From research to market with some help

Munira Gilani, Director, Imperial Hotel, Kisumu

The presence of Mistra Urban Futures researchers in Kisumu and in the Ecotourism project has put the region ‘on the map’ and helped foster local business and development. The challenge now is how to take the findings and results to the market and be able to scale it up. The KLIP tries to nudge things along, not least with the help of business people like Munira Gilani.

Gilani is the director of the Imperial Hotel in Kisumu and one of the trustees for the KLIP. We asked her about her perspectives as a businesswoman, philanthropist and a trustee, regarding the overall Mistra Urban Futures, KLIP work and the Ecotourism prototype tour.

Q: Where do you see the benefits and drawbacks of academics working with business leaders in community development, as a businesswoman?

A: Academics come up with very good concepts, ideas and even some very practical theories. Many times people in academia will come up with novel ways to approach issues and ways to tackle these. 

A drawback, however, is when so much time is spent doing research – papers sit on the shelf and then another person comes along and does the same research again. There is also a tendency to let things take their time in academia.

In business, we try and continually have to remind ourselves that, if certain opportunities exist, one should try and seize them. If you don’t, someone else may!

Q: What do you think of the Ecotourism research so far?

A: From the research aspect, it was great. We all had a wonderful time with the group that came on prototype tour, and we were all pleasantly surprised with the experiences. Some great ideas and suggestions were also generated demonstrating that indeed an Ecotourism project is something feasible. One challenge that we face however is the issue of scalability and marketing the concepts so that these are sustainable for the future and generate profit. 

By going down the Ecotourism route we are able to come up with many benefits, benefits where the whole community feels better about. We have been able to put Kisumu or Dunga – they did a fish night – on the map now! You see the difference!

We need to now aggressively market to demonstrate to others the value of Ecotourism. It might even be a good idea to say put a certain amount towards a project, which needs to be capped. Once the research has been done and documented, it is time for other players to step in and continue the momentum. This will allow the world of academia to know the parameters they are working with, after that, it’s time for the entrepreneurs to move in and seize the opportunity. 

Q: How can KLIP address this? 

A: KLIP has an interesting role of being able to bridge the best of academia and enterprise. KLIP should focus on taking the best practices of each of these disciplines and come up with a super strategy that allows the community to benefit. Once this is done, it is time for us to implement! So far KLIP has continued to amaze me and I look forward to many more exciting projects headed in the right direction. 


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