From One Young Entrepreneur to Another! 10 Pearls of Wisdom from Africa’s Youngest Billionaire Ashish Thakkar

Posted on Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013 at 11:34 AM

By Seye Odukogbe

It was Friday, the 21st of June 2013 at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre where the young entrepreneurs in Abuja gathered to meet with one man: Ashish J Thakkar.

As he walked into the room, I wasn’t sure what to expect – Ashish’s demeanour was as simple as the late Steve Jobs giving a talk on the latest Apple release, yet his accomplishments were somewhat ethereal. At the age of fifteen, he dropped out of High School to start his own business, Mara Group. Fifteen years later, he is Africa’s youngest billionaire and World Economic Forum Young Global leader.

Within an hour of hearing him speak, it was evident why Ashish Thakkar is the lion of the business jungle.

Below are ten pearls of wisdom drawn from his fountain of knowledge. For every young, aspiring entrepreneur who seeks to make a difference, this is the manual: from a young entrepreneur to a young entrepreneur.

Be a risk taker
No entrepreneur worth his salt ever accomplished greatness without taking any risks. Ashish was prepared to drop out of school for a year to give his business a shot. If it failed, at least he tried. If he succeeded, there was no turning back.

Create solutions
With every challenge lies an opportunity. Mara group focused on Africa that has its unique challenges of lack of infrastructure, power instability and manufacturing industry decline. Ashish however saw opportunity in each challenge and this has been paramount to his success. You can moan and groan about problems or you can see these challenges as opportunities.

Study the market
Study the pulse of the market you intend to run your business and be thorough in your research. Know your market, learn how it works, know the players, establish relationships, change the game or be the game. Ashish not only studies the market but immerses himself in the culture of the people he does business with. He tries to pick up their language or at least learn their local greeting. This makes his business style endearing to the host communities.

Start early
There is never the perfect time to launch out into your business. Ashish could have waited to finish his formal education or he could have followed his instincts. By starting out early, he managed to capture the market by selling computer parts before expanding to real estate, tourism, financial services, information and communications technology, renewable energy and manufacturing. The earlier you start, the more you can achieve!

Make a positive, social impact
Success is not defined by how much money you make, but by how many lives you have impacted. It is about creating positive change and social responsibility to the country in which you are engaging your business in and helping others fulfil their dreams. Ashish spends almost an equal amount of time on his foundation that mentors young entrepreneurs as he does with his day-to-day business.

Follow your instinct
An entrepreneur must ensure that his business is guided by his instinct and value systems otherwise it is bound to fail. Mara Group believes in transparency and does not hide behind various corporate veils. Align your business to your values and follow your instincts.

Be passionate
You must be passionate about the business you are in! Passion will drive you when things seemingly get tough.

Develop solid business structure
Ensure your business has a solid structure. Mara Group ensures it abides by the regulations in each trading hub, including business registrations and taxations. With a solid business structure, it was easy to secure the credit lines at the initial stages of his business.

Envisage the future
Ashish believes it is time for Africa to shine and he has ensured his companies are strategically positioned for his vision of the future. “The Indian tiger and the Chinese dragon have had their days; it’s now the African lion’s turn” he says. The lion is the logo of the Mara group and rightfully so for it has roared its way to success, a feat that cannot be overstate

Continue learning
Ashish did not have formal mentors when starting out his business but he had an inquisitive mind. He read a lot of biographies, asked the right questions and continued to learn.  He would not advice anyone to drop out of school but his advice is keep learning and do what you feel is right for you. An entrepreneur never stops learning.

Whilst Ashish’s demeanour is strikingly similar to that of Steve Jobs; that is strangely where their similarities end, for he seems to have defied the famous Apple’s advert logic. He is a disrupter of a different kind. He is not a rebel. He is not a trouble maker. He is not a round peg in the square hole. He is very much fond of rules. He ‘feels’ like a nobody.

Well, for once, ‘nobody’ is on his way to changing his world! The room was filled with other ‘nobodies’ who have the same passion: to create change, to shape the communities and the world we live in. This is what makes the Global Shapers unique; it is for those who dare to believe in the beauty of their dreams.

__________________________________________________________________________________
Seye Odukogbe is the founder of ‘Stay Focused’, a social enterprise dedicated to breaking down the practical barriers to employability that stand in the way of talented, young people. Seye is passionate about improving people, processes and committed to human development and community service. With Masters in engineering and professional qualifications in project management, Seye has been involved in a number of multi-disciplinary project teams (within Europe, Middle East, North America and Africa) and has spearheaded transport and infrastructure projects in Nigeria.

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  • 38 Comments on “From One Young Entrepreneur to Another! 10 Pearls of Wisdom from Africa’s Youngest Billionaire Ashish Thakkar”

    Comments
    • Bimpe July 3, 2013 at 11:57 AM

      #clears throat. Some research needed. I expected to see his age in the first paragraph or so. or did i miss something?

      • Lulu July 3, 2013 at 12:14 PM

        and that is what you can type after reading this amazing piece. Honestly this generation is lost. If it was one fashion or celeb post your comment will be as long and as senseless as the word. Mschew. Carry waka. What do you want to do with his age

        • kemms July 3, 2013 at 12:57 PM

          Loooool..perfect response!

          He is 29 and Ugandan born…read more forbes.com/sites/mfonobongnsehe/2012/06/18/young-successful-and-african-ashish-thakkar-ceo-of-mara-group/

      • Aminawon July 3, 2013 at 12:42 PM

        The thing tire me o.

      • pynk July 3, 2013 at 1:47 PM

        DOnt be a waste “At the age of fifteen, he dropped out of High School to start his own business, Mara Group. Fifteen years later, he is Africa’s youngest billionaire and World Economic Forum Young Global leader.” – 15 + 15= 30 give or take a couple of months. People need to stop acting like their folks wasted money educating them

        • Lulu July 3, 2013 at 2:21 PM

          Preach my dear. They are talking sense here, she dey ask age. It is this kind of people you want to give e-slap to.

        • Okechukwu Ofili July 3, 2013 at 6:25 PM

          don’t kill the guy….when you write an article talking about the youngest billionaire, the age becomes a critical part of the article. You should not have to be computing his age as if it is a math word problem…lol

      • Bibi July 3, 2013 at 3:09 PM

        @ Bimpe, If your observant you would have noticed when it was mentioned he dropped out of school at fifteen and fifteen years later……do the maths

      • I Am Legend July 3, 2013 at 5:40 PM

        Errr… Pls do your math!
        “At the age of fifteen, he dropped out of High School to start his own business, Mara Group. Fifteen years later, he is Africa’s youngest billionaire and World Economic Forum Young Global leader.” That proves he’s like 30 right?!!

      • Anonymous July 4, 2013 at 7:56 AM

        Simple arithmetic, if he dropped out of school at the age of 15, and they say 15 years down the line, you should have an idea that he will be about 30.

    • Amaka July 3, 2013 at 12:10 PM

      I’m once again inspired! Thanks Seye!

    • justobserving July 3, 2013 at 12:19 PM

      What African country is he from because the picture I see there is that of a middle eastern/Arab looking man.

    • Anita.... July 3, 2013 at 12:44 PM

      August 5th,1981……he lives in Dubai.Happy now?

    • NikkyDiva July 3, 2013 at 12:48 PM

      Interesting piece, worth reading

    • igbagbogbo July 3, 2013 at 12:54 PM

      He is Indian and Ugandan…. Pure inspiration, he is a fine example for every one of us..

    • Bobo July 3, 2013 at 12:54 PM

      he’s Ugandan by birth. Indian heritage. You remember Indians settled in Uganda during the IdiAmin days.

      • OK July 3, 2013 at 4:19 PM

        No, Indians settled in Uganda BEFORE the Idi Amin days…Idi Amin actually repatriated them…most left, some went into hiding, and a few came back after Idi Amin was exiled…

    • Bobo July 3, 2013 at 12:56 PM

      ***Well, they were settled there until IdiAmin kicked them out.

      • OK July 3, 2013 at 4:22 PM

        Already posted my reply before reading your addendum :-)

    • Seyi July 3, 2013 at 1:26 PM

      Very inspiring! This couldn’t have come at a better time for me.

      more-than-one-love.blogspot.co.uk

    • nich July 3, 2013 at 1:43 PM

      you are asking about his age………….rather than being inspired by this great man. This is why the rich are few and control the world. The poor man and average man are always seeking for irrelevant things.

      • Lulu July 3, 2013 at 2:22 PM

        Thank you o. Some are even arguing about his heritage and where he is from. Smh. On of the move back to Nigeria post, some girls were asking if the guy was single.

        • seki July 5, 2013 at 9:42 PM

          Hmmm.. It’s all about mind set, the people you’re talking about are in the mind set of marriage hence the irrelevant questions. This post is for people with business/hustling mind set.

          I think people looking for husbands should look at wedding and relationship section. Bella naija please maybe you can start a bachelor/bachelorette section for them single ladies, So that business minded people can have a proper/relevant conversation on posts like this ones.

        • seki July 5, 2013 at 9:48 PM

          Hmmm.. It’s all about mind set, the people you’re talking about are in the mind set of marriage hence the irrelevant questions. This post is for people with business/hustling mind set.

          I think people looking for husbands should look at wedding and relationship section. Bella naija please maybe you can start a bachelor/bachelorette section for them single ladies, So that business minded people can have a proper/relevant conversation.

    • pynk July 3, 2013 at 1:54 PM

      His story is inspiring abeg.

    • Beb July 3, 2013 at 2:00 PM

      I watched him on CNN African voices. I actually thought his company started as an inheritance. My bad. With all been said which is common knowledge, never stop dreaming! as mo says ‘if you can think it, you can most definitely do it’ great stuff!

    • Lowla Dee July 3, 2013 at 2:09 PM

      The nudge for the perfect time. Thank you Seye for this, totally liberating…for me.

    • Chick on fire July 3, 2013 at 2:33 PM

      Amazing and totally inspiring. Lesson of this piece, follow your instinct and be passionate about what you do.

    • omo ibo July 3, 2013 at 2:48 PM

      Good stuff! Thanks BN

    • Gistyinka Blog July 3, 2013 at 3:39 PM

      i love is instinct that keep him going…

    • Woyin July 3, 2013 at 8:12 PM

      Seye nice one! Are you in the Abuja hub of global shapers?

    • Bee July 4, 2013 at 3:46 PM

      I have met Ashish and trust me, he is very intelligent, down-to-earth and extremely humble. I work for Mara Group and Ashish Thakar is a Visionary Leader and very much African…..

    • PstrYinka July 5, 2013 at 2:46 PM

      Good job ‘Seye, very inspiring !

    • zik July 12, 2013 at 3:20 PM

      Honestly,his an achiever..At de age of fifteen he dropped out of school and started his own business Waw!! To be Candid,I took everything. To mention but a few,starting early pays. personally, I was inspired…

    • Diadem July 12, 2013 at 11:40 PM

      Wow! Quite inspiring. Although I’m older dan d age he dropped out 2start his business, have gotten d inspiratn to start off dat my plan of being one of d achievers of my time…so help me God #Going to dust d goals & plans I dropped bcos I felt I dnt ve d means to achieve dem#

    • Inspired July 23, 2013 at 6:45 AM

      Hi
      I am from Papua New Guinea. I am inspired by your Country’s Youngest Billionair. It shows you can still achieve your dream if you work hard and with Honesty. My country is full of People who have stolen from the little people to create their wealth. They are not capable of being Role Models so Ashish Thakkar is now my Role Model. All Africa should be Proud of a true role Model.

    • segun July 27, 2013 at 8:36 PM

      Well in the making of stars time nd season re very vital. The best time to start entrepreneurship is wen u re young.

    • Kato Andrew September 1, 2013 at 4:56 PM

      i have liked the quote that it’s now African time to rise.That the Indian tiger ,the Chinness dragon they are now going down as African lion rise and shine