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Profiles

Straddling Two Rivers

Inutu Zaloumis-Kalumba managing director Two Rivers.
Inutu Zaloumis-Kalumba managing director Two Rivers. PHOTO | COURTESY 

At the beginning of this year, Inutu Zaloumis- Kalumba came to Kenya from Zambia to take on the managing director’s seat at Two Rivers. Her responsibility? To manage the mixed-use development. She was coming from her role in Zambia as the co-founder and managing director of Pam Golding Properties Zambia, a franchise of Pam Golding Properties Group. She’s technically fresh off the boat. She met JACKSON BIKO at Two Rivers mall for a chat.

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How has the transition been from running a company you founded to coming here to build something someone else started?

I was on a 10-year journey with Pam Golding Properties, and one of the things that I believe in is succession planning. One of the biggest challenges we have as Africans is that we never like to see a business beyond ourselves. And this was triggered off by a conversation with my children. My son asked me, ‘so if something happens to you today, what will happen to Pam Golding?’ I had always wanted to do it for five years then transition into something else. So I said, let me start my succession process. I started by upscaling my team to be able to work without me having to physically be in the office on a daily basis.

When this opportunity arose, I said no as a first reaction. I never thought about working outside Zambia. Then I had a discussion with myself and thought, why not go and look? But I struggled. I said ‘you're used to being your own boss and now you're going to have to work for somebody else’.

So growth was my motivator. Sometimes you have to step outside your comfort zone to be able to grow. There's always the assumption that once you are your own boss you have ultimately learnt everything. But you can learn from others.

Have you learnt anything new, something that got you off your axis?

I've learnt how to live alone. (Chuckles) Which is very different. So I'm married with three children. My children are 23 to 17 years. For the past 20 years, I have lived my life with my children constantly around me, now I go back home and there is nobody to talk to.

You learn to be able to keep yourself company. You learn to read more and appreciate the different things in life. I have discovered myself anew because when you are with your family you sort of lose yourself because you are so immersed in everybody around you. Being a mom is all about your children and your husband, you come last.

I’m also more culturally aware than I was. I've learnt to speak ‘Kenyan’. (Chuckles) I've learnt that in Kenya you can't be as direct as we are in Zambia. Kenyans are more diplomatic than us. So I've learnt that when you're sitting with people especially your team, they won't necessarily oppose what you say, you have to learn to read between the lines.

So being alone here, you are sort of resetting yourself, aren’t you?

Exactly, you are spot on. I actually think that it's both to the benefit of even my children and my husband. But I miss my family terribly.

Do women suffer from midlife crisis or how does it manifest itself? Have you suffered from midlife crisis?

(Laughs) I don't know. I don't know whether women have midlife crisis or menopause. (Laughs) Maybe midlife crisis is a man's equivalent of menopause. (Laughs) I don't know whether we actually fair because a woman goes through a lot during menopause and it's a very trying time. Did I go through midlife crisis? I don't know. Am I going through a midlife crisis now? I don't know. Maybe I'm saying let me spread my wings and fly.

But I think for every woman, when your children get older and they're out of the nest, there's a whole adjustment. I think my husband suffered because I had too much time on my hands. He’s an architect, so he was very busy and I wasn’t. I would nag him because I was trying to fill the gap left by the children who didn’t need me any more. After a few months, I realised that I wasn't the best company to be around. I was nagging because I felt lost. Then one day asked myself ‘what did I used to love?’ I really enjoyed reading. I went back to school to do my MBA.

Your daughters are 17 and 18 years now, is there something that you'd wish them to do that you weren’t able to do?

I would love my girls to travel the world. Before you settle down with your life partner, use your youth. What is that famous saying about the youth?

Youth is wasted on the young.

Yes! Travel opens the mind to possibilities. We can't be global citizens on the Internet, or on the phone or Instagram. You know what I mean? You Google it. You have to experience different environments. I would love my children to at least visit every continent and not experiencing in comfort, I want them to backpack.

What age would you tell your daughters, no, you are too young to get married?

I'd like them to probably get married at the age of about 30. At 30, you've discovered yourself and you know what you want, as opposed to your 20s.

That applies to your son as well?

Yes, of course. There is a chance for a more rounded decision after 30.

What do you least like about yourself now?

(Long pause) I think sometimes I respond too quickly and then regret it, especially when I'm upset. I’m relearning that. I’m learning to slowly count back from 10.

Do you think you'll go to heaven?

I think I will.

Why?

(Chuckles) It's a very interesting question. (Pause) Because I'm doing my best as a human being on earth to live life according to my Christian principles. I read and meditate on the word every day to be able to reflect and see how it applies to me. I don't say those long prayers, I talk to God. His word tells me that He’s a God of possibilities, there's nothing impossible with Him. I hear Him in different things. I've learnt that it's not always during your praying time that you hear from God, it might be through somebody else.

Now that you're in your last half of life, what do you think will dominate this half so much?

(Laughs) Lord, last half of my life! Do you have to put it that way? Going forward, philanthropy will take a lot of my energy, time and space. I'm passionate about children, I like to champion their rights and highlight anything that touches on them negatively, like child labour or cruelty.

Would you adopt a child now?

To be honest I don't think I would because I might not give them my all. But I would definitely sponsor a child, but not just paying school fees, I have to input in them lessons and open for them doors.

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