Thomas Philip and Bina Ghose
Program: New York
Intake: September 2009
Current Role: Owners, 11 on Kajeng and Founders/Director, The Tomina Group
Describe your business and your role within it
Our primary business at this early stage is our own resort here in Ubud, Bali. 11 on Kajeng is a luxury boutique resort in the centre of Ubud with a design remit of ‘Vintage Elegance’.
We are grateful for having an excellent team here supporting us and our role is very much one of oversight, with our main focus being on the strategy, finance, marketing and operations, which we split between us based on our strengths. Luckily these complement each other quite well but also give us the chance to learn from each other.
We also have our own company here called The Tomina Group (you might’ve worked out how the name came about ?) which is a hospitality and tourism consultancy. We are only two months in but fortunate enough to have taken a couple of clients on board already, primarily investors who need their boutique villas and complexes managed.
How did you get into this line of business?
Our journey together started in NYC, before moving onto London, Dubai and now Bali. The common component in this journey (literally and metaphorically) is travel, and after eight years and visiting almost 50 countries together, it was always clear that this was a passion we shared in lifestyle, so why not in business? The first seed in our minds came when we first visited Bali several years ago and met a British couple who themselves ‘fled’ the corporate world for their own island resort, and this seed just grew albeit a bit faster than we had planned.
You could argue pretty comfortably that none of this would have happened without the Mountbatten Program…because that’s where we met each other! Add to this the lifelong friendships made that year and the amount of travel we all enjoyed together, and this clearly was a precursor to what would come. Hospitality is all about service, people and passion and it suits us to a tee.
How did you go about setting it up and getting established?
It took a lot of research into Indonesian laws for foreign investment which, while evolving rapidly like the country itself is, still remain highly complex and niche compared to the western markets we are used to. It took finding the right people to assist us in navigating the new waters, combined with finding the right opportunity at the right time but mostly – a LOT of patience and persistence – to get established here.
What else is in the pipeline?
We harbour ambitions of expanding our brand and taking it to the next level and would love to launch more of our own boutique resorts near and far but…baby steps!
This is just the beginning of our venture but the culmination of a challenging year in making it happen so at this stage we just want to have some time to reflect and enjoy where we are.
With that said our company are in talks to manage a few more luxury villas here and we are currently recruiting more staff to do so, as well as looking at opportunities in advising firms and private clients on investments and strategies in the hospitality industry in Bali.
What has been the proudest moment in your working life thus far?
Quite simply taking that first step – that leap of faith – from the security and comfort of our jobs in Dubai, to going all out on our own in a new industry in another new country. That first step is an achievement in itself because you realize very soon after that the opportunities just start to come flying at you and there is reward for the risk. The island lifestyle is a nice added bonus!
What has been your biggest mistake/learning experience?
The biggest learning experience so far is simply understanding that EVERYDAY is a learning experience. It is understanding that part of running your own business is knowing that you can’t know, plan or control everything– often you have to face the unknown and take the challenge head on, and not fear failure but embrace it.
Any words of advice/wisdom would you impart to others thinking of setting up their own business?
In three words…JUST DO IT!
If you have even the remotest inkling of an idea or passion, make sure you do everything you can to pursue it because as big as a cliché as it is…life is simply too short to spend in a career or lifestyle that doesn’t give you any joy or drive. And when you do get ready to take the leap, be aware that the natural inclination of people (and more likely those closer to you) is one of risk-aversion, so be wary of who you take advice from – if in doubt, go with your gut, it probably knows better than most bystanders!
And on a side note, if you choose to have a partner in business make sure you choose wisely – you need to be compatible because you will spend most of your time with them and you need to have each other’s best interests at heart. For us, being partners in life has made being business partners easier…although we will see how long that lasts!
A Mountbatten offer
We would love to welcome our fellow Mountbatten alumni to 11 on Kajeng so you may use the code MB2BALI for a 10% discount on your stay as well as a complimentary floating breakfast. This code can be put directly into the booking form on our website or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. We both look forward to welcoming you to this beautiful island 🙂