Catch up with Zahira Tahir

Founder and CEO of Universal Holidays Travel and Tourism, Zahira Tahir, shares the highs and lows of her esteemed career.

What are some of the highlights of your events career?
Till this day, I get an adrenaline rush, right from the bidding process until the execution. I have a set of customers and suppliers who over the years have become my friends and, I dare say, family. I cherish the relationships and I think this is the biggest highlight of my career.

My company has also received several awards and recognitions, and these accomplishments would not have been possible without great customers, suppliers and a fantastic team.

What are the lows of being in the business?
Losing important bids can be heartbreaking and disappointing. There is so much energy, hard work and detailing that has been invested into the process. Dealing with unreasonable guests is also unpleasant. We always give our best, but it is not possible to satisfy everyone.

What is one of your most memorable events?
It is when I started my company in 2010. A client who knew me from my previous company trusted in me so much, that he called and asked only two questions: do you have an office, and do you have a license? I replied ‘yes’ and ‘yes’. He then told me he would email me details for an incentive trip for 500 pax.

We were in our first week of business and we had such a big group to handle! The incentive was a huge success, and from there, business started rolling in.

What challenges are you currently facing?
Competition and market dynamics. Although I welcome friendly competition, unfortunately, we also have competitors who are unethical, cut corners and generally spoil the market.

The business environment is also getting tougher. Market dynamics have changed rapidly since the pandemic – corporate policies on travelling, clients’ requirements, the use of technology for conferencing, and security issues are just a few out of a long list.

While I ran a successful company pre-lockdown, I now have to rebuild and restart. The main difference is that our foundation is stronger than when we started 12 years ago.

How do you keep your staff motivated?
We have a very positive and flexible working environment. I am very fortunate to have a great team. I incentivise staff. We have gone on company trips to Penang, Thailand and the Maldives. Moving forward, I want to continue to strengthen the team and build an even better working environment.

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