If you see a Japanese woman scurrying through K P Vallon Road or Kadavanthara Junction in Ernakulam, don’t be surprised. The locals just know her as Mami, an entrepreneur busy building and setting up a long-cherished dream of hers in the heart of the city.
Mami and her husband Davis are the force behind the brand new business hotel Nikko at K.P. Vallon Road.
Mami is from Kumamoto, the capital city of Kumamoto Prefecture on the island of Kyushu in Japan. The city is 200 kilometers from Nagasaki where America dropped the nuclear bomb to end World War 2. It is 1,000 kilometers from Tokyo city, the capital of Japan. Her father is a doctor and mother, a pharmacist.
Mami went her mother’s way to become a pharmacist. In Kerala, doctors customarily covet to marry doctors. Whereas in Japanese tradition, doctors make alliances with pharmacists. Mami’s father wanted to follow tradition and wanted his daughter to marry a doctor. But Mami’s destiny was to marry an engineer from Kerala—Davis Sebastian from Pala, Kottayam.
Davis went to Japan to study Business Management after completing his engineering graduation from Bengaluru. He learned Japanese language and stayed in Japan for around six years working at Mitsubishi’s Thermal Power Plant. He met Mami and married her in 1992.
When their baby girl Bijil was two years old, they came to Kochi. Bijil, now 24, works as a furniture designer for the online furniture retailer Urban Ladder.
The couple tried their hand at several business ventures. They started an IT business venture called Indocosmo Systems in 1998 with offices in Kochi and Tokyo. Mami had her hands full, managing the 40 odd employees in both centers even when she had to undergo a surgery.
To recover from the physical fatigue and mental depression of the hospital life, Mami took a vacation at the Marari Beach Resort in Mararikulam in Alleppey. The stay at the resort opened up the possibilities of similar ventures in hospitality and tourism industry.
Although Mami had made a family and life in Kochi, she never severed ties with her home country or city. She was visiting Japan every year. She invited few of her friends from Japan to India, took them on a tour of Kerala and introduced them to Ayurveda treatment.
Today, Evergreen Travels, the travel and tourism company under her watch, brings around 100 Japanese tourists to India every year. The business hotel at Kadavanthara is a continuation of her expansion plans.
Efforts to build the hotel began in the year 2010 with 50 crore rupees foreign investment. She bought land on the Kochi bypass around the national highway for 15 crore rupees. But the project required several sanctions and no objection certificates which put her in a never-ending loop with the government authorities.
It was a complete contrast to the Japanese system where starting a new business was encouraged and made easy by the government. In her dejection, she sold off the land and returned the investor’s money.
The hotel at K P Vallon Road is built in partnership with Chiyoda Building Management Company. Built on a budget of 10 crore rupees, hotel Nikko has 31 rooms in 17,000 square feet. Mami is planning to expand with another hotel with 60-70 rooms at Thykoodam.
The hotel is run keeping the Japanese model in mind. “Tourists look for affordable but clean boarding. Unfortunately, there are only a few places that provide such a combination,” Mami says. In addition to clean, affordable stay, the guests are given the facility to launder their own clothes, for which five-star hotels charge a premium. The hotel also makes available Ayurveda treatment in partnership with Nagarjuna Ayurveda and Kerala Pharmacy for its guests.