Bobby Kamani has a full plate. He is managing director of the family businesses that span from Kenya, UK and to India. There are two rose flower farms in Kenya that export 100 million flowers annually. The family holds vast interests in the hospitality industry worldwide, including Zuri Hotels. Bobby, who has successfully carved out his own niche as an astute businessman, at some point in the recent past also had time to serve as the education chair for the Nairobi chapter of the Young Presidents Organisation. He spoke to JACKSON BIKO at his residence.
As the only son to your father — not that your sisters cannot take over— you must have a bigger responsibility to carry this business to the next level. Do you feel that pressure?
The pressure is definitely there. Especially when the bar has been set so high. It is very difficult, the thought of even coming close to the bar, it is almost unreachable. But then, I’ve always been taught by the family, by my parents, that nothing is impossible.
What do you struggle with right now as a man?
On the personal front I think it is settling down again. I used to be married. And that did not work out. I’m in a relationship right now (Pause). I would not say it is a struggle but ending one relationship and starting the next, I would say was a bit of a challenge as you would expect. Of course I have plans to settle down now and everything…
Having been divorced, is there some form of scepticism when it comes to marriage?
I think everyone that comes to your life teaches you something. Either they come into your life as a blessing or a lesson. So just because of an experience in your past of breaking up, it does not mean that all future experiences are going to be the same. I like to believe that you should never judge your future based on your past.
What do you remember most about your childhood?
My siblings. I think that’s what made my childhood. We lived in a huge family — we still live in a huge family— although my siblings are now married and settled in different parts of the world.
You worked in India for eight years. I honestly don’t see someone like you working in India for eight years, four months yes, but not eight…
(Laughs) Oh I did. The family had started building hotels in India and I had just finished my work experience in the UK. At that point, it was the right thing for me to do, also it’s what my father wanted me to do. He wanted me to gain some experience on the ground, not just get comfortable jumping on the middle or top tier. Those eight years in India were great in terms of experience because I learnt more about hotel operations, hotel management than I would have in school.
Did you feel a strong kinship with your heritage being in India?
I still think I’m Kenyan. I might look Indian if you look at me but internally I’m a Kenyan that’s my DNA. As much as I loved my experience in India, I’d like to call it my home away from home. Kenya will still always remain home even after those experiences in the UK where I went to school and in India where I cut my teeth in business.
What makes you the most insecure right now?
I think it’s the constant need to keep everyone happy. I’m always worried about what others think when I should be focusing on what I feel and what I want and what makes me happy.
When you have the love of a father like yours, who is very successful, and then you are the only son, do you find it so hard to be your own man and not as your father’s son? Do you find that you have to work harder at moving away from his shadow?
I think the fact that you are the son of the father you have, and if he’s an extremely successful personality, there’s more pressure to carve your own personality, that is my opinion. You have to be your own person especially. I believe you have more reason to actually carve yourself as a man, as a different personality. It boils down to experiences.
Dad has had some amazing and different experiences and if I could have even half the experiences he has had by the time I reach his age, then I would consider myself to have been extremely lucky.
How are you and your father alike?
We love people (Laughs). When we’re not talking work, you’ll actually see us having a good laugh. We tend to have a sense of humour. I think a lot of people don’t see that side of us.
How are you and him unalike?
(Long pause) He has worked hard his entire life. I’ve been blessed and grateful to have been born in a family that’s been established. That’s the difference between me and him.
What kind of model are you going to adopt for your own fatherhood? That’s assuming you’ll have kids.
(Chuckles) at some point I’d like to. I’ll be there for my children no matter what path they choose to take in life. And that’s something I see my dad and my uncle do for us. Maybe the approach will be different because now generations change, right?
You father was mentioned prominently in the Anglo Leasing scandal. How did that affect you as his son?
(Pause) Well, this is something I cannot comment on because it is still in court. It is sub judice. But all I can say on that matter is that the truth eventually comes out. So we’re waiting for that day.
You are 35 years now, describe yourself at 45.
(Pause) I’d still like to be a very jovial person, have a family and continue enjoying the journey. I intend to probably have two kids.
How many wives?
(Laughs loudly) One would be nice, I want to believe.
You don’t mention your mum much.
I don’t. (Laughs) I think it’s because I’m accused of being a mummy’s boy. So I try not to talk too much about her. (Laughs) When you talk about compassion, I’ve learnt that from mum and grandfather. they are both very soft people, very caring people.