Meet the boss

22Mar 2016
Dickson Ng`hily
The Guardian
Meet the boss

This week, our Smart Money reporter Dickson Ng’hily had an opportunity to meet Fastjet’s Tanzania General Manager, John Corse. In this interview, Corse talks of his new position and the highs and lows of his career. Excerpts:

John Corse

Shed light on your new position and what you exactly do

As the general manager of Fastjet Tanzania, I have the overall responsibility for the day-today operations of the airline and its financial performance.

In addition, I have an extremely experienced operations team whose responsibilities are, among others, to ensure the safety of our customers and efficient management of our fleet.

What were you doing before joining the airline industry?

I was running a tourism company, which was based at Arusha but had camps and lodges spread across some of the remotest areas of Tanzania.

How much did you invest in your first business?

It was only a few hundred Kenya Shillings, I used to buy kikoys, bangles and other Africana in Kenya and sell them to my fellow secondary school students and at the university in the UK.

It was my sister who invested in Tanzania in the 1990's and when she died in Dar es Salaam in 1997, I took over from what she was doing, which was a small tourism business, with a lodge in the Selous Game Reserve.

Would you advise businesspeople to venture t into airline business?

The airline business is in many ways just like a fast-moving consumer goods business, you need to sell large volumes of seats before they expire.

The difference is that it is a volatile business, highly technical and involving huge sums of money, so the fortunes of airlines can fall or rise very quickly.

Aircraft are extremely expensive to buy or lease, to maintain properly and to operate. So businesses must have enough operating cash and good financing, because of the technical nature of airlines, they also need significant technical experience in the key areas of operations.

Lastly, this is a competitive industry, so the sales and marketing teams need to be strong and imaginative too.

What prompted you to venture into this industry?

I am very excited by what Fastjet is doing for the traveling public of East and Southern Africa. We have an enormous continent, with growing cities that are widely dispersed and connected by roads that cover long distances; cost effective, safe and reliable air travel can short-circuit that.

It makes me think of the incredible growth of mobile phones here 15 years ago, mobile telephony leapfrogged landline phones, rendering them obsolete. Air travel can therefore, almost do the same thing to roads.

Comment on the challenges you encounter
The challenges are the usual ones experienced by businesses here: lack of skills, particularly pilots and other aviation specialists, some poorly written legislation having unintended consequences and obsolete infrastructure, which is thankfully being addressed by the government now.

Who should do what to improve the investment climate in Tanzania?

I think that the most important thing that is needed here is a stable and sensible legislative environment.

By this, I mean that the government and the private sector need to sit together and consolidate the plethora of different taxes, fees, levies and charges that businesses currently face.

The country needs its revenue but businesses need to thrive in order to grow and therefore pay more taxes, it is actually a symbiotic relationship, enhanced by the right level and consistency of taxes. I don't feel that we have achieved that yet.

Can you highlight some of your success stories so far?
For a business person, success is in achieving profitable growth, without compromising your values and integrity. I'm pleased to have achieved that both in marketing tea (with TATEPA) and in tourism.

Have you ever failed in anything?

Yes! I have made plenty of mistakes in my time, errors of judgment, impetuous decisions taken without due consideration and sometimes not being bold enough at the right moment. It is important to humbly recognize and understand these in order to learn and improve.

What role does your family play in supporting you in your endeavours?

I could not do what I'm doing without the support of my family; they are the most important thing in the world to me, so if my work life doesn't fit with my family life, then I must change it.

In addition, we all have moments of self-doubt and often sharing them with your loved ones can help you to understand them and your family can often give you the most honest viewpoint!

Talk about your time out
I enjoy water sports and riding my bicycle in the rural parts of Tanzania. I love being outdoors and appreciating the natural world around us.

In this country we are blessed with some of the most wonderful places, packed with animals, birds, trees and plants, you can't help but to be invigorated when you spend some time amongst them.

How many kids do you have?
We have a gorgeous 7-month old baby girl, the first of a few, I hope!

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