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Vikram Khettry: One altar for my goddess Durga and Jesus

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Vikram Khettry: One altar for my goddess Durga and Jesus


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Vikram Khettry, the Corporate General Manager of Tribe and Trademark hotels on June 24, 2021. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

Here comes Vikram Khettry under a charismatic mop of greying hair, tall, and broad-shouldered. He is not a hard man to miss.

The Corporate General Manager of Tribe and Trademark hotels, with a combined capacity of 352 rooms, had a rubbish year. The pandemic dismantled his hospitality mantra, “happy employee equals a satisfied guest with memorable experience equals a happy balance sheet.”

There were not very few employees at the hotels, no guests, and certainly not a happy balance sheet. “But things are looking up this year,” he says.

With over 25 years in the hotel industry, Vikram previously worked at The Hilton and Four Points by Sheraton in Jaipur, India, The Radisson Whitesands Resort in Goa, amongst others before moving to Africa.

A big lover of wildlife and the African safari, he talked to Jackson Biko about his passions, the pandemic, and his love for hyenas.

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I like your hair. Is it your real hair?

[Laughs hard] It is. In our family, our hair turns grey quite early. When I was in my early 30s, my hair started turning grey and I coloured it. I then realised that dyes have chemicals that make your hair even greyer. By the time I was 40, I was completely grey. Then I decided to just leave it natural. I want to grow it to my shoulder.

You will look like a spiritual leader, or a dollar billionaire, not a hotelier.

[Chuckles] The last time I grew it to that length was last year when I pledged not to cut it until business comes back to at least between 60 and 70 percent. So this time I’m making a higher pledge that I will only cut my hair until we reach 80 percent of our normal business. It’s slowly getting there— business that is.

Do you make pledges using your hair?

No. Covid era has been difficult for all of us, especially for the travel and airline industries, and compromising our personal and work lives. We hit very low, almost 10 percent of our business potential. After that, it has been an upward journey over the last nine months. March was our best month before the lockdown was announced again.

What did you discover about yourself last year?

Not necessarily about myself but my environment. Empathy. It’s something that develops you as a person. Last year forced us to adjust our lifestyles. People showed compassion. My landlord said I could pay what I could.

Stress levels for people all over the world rose. We did a lot of outdoor activities as a family. I have two sons, 15 and 12. The moment the lockdown was lifted we took off to the Maasai Mara, one of my favourite places on earth. I grew up watching animals and the African savannah on TV. I have been following hyenas for a long time. I like their social structure and biology.

Hyenas. They are generally not very desirable animals, are they?

They are fascinating. We live in a male-dominated world. Hyenas live in a female-dominated world. Female hyenas are larger than the male, and so it is a matriarchal society.

The male is pretty much at the bottom of the social ladder. After a kill, they are the very last to eat.

To me, that’s quite interesting especially when I have grown up in a world where we have seen women not being allowed equal opportunity. So I connect to that.

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Calcutta, a beautiful city, warm and hospitable. It’s not capitalistic because it was governed in a socialist environment for 40 years. It’s different from the rest of the country, in terms of the way they think, or behave.

I went to school there before leaving in 1992 for work. I have worked in India, Tanzania, and now Kenya.

Why do you have two rings on each hand?

One is a wedding ring and the other is just an iron ring that my dad gave me. He passed on in 1997. He was a very religious person. He was also studying astrology.

Do you believe in astrology?

I believe in energy. Each one of us is born with pure white energy. As we grow, karma changes the colour towards the darker side. Growing up we were taught that every single deed affects our energy, and we need to keep our energy closer to being white. This is a spiritual mantra, not a religious one. I grew up in a Hindu family, my wife is a Christian. Some of my best friends are Muslim. So I am not confined to one religion.

Was it challenging marrying a Christian wife, you being Hindu?

India has gone through a transition over the last 30 years. With education and globalisation, we became more liberal than the previous generation. I joined this hotel on the same day as my wife. We met at the HR office, became friends, and then knew we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. When I called her dad —a devoted Christian— asking for her hand in marriage, he said ‘just come and meet me.’ I met him and he was happy with me.

What have you learnt about Christianity from your wife?

Frankly speaking very little. My wife is not a devout Christian. She is like me, a spiritual person. So in our house, we have an altar where we have Jesus, Mother Mary and my goddess Durga from my religion. So we pray to Jesus, Mary, and Mother Durga.

At 47 years of age, what does your white energy look like; is it towards the white or dark?

I don’t know. You can’t tell the shade of your white energy. When you have darker energy around you, it brings sickness to your body. The healthier you are, it means that you have good energy around you. They say stress brings about lifestyle-related diseases.

What is stress?

Stress means your energy is low or it’s toward the dark. So when you do meditation or yoga, it calms your mind and also brings positive energy around you, which then heals you.

What’s the one thing you find yourself investing in a lot, at this stage of your life?

That’s a very good question. There are two things that I want to do before my active life comes to an end. First is there is a lot of work that needs to be done towards saving the planet.

I have tied up with a group of friends in different parts of the world that are working on a solution to have sustainable community-based projects.

The second thing; in seven years I want to bring a concept to Kenya that did very well in India. The Nature Cure Centre. It’s a cure that works with your energy, your body in a way that makes you much stronger both mentally and physically.

What’s your mantra on money?

Money is a result of knowledge and effort. The more you apply those two the more it grows.



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KQ resumes Mumbai flights after 4 months

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KQ resumes Mumbai flights after 4 months


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A Kenya Airways aircraft at JKIA. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Kenya Airways will on Thursday resume flights to Mumbai, ending a four-month hiatus that was occasioned by increased cases of Covid-19 in the Asian state.
  • The airline in a notice to its customers yesterday said it will resume its operations on the route on September 16, 2021 with the first flight departing Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at 7am to arrive in Mumbai at 3:45 pm.

Kenya Airways #ticker:KQ will on Thursday resume flights to Mumbai, ending a four-month hiatus that was occasioned by increased cases of Covid-19 in the Asian state.

The airline in a notice to its customers Monday said it will resume its operations on the route on September 16, 2021 with the first flight departing Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at 7am to arrive in Mumbai at 3:45 pm.

The airline will then resume full operations on the route on September 20, flying three times per week on the Indian route, which is one of the most lucrative destinations on its network.

Passengers on the route will part with Sh46,000 ($419) for one-way air ticket on economy class seats from Nairobi to Mumbai- prices that are relatively the same compared to what it was charging before the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Welcome back onboard! Fly from Nairobi to Mumbai starting Thursday 16th September with normal schedules resuming from Monday 20th September 2021,” said the airline in a notice to its customers yesterday.

KQ Suspended passenger flights to and from Mumbai on April 30 until further notice, following a government directive on travel between India and Kenya due to a Covid-19 crisis in that country.

The airline said on Friday that passengers who had booked tickets after May 1, the date of the last flight from Mumbai to Nairobi, will have to change their plans.

Affected passengers, KQ said, could also take vouchers for the value of their fare for future travel within 12 months.

India has seen soaring infection rates in the recent days, since the discovery of a new virus variant. Last month, India put on lockdown one of the states following a spike in cases of Covid-19.

Other countries that have banned flights to India include France, the UK Bangladesh, Oman and Hong Kong that have banned travel to and from India or asked their nationals coming from the Asian country to isolate themselves in government-approved hotels.

India has so far detected 33,264,175 corona virus cases with the number of deaths hitting 442,874 as at September 13.

A large number of patients from Kenya also travel to India every year for specialised medical treatment, especially cancer care, helping to drive medical tourism in the densely populated country that boasts affordable and easily accessible healthcare.



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Lower import volumes push mitumba prices to new highs

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Lower import volumes push mitumba prices to new highs


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Man pulls a cart loaded with second-hand clothes at Gikomba Market in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Traders paid Sh100,527 on average per tonne of the used clothes, popularly called mitumba, compared to Sh96,286 the previous year.
  • Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) banned importation of the clothes from late March through mid-August in a bid to contain the spread of the life-threatening coronavirus infections.
  • Findings of the Economic Survey 2021 suggests dealers shipped in 121,778 tonnes of mitumba in 2020, a 34.02 percent fall compared with 2019 and the lowest volumes since 2015.

The average price of a tonne of second-hand clothing items imported into the country crossed the Sh100,000 mark for the first time last year on reduced volumes in the wake of safety protocols and guidelines to curb spread of coronavirus.

Traders paid Sh100,527 on average per tonne of the used clothes, popularly called mitumba, compared to Sh96,286 the previous year.

Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) banned importation of the clothes from late March through mid-August in a bid to contain the spread of the life-threatening coronavirus infections.

Findings of the Economic Survey 2021 suggests dealers shipped in 121,778 tonnes of mitumba in 2020, a 34.02 percent fall compared with 2019 and the lowest volumes since 2015.

Last year’s drop was the first dip since 2011 when 76,533 tonnes were shipped in compared with 80,423 tonnes the previous year, the official data collated by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows.

The import bill for the merchandise amounted to Sh12.24 billion, a drop of 31.11 percent, or Sh5.53 billion, year-on-year.

TIn imposing the temporary ban on used clothes, Kebs had applied a standard which prohibits buying second-hand clothes from countries experiencing epidemics to ensure disease-causing microorganisms are not imported into Kenya.

Higher quality and relatively lower prices for mitumba has continued to drive demand for used clothes at expense of locally-made products amid higher margins enjoyed by traders largely operating in informal markets.

The lucrative second-hand clothing market has seen traders from China —a key source market for the merchandise —open shops in Gikomba, Kenya’s largest informal market for mitumba, in recent years to cash in rising demand.

Earnings from exports of articles of apparel and clothing accessories fell 5.32 percent to Sh32.92 billion last year compared with 2019, data indicates.



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Court backs Atwoli union in horticulture membership feud

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Court backs Atwoli union in horticulture membership feud


Cotu boss Francis Atwoli

Cotu boss Francis Atwoli. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Summary

  • A trade union that is led by the long-serving Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) boss Francis Atwoli has survived an attempt to stop it from representing over 60,000 workers in the horticulture industry.
  • Newly registered Kenya Export, Floriculture, Horticulture, and Allied Workers Union (Kefhau) had filed as a case in the Employment and Labour seeking to bar the Atwoli-led Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU) from representing workers in the industry.

A trade union that is led by the long-serving Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) boss Francis Atwoli has survived an attempt to stop it from representing over 60,000 workers in the horticulture industry.

Newly registered Kenya Export, Floriculture, Horticulture, and Allied Workers Union (Kefhau) had filed as a case in the Employment and Labour seeking to bar the Atwoli-led Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU) from representing workers in the industry.

Mr Atwoli is the secretary-general of KPAWU. The rival union claimed KPAWU had encroached on its area of workers’ representation.

Justice James Rika, however, dismissed the claim and ruled that the dispute should have been taken through conciliation, and was therefore presented in court prematurely.

He also stated that Kefhau must go beyond its registration and recruit sufficient members from the employers, to be granted recognition and organisational rights.

“Registration on its own, does not afford the claimant (Kefhau) recognition. Until there is proof that Kefhau has satisfied Section 54 of the Labour Relations Act, the status quo must be maintained,” said the judge.

“Kefhau must recruit at least 50 percent plus one, of the unionisable employees in the floriculture and horticulture industry, members of the Agricultural Employers Association to be considered for recognition,” he stated.

He noted that there is a Recognition Agreement and CBA, binding Mr Atwoli’s union and Agricultural Employers Association, affecting 73 Flower Growers Group of employers, and over 60,000 employees.

“It is objectionable for Kefhau to be allowed organisational rights, and the legitimacy to receive trade union dues and agency fees, from over 60,000 employees, just on the strength of registration as a trade union,” said the judge.

Kefhau wanted the court to declare that it is the sole trade union, which is allowed by its constitution to carry out activities in the export floriculture and vegetable industry, and an order restraining Mr Atwoli’s from representing workers in that area.



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