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Tommy Allen

Tommy Allen Project Manager

Be Inspired Series

Mukesh Sharma

Managing Director
Mukesh Sharma

Mukesh did three years of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering at UUJ, then decided to join the family travel business, which his father set up in 1982. He enjoyed the work so much that he decided to stay

What does your job involve?

I am managing director of one of the largest travel companies in Northern Ireland employing a total of 30 staff. We have four departments; Retail, Long haul Air Fares, Business Travel and Administration/IT.

As our business relies heavily on the airline industry, I find that much of my time is spent ensuring contracts with carriers, staff training and product knowledge and constant marketing initiatives are in place.

We place a great emphasis on IT and we are constantly developing new systems to make access to bookings and booking information for our customers, both commercial and retail, easier.

How did you get into this line of work -- didn't you start out in engineering?

I did three years of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering at UUJ (or Ulster Polytechnic as it was known in those days) and decided to take a short break from the course to support the family travel business, which my father set up in 1982. I enjoyed the work so much that I decided to stay.

What's the most rewarding aspect of your job and what are the biggest challenges?

Knowing that your company has successfully helped hundreds of thousands of people travel around the world without complaint has got to be rewarding. The numerous emails and thanks from satisfied customers makes the job worthwhile and reassures me that we have the best staff in the industry. In the current economic climate, being profitable has got to be the biggest challenge.

Has your business suffered as people cut back on travel during the recession?

The travel industry as a whole has suffered, however looking forward, I am positive about the future of our company in particular because of our strengths in IT and the professionalism of our staff.

Are you working on any big projects or plans for the future?

We are always looking to make new developments. Our current project, when launched, will allow our main client base; the UK/Ireland Travel Trade, to book and ticket fares through our system for their clients seamlessly.

What personal/professional qualities are required to run your own business in the travel industry?

A strong positive attitude and the ability to motivate people are important as well as the normal qualities for managing a business.

The travel industry and in particular suppliers and licensing bodies place huge emphasis on directors and on the company's reputation and reliability.

Tell me about your involvement in the Festival of Colours?

I am one of the founder members of ArtsEkta, one of Northern Ireland's largest multi-cultural organisations who organise this event. Since its inception, I have got involved, where time permits, in many aspects of the organisation. For Holi-Festival of Colours, I have been involved in the planning, discussions around the international foods which will be served, and various health and safety issues and of course as treasurer of the budgets.

There is a huge stage at the event which will host music and dance and I will also be performing as a musician. I play both the tabla and the harmonium.

What does the event signify?

The event signifies the coming of spring and, traditionally in Indian villages, the festival of Holi. As well as being a fun day it has a huge significance in bringing people together. People throw coloured powder in the air or smear it on each other's faces.

When one smears powder on someone's face, it is seen as a huge act of friendship. It can be between two people who are attracted to each other or husband and wife or just friends.
Perhaps the most important significance is when old enemies or friends who have "fallen out" put colour on each other; this signifies the beginning of reconciliation or rekindling of old friendships.

Who is the Belfast event for and what do you hope it will achieve?

Like all events held by ArtsEkta, the event is open to people of all religions, those with no beliefs and people from all cultural backgrounds.

We hope to achieve through all our work -- a break down of barriers between all cultures and the creation of new friends at this event.

Holi -- the Festival of Colours is a free event and it's a veritable feast of fun for all people who come along. Last year the event attracted thousands of people from across Northern Ireland and from all traditions.

ArtsEkta's "strap-line" is "Cultural Bonding through the arts", and that's what we intend to achieve, through all the work we do.

Is there a good appreciation of Indian culture here in Northern Ireland?

Yes there certainly is. Indian food, clothing, music and dance are all fused within society. Although ArtsEkta works with a wide range of cultures, Indian tradition is probably the most popular in our showcases.

What do you like to do outside work, do you have any hobbies or involvement in other voluntary organisations?

When I get spare time, I enjoy playing the tabla or harmonium (Indian instruments). I am also on the board for Moving on Music and the Hindi Council UK.

I am the chairperson for the Good Relations Partnership in Newtownabbey Borough Council.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

Hard to say, but I always remember a quotation from Mahatma Gandhi who once said: "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind".

Who or what has inspired you most in your career?

My father.

Tell me an interesting fact about yourself

Sadly I'm just an ordinary guy.

Mukesh Sharma

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