THIS week’s High Flyer is Mukesh Sharma, director of Hannon Travel – a leading corporate travel management company based in Belfast.
What was your first job?
I joined Thriftway Travel in 1982, a small travel agency set up by my father, which later became the biggest in Northern Ireland. Initially, my job was an office junior, making tea, emptying ash trays, hoovering and of course, in between these tasks, learning the travel business. Delighted to now be a director in Hannon Travel, a major role in a significant corporate travel company which has just expanded into Northern Ireland.
What qualifications do you have?
A levels from Annadale Grammar School and I studied Mechanical and Electrical Engineering at the University of Ulster.
What do you attribute your success to?
Mainly my late father Braham, who was a great role model, mentor and ‘teacher’. Teacher not in the sense of the travel industry, but in general business behaviour, ethics, dos and don’ts. The rest is commitment, hard work, transparency, and of course having good people around me for support and advice.
How would you describe yourself to someone who’d never met you?
Easy going, if a little fussy, young at heart and caring, I enjoy a good laugh, but am serious and committed when I have to be.
Who do you look up to in business?
Sir Richard Branson, the ultimate entrepreneur and philanthropist and a legend in the travel industry. He has created a huge global brand for a relatively small European airline.
How do you get the best out of people who work for you?
Give them time, support and a good working environment. Its more than a nice office space, it means listening to their feedback and providing training and opportunities for personal development.
If you could change one thing about doing business in Northern Ireland, what would it be?
Create a Northern Ireland Executive and have a separate Ministry for Transport and Tourism and not just part of DfE and DfI where there is no clear priority for this hugely important sector of our economy.
With our growing inbound tourism, we have a real opportunity to create revenue, jobs and a sustained industry. We need greater full-time commitment to roads, rail, sea and in my opinion most important of all direct air links.
What website or app could you not do without?
WhatsApp. It’s a great tool for communication worldwide.
What was the last book you read?
I loved The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.
What car do you drive?
BMW 740d Xdrive
Tell us something interesting about yourself?
I am a deputy lord lieutenant of Belfast and sit on the boards of ArtsEkta, Heritage Lottery Fund for Northern Ireland, Prince’s Trust NI, NI FICT Commission, Moving on Music and Barnardos, so I like being busy as I believe it’s important to use whatever skills you have to help and support others.
What’s your greatest passion outside work and family?
Indian arts and culture, particularly music. I was raised in Northern Ireland within the Indian community and I am proud to say that I was a co-founder of ArtsEkta and the Belfast Mela, which is now the largest cultural diversity festival in Ireland. Of course, I get to fulfil my passion for travel through Hannon Travel.