Africa’s under-40 millionaires share their secrets to success

Kamal Budhabhatti

Kamal Budhabhatti | Age: 36 | Founder/CEO, Craft Silicon

Craft Silicon is one of Kenya’s leading software exporters, offering solutions to financial institutions around the world.

Budhabhatti started Craft Silicon after being deported from Kenya. “After I completed my studies I moved to Kenya [from India] and worked for a company in the polythene sector for a while doing data entry. Five months later a friend of mine approached me to write software for a local bank. Of course my boss found out about this and was not very pleased. He had me deported back to India. On my flight all I could think about was the great opportunities in Kenya. I moved back to Kenya and began writing software for banks full time. This eventually gave birth to what Craft Silicon is today,” he explains.

When starting the business, Budhabhatti worked without a salary for six years. “I concentrated on growing the company. We want to continue growing the company so that one day we can hire 10,000 people and sell our software all over the world. Today the company is valued at about $30 million. I am not very happy with that. There is still one zero missing at the end. My vision is that by the year 2020 we will have a valuation of $500 million.”

What parts of his job keep him awake at night? “The market is very competitive and therefore we have to be innovative to remain relevant. This is what I think about a lot, how to stay ahead and innovation is the key to this.”

He believes that Kenya’s tech entrepreneurs should come up with more unique ideas and that the country should stop focusing on the success of the M-Pesa mobile money platform. “I don’t see any unique ideas. I have not seen something that can genuinely be the next big thing. I am just not convinced. M-Pesa was invented five years ago, but everywhere you go, every other technology conference, the only thing we talk about is M-Pesa. We must come up with something new.”

Budhabhatti says that African entrepreneurs should concentrate on delivering high-quality products, and not on becoming overnight millionaires. “They should stay focused and deliver value for money and success will come as a by-product. They should not look at short term goals and ditch the ‘get rich quick’ mentality. To be successful, a long term strategy is inevitable.”