After working in the telecommunications industry for 21 years, Said Ahmed Olow decided to try something new in 2014 in the hospitality industry, last year, November 2017, the 8 storey Olow Towers opened its doors to its first customers
In 2014, as the telecommunications industry entered an age of rapid expansion and unprecedented change, one man, who had run one of the largest telecommunications company in Somalia since 1993 thought it was the right time to sell, and get out of the industry. It does not seem right that he was leaving the sector at such a time. Most businessmen would dig in and enjoy the benefits of being in such a rapidly expanding field.
Said Ahmed Olow cashed in at this time. He had his reasons then, and still believes that he made the right call.
“The telecommunications industry was becoming more competitive. But, this is not the main thing, for me, it is the fact that the capital investment needed for systems upgrade and expansion got financially unjustifiable since the profitability of the industry was going down due to all the new entries.” So he left and got into an unexpected sector; hospitality industry.
Why the hospitality industry? Why the hotel business? He thinks that after so many years in the telecommunications industry, he needed a field that wasn’t as cut-throat. That’s the sentimental reason. The logical reason is that he spotted an opportunity to invest in a sector that was just getting off the ground. The demand for services in the hospitality industry was immense.
You may have seen part of his name on a building in the middle of Mogadishu. It’s on one of the tallest buildings in town; the 8 floors Olow Towers that holds a supermarket, health center, gym, 2 cafeterias, 5 conference halls that can hold between 120-800 people, 3 restaurants, and 34 deluxe rooms available for booking for those in need of accommodation, rooms that can hold up-to 60 people when full to capacity.
This is the culmination of a two and a half years of work that begun in September 2014 leading to an official opening in November 2017. The original plan was to finish and be open for business in 26 months, but, to accommodate for acquisition of furniture and moving in, the project extended by four more months.
The tower is one of the most recognizable buildings in the city. It also shows just how much commercial real estate in the city has grown over the past few years. Whereas Olow insists that his building possesses just the standard commercial property features, the truth is that the building was constructed with a new kind of client in mind. The shopping malls, the health center, the cafeterias, the gym, the restaurant, the ultra-modern conference halls and the deluxe rooms were all built in convergence, complementing each other. Fit, for today’s modern Somali man or woman.
Mr Olow says that all the rental spaces in the tower were booked way before the construction ended.
“There was demand then, and that demand still exists. It is this need for investment in the hospitality industry that drove me to the sector in the first place. The city requires more investment in this sector, probably more than most sectors of the economy,” he explains.
Since the first of November when the doors to the tower opened, all the shops have gone operational, up to 6 major events have taken place in the 5 conference halls, and the deluxe rooms get fully booked now and then, especially when there is a security scare in the city.
The future doesn’t faze him. He knows that he is in the right place, at the right time. And his company, Olow Group, is not just in the hospitality industry, but also in real estate, trade and one leg still remained in the ICT world.
For a man who was born in 1962, and spent 21 years running a company at a time when the most sensible thing to do would have been to get out of the country, Olow has dealt with everything that Somalia has thrown at him. From tough business decisions to dealing with thugs who were angling for his business and to dealing with a country that suddenly opened up to the world, he is in the best place to keep Olow Group moving forward, even as the company ventures into new and unchartered territories.
Ayan Abdi Diiriye