We met Shruti in Tanzania, where she was born and brought up. As the Founder of Humans of Dar es Salaam (a photography collective in the spirit of Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York), she very generously volunteered her services to be the pro bono photographer for Sote Tunaweza’s week-long entrepreneurship and leadership institute for women in Tanzania. We were helping Sote Tunaweza organize, run, and finance this institute. So, we had the opportunity to come into contact with Shruti’s young, entrepreneurial, and bright energy.
While incredibly accomplished, she was unbelievably still in university, and yet to even begin to develop her full professional potential. I knew from the moment that I met her, that this was a young woman that I wanted to keep my eyes on.
Even though she had yet to graduate from NYU, she was already taking ideas that she loved from New York, and transporting them back home (you do not pay customs duties on ideas that haven’t been patented!). Not only had she adapted Humans of New York to the destination of Tanzania (think Mount Kilimanjaro, safaris, and the exotic island of Zanzibar), she also brought home ideas like Restaurant Week to Dar es Salaam. She even did something similar to The Amazing Race.
Like a true multinational entrepreneur, Shruti understands that sometimes an idea that was a sensation in one country, can be brought to another country. It’s not always about the newest and best idea, but about exposure, exploration, and all of the rewards of studying and traveling abroad with a discerning eye for translatable brilliance.
Recently, we had the opportunity to catch up with Shruti and learn more about her current activities post graduation. Not at all unexpectedly, she continues to build her entrepreneurial skillset and backbone, this time in the great African city of Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, where her family is establishing Neelkanth Sarovar Premiere, the first all-suites hotel in the city.
Shruti shares with us, “I started to think bigger for myself and my future plans. I began to come up with potential business ideas that I could implement when I went back to Tanzania - and came up with an idea that focuses on increasing tourist arrivals and promoting Tanzanian destinations that are still undiscovered, yet so beautiful. While I continue to work on and develop that business idea, I joined my family business - Neelkanth Group – to work on the launch of Neelkanth Sarovar Premiere in Lusaka, Zambia.”
With high-end amenities, several on-site restaurants, and meticulously chosen décor incorporating local motifs and design, the launch of this hotel took Shruti and the rest of her team an incredible and concerted effort. They launched in November 2018 with the presence of the Zambian President - Mr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu.
Shruti reflects, “I continue to monitor our progress and growth while now working on industrial projects in Tanzania, as well as developing my own personal ideas. Throughout my journey, my inspiration remains my Gurus, who teach us about leading with humility and treating everyone with love and respect. As they have taught me, "in the joy of others, lies our own. In the progress of others, rests our own. In the good of others, abides our own."
What I like about Shruti’s story is the reminder that none of us entrepreneurs are created in a vacuum. Shruti, for instance, has contributed her entrepreneurial energy to a variety of causes including Sote Tunaweza. She also doesn’t hesitate to support her family in their endeavors, while learning skills that will contribute to her own startups. In the emerging markets especially, it is important to both lean on and support family and friends in building each other’s dreams.
“And of course, my family - especially my father who started off with a very humble background and built this company from the ground up, yet remains the most big-hearted and humble person I have ever come across. If I am even half of what both of my parents are today, I will consider myself a successful woman.”
While it helps to have relationships to start with, relationships can also be forged through contributing sincere efforts to those whose work you admire. We certainly are looking forward to keeping in touch with Shruti as she grows in the future, and consider her an excellent contact for multinational entrepreneurs interested in growing into Southern and Eastern Africa.
We look forward to the next time we catch up, Shruti! I can’t imagine what incredible things you will be doing then. Keep it up.