Murtaza Taher: Shaping the Future of Kenya’s Interior Design & Fit Out Industry

Africa's 10 Most Empowering Business Leaders to Follow in 2024

Most influential leaders have two things in common: they dare to dream big and are ready to take risks. Murtaza Taher, Founder and Owner of Al-Hatim Decor Ltd., exemplifies these traits. His visionary mindset and appetite for risk have established him as a leading figure in Africa’s interior design industry.

Murtaza is known for pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the world of interior design. This has transformed Al-Hatim Decor Ltd., which he built from scratch with his late father, into a leading player in Kenya’s interior solutions space. From innovative design concepts to bold strategies, Murtaza’s approach and vision continue to set new standards in the industry.

One of his favourite quotes is, “Leaders are not created overnight; it’s through patience, perseverance, and perfection that a great leader is sculpted,” and this belief is evident in every aspect of his leadership journey.

Dared to Dream Big     

Murtaza’s late father, Taher Dodh, founded Al-Hatim Décor in the early 2000s. He joined the company soon after. Although it started as a small residential painting company, the father-son duo always had big dreams for it.

“We dared to dream big,” Murtaza says. “Together, we realized that there was a gap in the industry for an interior design turn-key fit-out contractor who could provide both design and construction.” Once the gap was identified by them, they decided to diversify their business. Murtaza took up the challenge of interior design.

As he had a professional IT background, he believed that nothing was impossible. He explains that when one has the heart to learn something new, no matter the challenges, one can easily overcome them with consistency and dedication.

Through discipline and continuous improvement, Murtaza unleashed his talent for interior design and construction. His father’s guidance played a pivotal role in this journey. Murtaza recalls that had his father not insisted on him doing a render for an office project, he would not be where he stands today.

Responsibilities as Owner and Founder

Al-Hatim Decor Ltd specializes in turn-key interior solutions fit-outs for commercial, residential, and retail sectors. It has designed and executed some of the finest interior design projects in the heart of Kenya, Nairobi.

As the owner and founder of the company, Murtaza’s responsibilities include ensuring that his team delivers what they promised on-site. His role requires him to oversee the establishment of new connections with clients and suppliers globally and search for new trends and products in the industry. He also ensures maintaining continuous quality control through team coordination.

For Murtaza, as a leader, fostering a culture of empowerment and inclusivity within Al-Hatim Décor is of paramount importance. Some of the ways he enforces that is through clear communication, encouraging skills development, recognition & appreciation, and leading by example.

Murtaza considers challenges to be a part of a leader’s everyday life. At Al-Hatim Decor, one of the hardest challenges he faced was getting the right people to do the job without being supervised. Murtaza and the team overcame this challenge through continuous team building, training, and rewards.

Principles Guiding Leadership Approach

Al-Hatim Décor’s leadership approach is anchored in a set of core values and principles that shape their actions, decisions, and interactions. According to Murtaza, these values are integral to their organizational culture, guiding them in achieving their mission and fostering meaningful connections with their team.

One of the company’s key principles is integrity.  Leaders uphold unwavering honesty, transparency, and ethical conduct. Murtaza says that their commitment to integrity ensures trust among team members and stakeholders.

Accountability and empathy are also the key principles that guide the company’s leadership approach. They believe in taking ownership of their responsibilities and actions. Al-Hatim Décor, Murtaza points out that leaders are accountable for their decisions and outcomes, fostering a culture of reliability and dependability. Empathy, on the other hand, allows the leadership team to understand and value the perspectives of others. Murtaza underscores that this is crucial for the growth of their company. “We actively listen, show empathy, and consider the well-being of our team members,” he adds.

Other key guiding principles are vision, courage, respect, continuous learning, and humility. Every leader of the company has a clear vision for its future. Murtaza says that they inspire others by articulating a compelling direction and aligning efforts toward common goals.

Al-Hatim Décor’s leaders are known for making bold decisions, which demonstrates their courage. All of them embrace change and stand up for what is right, even when faced with challenges. They are courageous while remaining respectful. “We treat everyone with respect, regardless of their role or background,” Murtaza says. “Respectful communication and collaboration create a positive work environment.”

Additionally, the company’s leadership approach emphasizes continuous growth and learning, encouraging curiosity, adaptability, and a hunger for knowledge. “Leaders recognize that they don’t have all the answers,” Murtaza points out. “Humility allows us to learn from others, acknowledge mistakes, and foster a culture of openness.”

In order to stay ahead of the market and competition, the strategies followed by Al-Hatim Décor’s leaders include closely following global market trends, researching new technologies and raw materials, and implementing them in upcoming projects. “We also educate our clientele and team on developing trends and encourage them to adapt to modern designs and materials,” Murtaza says.

Healthy Work-Life Equilibrium

Each day, Murtaza and his team dedicate themselves to hard work and perseverance. They are driven by the desire to create a fulfilling life alongside their cherished family and friends. For them, family mostly forms the cornerstone of their existence. “Without recognizing this fundamental truth, our professional endeavours lose their purpose and significance,” Murtaza says.

Although achieving a work-life balance can be challenging, Murtaza believes that with discipline and effective time management, it becomes manageable. To achieve this, he prioritizes self-care and recognizes that he plays a crucial role in the company’s success.

Murtaza also acknowledges that the organization as well as his family rely on his optimal mental and physical well-being. “By understanding one’s priorities and maintaining task quality without compromise, one can sustain a healthy work-life equilibrium,” says Murtaza.

Success and Achievements

Murtaza does not believe that success is a fixed destination. He views it as an ongoing journey, transcending specific moments in life or business.

“It also manifests as a perpetual commitment to excellence – whether in personal accomplishments or professional projects,” Murtaza points out “Striving for perfection in every pursuit becomes the very essence of success.”

For Murtaza, some of his greatest achievements include being shortlisted for every prestigious project happening in Kenya. He takes pride in successfully executing many of those projects.

Over the years, he has also built a loyal and dedicated team for Al-Hatim Décor. This, for Murtaza, is his greatest achievement. Under his visionary leadership, the company has been associated with many big brands such as L.C. Waikiki, Nike, Adidas, and Puma, and has constructed for them. Murtaza rates this as one of the significant milestones he achieved for Al-Hatim Décor

Goals and Aspirations

Murtaza and his team are very much focused on the future. Their current path is leading them to

building a company that inspires and enriches everyone associated with them, through self-growth, creativity, and knowledge.

“We aspire to be the epitome of a true interior designer and contractor, where dreams come alive,” Murtaza says. Not just by building, but by giving every person the opportunity to realize a vision they once thought was impossible. With us, it is just a step away.”

Al-Hatim Décor is also committed to empowering its team with strong leadership qualities. Murtaza shares that their goal is to prepare them for a brighter future by providing mindset training and encouraging continuous improvement. Over the years, he and his team have nurtured hundreds of entrepreneurs. “We proudly continue to engage them in our projects to support them in their businesses,” Murtaza says.

Message to Aspiring Business Leaders  

Murtaza encourages aspiring business leaders not to be fearful. He points out that business is not for the faint-hearted. “It is for those who wake up each day with hope,” he adds.

He also highlights that “hope is one of the strongest qualities business leaders possess. “With hope in place, strive to achieve perfection and quality in your products and services,” Murtaza tells aspiring leaders. “Strive for great customer relationships, maintain a healthy work environment, and be a team player.”

Kenya’s construction industry is highly competitive because of its small size. Therefore, not many contractors can offer clients what they are looking for, Murtaza says. “Most of the time, our clients do not know how to word their imagination. It is upon us to not just word it, but to literally render it and build it,” he tells aspiring leaders. “For you to do that, you need to take time to understand your client, their tastes and preferences – the success of the project depends on this.”