and investment decision?

Every decision and investment has been part of our success. We have grown and learned from everything we have done, and it is a part of what we are today.

What is your best money and investment decision?

Building The Village Market has provided jobs and consistent incomes for thousands of people and their families.

We have a great team interested in making The Village Market successful.

What lessons has money taught you?

With any kind of success comes a great deal of responsibility. I feel a deep sense of responsibility towards our Village Market family and the Kenyan community in general.

Do you invest in shares?

I could be called a recreational investor in shares. I am a cautious investor and don’t like to take unnecessary risks. I like to invest in things that I have control over.

Do you prefer property or pension?

I am a great fan of property and even if there are ups and downs in the market, over the years, you end up a winner.

This does not mean one should not plan for retirement. A good pension programme does not require a large capital outlay and can build up to become a major support in later years.

Do you use credit cards while shopping?

Yes, I use credit cards. They are convenient, though I tend to overspend with them.

What is your advice to local investors?

Beware of get rich quick promises or schemes. Be wise in your investment and let your wealth build up through your hard work and correct and honest dec

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