‘Meet the Boss’ is a How we made it in Africa interview series where we pose 10 questions to business leaders across the continent.
Abhilash Bajpai, director, Radian Stores
1. What was your first job?
I started off as an executive in sales and I was looking after the South East Asia market, operating from India. I was 22 years old.
2. Who had the biggest impact on your career and why?
I would not say any particular person had an impact. I worked for LG Electronics for about four years while in India and those years refined my way of operating in business – of looking at a situation, analysing it and deciding how to act. The situations I was exposed to had a long and lasting impact on moulding my overall thought process and ways of operation.
3. Parts of your job keeping you awake at night?
Once I leave the office there are few things that bother me, unless of course someone calls me because I don’t switch off my phone. But other than that I just go home and spend time with my family. So I block work out in my mind when at home. However, once in the office, the reverse happens – I just switch off the home front and totally focus on the job.
4. The main reasons you have been successful in business?
It has remained the same reasons over the years. You have to be honest – honest to your profession, to your company and to your target customers. If you can do that it is the first step to success.
The second thing is that you need to be knowledgeable. In any job that you do, if you do not have an in-depth knowledge of how things happen on the ground, then you cannot manage the people involved in the process. For example, if you are in the sales industry and have not worked as a sales executive and therefore do not know how things happen on the ground in sales, it’s very difficult to manage from the top. But people who have grown from the bottom to the top will have that experience.
The third reason is dedication. You have to be dedicated. So if you have a combination of these three things – honesty, knowledge and dedication – nobody can stop you.
5. The best things about Zambia?
The weather is excellent. That I rate as number one. Second is the people who are really friendly and generally very honest.
6. And the worst?
The cost of living. I think this must come down for the country to progress.
7. Your future career plans?
I want to extend my career in Zambia by taking on more responsibilities. First of all in Radian Stores’ existing operations (electronics and appliances distribution) and later in other industries, possibly manufacturing or construction, when the opportunity is right.
8. How do you relax?
By spending time in the community. I have young kids so I spend weekends taking care of them, like taking them to a movie, the park or to visit friends. Also, once in a while, I sit down with office colleagues and we spend time together enjoying ourselves over drinks. Occasionally I also take a vacation.
9. Your message to Africa’s young aspiring business people and entrepreneurs?
I think it comes down to the three things I mentioned that helped shape my success as a business man. There are many opportunities here for entrepreneurs. If they have knowledge, are honest about their work, and have dedication, then definitely they can be successful. This market holds plenty of business opportunities.
10. How can Africa realise its full potential?
It has to be a joint effort between the government and individuals within the private sector. I know that a lot of effort needs to be put in by government but we have seen from the experience of other developing countries that the business sector also has to take a lead. They cannot just keep waiting for the government to do everything. It has to be a joint effort.
If business needs something, they should approach the government, and at the same time the government should also involve and engage the business community in seeking solutions to problems. Things are evolving in Zambia, but obviously more needs to happen before we can realise our full potential.
Abhilash Bajpai heads up sales and marketing for Radian Stores’ consumer electronics and home appliances retail division. Established in 1981, Radian Stores is an authorised distributor in Zambia for Philips and LG Electronics.