‘Meet the Boss’ is a How we made it in Africa interview series where we pose the same 10 questions to business leaders across the continent.
Ashish Thakkar, MD, Mara Group
1. What was your first job?
I started selling computers from my bedroom when I was 15.
2. Who has had the biggest impact on your career and why?
My spiritual leader (Guru) Morari Bapu and my father Jagdish Thakkar aka Kakooza. My Guru because he’s kept me grounded and given me the right values and strength. My father because he’s an inspiration because he never gives up.
3. What parts of your job keep you awake at night?
I love growth and strategy. That keeps my head buzzing and hence awake at night sometimes.
4. What are the top reasons why you have been successful in business?
I don’t know if I’m successful yet but I would say what’s helped me progress is honesty and hard work.
5. What are the best things about your country?
I live in Dubai. I am a British citizen of Indian origin but with an African heart so home is many places. But Uganda where my roots are from, it’s green, lush and has amazing people.
6. And the worst?
I never look at the negatives so won’t be able to tell you.
7. Your future career plans?
The vision is to make ‘Mara’ the most exciting African brand.
8. How do you relax?
I attend Morari Bapu’s [spiritual leader] discourses, it’s the best form of relaxation for me.
9. What is your message to Africa’s young aspiring business people and entrepreneurs?
Don’t give up, keep on trying until you make it … It’s our turn now and it’s ours to mess up. Grab it, live it, love it!
10. How can Africa realise its full potential?
More transparency, governance and aggressiveness … More patriotism wouldn’t hurt.
Ashish Thakkar is the founder and managing director of the Mara Group. The group operates in numerous African countries and employs over 4,500 people.