A Thrilling Business Tourism Ordeal in visiting Kenya

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The year has been 2014. My uncle, a middle-aged man and an employee of British American Tobacco, had just been promoted to Senior Marketing Advisor. Before his death, I was next to him early last year. Uncle Harry had just been assigned duties in Kenya, Africa. British American Tobacco was widening its Kenyan roots as a tactic to venture into the deeper East and Central African markets. Kenya, being a geographically positioned nation in terms of African industry, is demanding more and more of the firm’s goods every year. As such, the Senior Marketing Advisor was supposed to conduct a market analysis to gauge the likelihood of success of the new branches, and to advise whether it was appropriate to open even more branches. Uncle Harry’s wife, an employee with the United Nations, was on a different mission outside the country and therefore could not join him. A loving uncle who always referred to me as his only son, he saw it fit for me to accompany him to Africa on his own account. I was very elated. This journey would mark the beginning of a business tourism venture that made me appreciate wildlife while learning a lot about business.

For the first time, I learnt that there were no direct flights from U.S.A to Kenya. We had to go via Amsterdam. This long route did not matter to me at the moment. I knew we would finally reach our destination. I had heard of Kenyan stories before from my relatives who had visited the country. I heard that the Rift Valley was so great there, and that it was the greatest hub of African wildlife after South Africa. I could not wait to see this for myself. Uncle Harry had requested me to accompany him to other business events before. He saw in me a budding businessman. Perhaps it was the reason he asked me to accompany him on this venture. However, the excited me only saw the adventure in the journey.

Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, the largest of its kind in East Africa, had a chilly atmosphere that Sunday mid-morning. I was finally breathing African air. I asked Uncle Harry if we could visit some scenery that same day, but he casually dismissed my plea, citing business duties the following day. He said he needed to prepare for the forum he was to chair that following Monday. The rest of that Sunday was spent in Sarova Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital. It was a boring day, to stay in a country where I knew all wildlife I had ever wanted to see existed, yet I could not move around without my guardian’s guidance. The following morning, we had breakfast and set right for Grand Regency Hotel where a business event was to take place. My uncle had me accompany him into the meeting under the title ‘temporary assistant’, a position I reluctantly took as my main aim was to encounter wildlife, not business partners.

Finally we got to the venue and found British American Business professionals already set on the conference table. I had a seat reserved for me too and felt anxious amidst the professional-looking faces. I was the youngest, and most probably the least experienced. However, I had garnered previous academic knowledge in business, and confided in it. On that first conference day, I learnt that the company had been ranked third in terms of revenue. I also learnt that this did not mean profits. I was able to differentiate between profits and revenue. One speaker pointed out that the company had penetrated the Kenyan market and was planning to grow into the neighboring Tanzanian segments. My uncle, playing his role perfectly, did not consent to this. He said that taxation of the same products was higher in the target country. This would mean the company would make marginal returns there. He suggested that instead, the officials should have considered Uganda, another neighboring nation, which had lesser tax for multinational nations, even though demand for the entity’s products was lower there. From this I learnt that business is not always about mass selling. For a firm to be successful, one has to check the sales against hidden expenses such as marketing and taxation. Indeed, the more the meeting went on, the more I found myself getting interested in the corporate world that I had considered boring before.

The meeting was adjourned at 2.30 p.m. My uncle, not hesitating, kept his promise of visiting the Nairobi National park. We got into a four wheel drive vehicle and set off, together with other business tourists who had coincidentally booked the same arrangements as us. We stopped at the gate to provide our identity as routine called for. The payments had already been settled by BAT where Uncle Harry worked. Even before we could venture further, in the immediate sight were gazelles and zebras, grazing peacefully in the scorching 3 o’clock African sun. The zebra, our guide said, belonged to the herbivore class of the donkey and horse. I took several pictures with my camera, photos that I still have as my bedroom wall hangings. I felt that the gazelles were posing for a picture to please this special visitor that was seeing what he had yearned to encounter for years for the first time. I got a direct picture of the Kenyan herbivores, all facing the camera.

Little had we moved further than a giraffe appeared out of the thicket. A tower in the sky, the guard said it was not to be confused with a grazer; it is a browser. Two little baby giraffes later appeared, innocently, as if they had waiting for their mother to confirm the safety situation. We could not advance the quest as the giraffes stood in the middle of the road, but I was not bothered as I was taking my time to shoot videos of the wildlife. In Nairobi National Park, we saw the lion, Africa’s wildest animal and the largest in the cat kingdom. When the king roared, I dropped my camera because I did not anticipate that kind of thunderous sound. Nevertheless, this constituted part of the adventure that marked the most special moments of my life.

The three day business tourism was marked with us alternating between conferences and park visits. The later was my favorite. In the business forums, my uncle launched a new marketing scheme where they would practice product placement. Product placement, the term I was learning for the first time, meant that cigarette would be displayed in local films as a marketing scheme. The starring actors would pose as smokers in films to increase the market growth rate of tobacco. My late uncle’s idea has made a breakthrough recently, seeing target sales and profits achieved. Sadly, he is not present to witness his success. In Amboseli National Park, I saw the elephant for the first time. I took pictures of the largest land animal that weighs more than 6 tons. It was so big that I was only a little surprised when I learnt the giant’s gestation period was a whopping 22 months.

This business tourism ordeal marked the most special moment in my life. I learnt a lot in the business domain and would like to become a corporate icon some day. I also appreciated the vast wildlife scenery I encountered, hoping that I would one day have the chance to become a business tourist, just like my late uncle.

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