Hasnain Noorani is the founder and group CEO of PrideGROUP, a Kenyan-based conglomerate invested in diverse sectors, including hospitality, the travel industry, transport and energy. Pride Group consists of eight individually run companies. PrideInn Hotels, a chain of eight hotels dotted across Kenya, are the flagbearers in the group.
Other companies in the group are: Cake City (five branches in Nairobi), the Pride Conference Centre (Nairobi), Shawarma Express (two in Nairobi), Paradise Convention Centre (Mombasa), Buffets of PrideInn, the Royal Kitchen MultiCuisine Restaurants (eight in Nairobi and Mombasa), Pride Drive (two in Nairobi and Mombasa), Pride Fuels (three in Nairobi, Mombasa and Naivasha) and Glory Driving School in Nairobi.
1. Tell us about one of the toughest situations you’ve found yourself in as a business owner.
It was in 2013 at the time when I was given the option of acquiring the PrideInn Paradise Beach Resort and Spa, a 300-room beach resort with a convention centre that can host 2,500 people, four pools, three restaurants and three bars. And it is the only resort that has a safari-themed aqua park. When I was presented with this opportunity, I had to put in a large investment and at that point tourism in Mombasa was on its knees, many hoteliers were looking at exiting Mombasa. And here I was being given an opportunity to invest in Mombasa.
I debated about whether to go for it or not to go for it. The risk associated with taking up such an investment was large. By 2013, we had grown from one hotel to six, and these were small-sized hotels we had acquired because our expansion was based on the acquisition of small, old hotels that we would refurbish and reopen under the PrideInn brand.
I had a few discussions, deliberated and made sure to protect the company’s downside. We eventually went for the investment and acquired the PrideInn Paradise Beach Resort and Spa.
It was a decision people questioned, but I saw the opportunity and the gap in the market, which was that in Mombasa everyone was focused on the leisure market; while I have a passion for the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (Mice) market.
I realised that Mombasa did not have a Mice facility. We wanted to create a huge convention centre to launch the concept and the idea of congresses on the beach and bleisure (business and leisure intertwined). And here we are four years down the line and we are happy we took the decision to invest in Mombasa.
2. Which business achievement are you most proud of?
When, after two years of construction at the PrideInn Paradise Beach Resort and arranging its financing, we finally opened the doors on 15 December 2015. Just looking at the hotel was one of the most beautiful moments and it was something that I was proud of.
3. Describe your greatest weakness as an entrepreneur.
I just can’t stop myself from saying, “Yes, I can do this”. I believe that while it is a strength, it is also a weakness because I end up taking too many risks. We have lost money in businesses that have failed or businesses we have launched without doing a thorough market study. I have learned to do thorough research before going into a business. It’s not about what we feel is the right product; it’s about what the guests feel is the right product.
4. Which popular entrepreneurial advice do you disagree with?
One thing that I have seen in business books is the advice to do large feasibility studies or to appoint professional consultants to do feasibility studies. My thought process is that the best feasibility study is the one that I as an entrepreneur would do myself.
If I wanted to open a hotel in Kisumu, rather than appointing a company to do a feasibility study, I would go there, visit facilities that are available there, go to the county office, perhaps visit the clientele there – and that would be my feasibility study.
5. Is there anything you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before you got started?
There’s a lot I wish I knew before I started that would have protected me from a lot of losses. Not that I regret that we have lost money because we have learned lessons. I wish I had known the importance of proper documentation for legalities. Getting the right documentation in place, and making sure that once an agreement is made, documentation is signed to ensure that everything has been recorded. This would have helped avoid unnecessary cases and litigation, as well as unnecessary disputes in future that would result in loss of time, money and reputation.