Per­son­al­ity of the month Fly­ing with RwandAir wings

An as­tute mar­keter, an avi­a­tion pro­fes­sional, a travel man­age­ment ex­pert and a strate­gist is how Ti­mothy Nji­hia, Coun­try Man­ager – UAE, RwandAir de­scribes him­self. He is driven by his sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity and has also im­bibed an at­ti­tude of con­fronting

TravTalk - Middle East - - SPECIAL FEATURE -

Ti­mothy Nji­hia comes with a vast ex­pe­ri­ence in his port­fo­lio that comes from air­line com­mer­cial man­age­ment, gen­eral man­age­ment, travel op­er­a­tions man­age­ment, and jobs re­lated to sales, mar­ket­ing and strate­gis­ing in the air­line in­dus­try and the world’s lead­ing global travel man­age­ment com­pa­nies (TMCs). Ow­ing to his su­pe­rior in­tel­lect, nu­mer­ous achieve­ments and rich ex­pe­ri­ence, he is also a mem­ber of var­i­ous premier as­so­ci­a­tions, in­clud­ing Char­tered In­sti­tute of Mar­ket­ing - United King­dom (MCIM), Amer­i­can Acad­emy of Project Man­age­ment (AAPM), des­ig­nated as a Fel­low of the Amer­i­can Acad­emy of Project Man­age­ment (FAAPM), and Mar­ket­ing So­ci­ety of Kenya (MSK). In ad­di­tion, he is also the Vice-Chair­man, Train­ing and Fi­nance, in the Gov­er­nance Board of Char­tered In­sti­tute of Mar­ket­ing - Kenya.

Travel Man­age­ment to Avi­a­tion

Nji­hia’s role as the Coun­try Man­ager of RwandAir for the UAE de­mands dy­namic and ef­fec­tive lead­er­ship to en­sure that RwandAir is po­si­tioned as a pro­fes­sional air­line, with the high­est lev­els of cus­tomer ser­vice, while en­sur­ing that all stake­hold­ers’ (in­dus­try, cor­po­rate, lo­cal, in­ter­na­tional, le­gal and gov­ern­men­tal) re­quire­ments and reg­u­la­tions are met. Prior to this role, Nji­hia over­saw the Mar­ket­ing, Sales and Op­er­a­tions di­vi­sions of two lead­ing global travel man­age­ment com­pa­nies, Carl­son Wagonlit Travel (CWT) and FCM Travel So­lu­tions, both with op­er­a­tions in well over 100 coun­tries across the Amer­i­cas, Europe, the Mid­dle East, Africa, Asia Pa­cific, etc.

This was quite a good ex­po­sure and one that proved to be quite use­ful in Nji­hia’s cur­rent role, which seems to have taken a 180-de­gree turn—from a travel pro­fes­sional be­ing served by var­i­ous air­lines to an air­line pro­fes­sional, serv­ing travel pro­fes­sion­als. His in­ter­ac­tions with travel pro­fes­sion­als are value-laden and he is able to en­gage at all lev­els, be it about the C-suite or the shopfloor, from com­mer­cial to tech­ni­cal to op­er­a­tional view­points. Nji­hia has also been in­stru­men­tal in the start-up of leisure and MICE (Meet­ings, In­cen­tives, Con­fer­ences and Events) di­vi­sions, where he has over­seen them from their con­cep­tual stage to their growth.

Roots of prepa­ra­tion

Nji­hia started off at Eger­ton Uni­ver­sity to study IT, then joined Kenya Utalii Col­lege, Africa’s lead­ing hos­pi­tal­ity and tourism train­ing in­sti­tu­tion at the time, to study Travel Op­er­a­tions Man­age­ment, and then earned IATA/UFTAA cer­ti­fi­ca­tions as well. Nji­hia says, “I have al­ways been am­bi­tious and this led me to ven­ture into mar­ket­ing and sales lo­cally at the Kenya In­sti­tute of Man­age­ment (KIM) and then in­ter­na­tion­ally at the Char­tered In­sti­tute of Mar­ket­ing (CIM), where at one point I emerged as the best stu­dent coun­try­wide in Mar­ket­ing Re­search and In­for­ma­tion. At the time of tak­ing up my cur­rent po­si­tion, I was half way through with my MBA, from the Uni­ver­sity of Sun­der­land, Fac­ulty of Busi­ness, Law and Tourism.”

Achieve­ments un­der his watch­ful lead­er­ship

RwandAir un­der Nji­hia has had some tough times as well as some in­ter­est­ing times. Nji­hia took over his charge dur­ing a rather tur­bu­lent time for RwandAir and it was quite a chal­lenge turn­ing around the sit­u­a­tion and re­al­iz­ing growth. How­ever, un­der his lead­er­ship and with the sup­port from his team in Dubai and the man­age­ment, Rwanda’s flag­ship car­rier re­alised some growth in the ar­eas of pas­sen­ger rev­enue and up­lift, cargo ton­nage and rev­enue. Nji­hia is now fo­cused on grow­ing RwandAir’s mar­ket share, cus­tomer share, new mar­ket seg­ments and ge­o­graph­i­cal (off­line) mar­kets.

Nji­hia quips, “You may re­call that in 2016, RwandAir ac­quired two brand new A330s, equipped with fully flat beds in busi­ness class, in­flight con­nec­tiv­ity and en­ter­tain­ment across the en­tire cabin. Th­ese air­craft were de­ployed to key mar­kets and Dubai too re­ceived one of th­ese, which was a re­ally big boost. To­gether with my team, we em­barked on ag­gres­sive mar­ket­ing and sales within the travel trade and I must ap­pre­ci­ate the sup­port from the travel trade within the en­tire UAE as with­out them, we would not have achieved any growth. In

You may re­call that in 2016, RwandAir ac­quired two brand new A330s, equipped with fully flat beds in busi­ness class, in­flight con­nec­tiv­ity and en­ter­tain­ment across the en­tire cabin. Th­ese air­craft were de­ployed to key mar­kets and Dubai too re­ceived one of th­ese, which was a re­ally big boost Ti­mothy Nji­hia Coun­try Man­ager–UAE, RwandAir

ad­di­tion to this, we re­fo­cused our ef­forts on cargo, es­pe­cially with the new A330s, and this saw us en­gag­ing a lot with the mar­ket, i.e., cargo agents, freight for­warders, traders etc. With that, and a num­ber of other stake­holder events, our cargo op­er­a­tions picked up steadily, clos­ing at a 300% growth in our last fi­nan­cial year.”

Growth plan for the year

To en­sure sus­tain­able growth for RwandAir, Nji­hia has al­ready charted out some plans which will be put into ac­tion dur­ing the year. Top­ping the list is en­try into new ge­o­graph­i­cal mar­kets— they have just ven­tured into the Gulf Co-op­er­a­tion Coun­tries (GCC) and Pak­istan (al­though off­line). This will give them the op­por­tu­nity to tap into at least six new mar­kets in con­junc­tion with other part­ners, through in­ter­line/SPAs with other car­ri­ers out of Dubai and/or the GCC coun­tries. Next plan is di­ver­si­fy­ing his dis­tri­bu­tion strate­gies through new-gen­er­a­tion dis­tri­bu­tion chan­nels; RwandAir un­der Nji­hia plans to part­ner strate­gi­cally with on­line travel agents (OTAs), B2B on­line plat­forms and con­sol­ida­tors as they are the ones cur­rently in max­i­mum de­mand. Nji­hia re­veals, “The end game is to grow the mar­ket share sus­tain­ably and prof­itably, cu­mu­la­tively in­creas­ing stake­holder value.” When asked if he would ever choose a dif­fer­ent ca­reer path if given an op­tion, his re­ply was “No way! As a mat­ter of fact, my en­try into the avi­a­tion in­dus­try was long over­due and now all I want is to keep pro­gress­ing in this line un­til I be­come the CEO of a lead­ing air­line.”

Among his many hob­bies, trav­el­ling takes pride of place, whether it is lo­cal or in­ter­na­tional, fol­lowed by read­ing, watch­ing le­gal drama se­ries, so­cial­is­ing, men­tor­ing and team sports. Nji­hia is an am­bi­tious and ag­gres­sive go-get­ter who rel­ishes a chal­lenge and of­ten wants to try out new ex­pe­ri­ences in life but at the same time help as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble, es­pe­cially through men­tor­ship.

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