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Nurain: Leading and restructuring Maldives' tourism industry

This is an excerpt from Aisha Nurain Janah's interview with Fathimath Shana Mohamed from 'Mihaaru'.

Ameera Osmanagic
16 May 2024, MVT 06:32
Aisha Nurain Janah -- Photo: Mihaaru
Ameera Osmanagic
16 May 2024, MVT 06:32

Leaving behind a life and successful career to move across oceans is not an easy decision for anyone. But for Maldivian-born Aisha Nurain Janah, it was a question of spending more time with family, contributing to the family business, and serving her country in the process.

Two years ago, with no intention of moving back home, Nurain traveled from New Zealand, where she built a life for herself after studies, to her home country the Maldives at the behest of her father. Her plan was to host an event organised by her father, spend some time with her family and return back to her life.

This changed very quickly once reaching the island paradise nation, and today, at 33 years old Nurain is now one of the biggest names in the country as she serves in the capacity of Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC)'s Chairperson.

Early childhood and background

Nurain comes from a business background and is the eldest daughter of famous businessman Mohamed Janah. She spent the first 15 years of her life and studies in the Maldives before moving to New Zealand for better opportunities. By profession, she is a Chartered Accountant, professional director, consultant & executive coach. With over 10 years’ experience as a director, her portfolio includes roles in investment and finance, construction and project management, as well as philanthropy.

Despite coming from a wealthy background, Nurain has always prioritised earning her achievements through hard work, starting from the bottom in a country where her family's affluence was unknown. She reminisced in her interview with 'Mihaaru' how she would sell baked goods at fairs during her studies and fetch coffee as was tradition at her workplace early in her career.

Prior to her big move, Nurain, who holds a Masters in Professional Accounting and a Bachelor of Science, served as the Manager at Ernst & Young where she began her journey in the firm as level 3 consultant after being recruited by a director of the company through her charity work. She specialises in restructuring, turnaround and insolvency with a focus in construction and financial markets where women are only represented at 20 percent in New Zealand and about eight to nine percent in Australia.

As of now, aside from her role at MMPRC, Nurain also serves as Group Vice Chair at Hotels and Resorts Investment Pvt Ltd (HARIM), a second-generation family run international multi-industry business spanning hotels and resorts development, construction technology, marine products, and investment services. She is also founder and trustee in several other philanthropic and women empowerment movements.

Service in Maldives

Following her appointment as Chairperson of MMPRC, Nurain has been the subject of conversation over how she might have been appointed for the role with nepotism being one of the main suggestions.

"I know I'm a slightly young Chairperson, and there are some things that come up because I am a woman [and] my Board at the moment is a fully female board. So sometimes there are things that are being implied that would otherwise not be [if I] were not a woman. There are things that should not be said, yes?"

"I am ready for that challenge. But what troubles me is that MMPRC is comprised of over 60 percent women. So what citizens say by looking at us, the senior leaders [of MMPRC] are things aimed at the young women in our corporation. They will feel that the people and industry don't want them. I don't want them to feel that way."

"I don't mind whatever is said at me. I have been through a lot of challenges and difficult situations. Even in New Zealand some people aren't very happy with the things I do. That is owing to my many efforts against racism. I went out and was also very vocal during the New Zealand shooting, against discrimination, so these things have subjected me to public criticism, and I am fine with whatever is said at me. What I most want and [would like] to highlight is how this would be perceived by our young women.

"I wouldn't say I'm the most perfect leader, but my biggest aim.. and my utmost commitment and time will be dedicated to serve the country, [and] not for a personal gain. So I call on everyone to understand this and to be mindful of what you say and the meaning that our youth and young women may derive from it," Nurain spoke in detail about the criticism.

As she powers ahead with full force leading the tourism industry of Maldives, she is also notably the first Chairperson of MMPRC as this position remained vacant during the previous administration.

"I think many people assume this job was arranged by my father, but when it was offered to me [my] father was abroad. He didn't even know," she addressed some further online speculation.

Nurain said that her aim is to restructure and rebrand MMPRC as requested by Tourism Minister Faisal, and that she would always prioritise discussions and opinions of all stakeholders within the industry.

Although early on in her role, she has big aspirations for Maldives' tourism to further expand globally through impactful changes. With her track record of success and dedication, the country now awaits to see how she leads the industry to new heights.

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