Meet the Boss: Ashok Shah, CEO, Apollo
5. What are the best things about your country, Kenya?
The people; Kenyans are amazing. If we got rid of our tribalism then as a country we would grow much faster and there would be more unity. Otherwise I think Kenya has a lot of good things going for it. The young people are very enthusiastic and hardworking.
6. And the worst?
Bad politics and corruption. I think corruption is something we as a country need to face head on. It has to be stopped.
7. Your future career plans?
First thing is I can’t retire. I have always said I would like to run a restaurant. When I talk to people they say running a restaurant is a very difficult business but I have done difficult things in my life. So perhaps a restaurant will not be that difficult.
8. How do you relax?
When I have a few days off I like to go trekking. I need to take four to five days now and go trekking. I am thinking I should go to the Loita Hills [wilderness area south of Nairobi]. I also like to watch movies and listen to music with family and friends.
9. What is your message to Africa’s young aspiring businesspeople and entrepreneurs?
First thing is you cannot get rich very quickly. Your aim should be to do something properly and take slow steps so that you can become good at what you are doing. If you are in the service oriented industry then offer the best service. If you are just looking for money and you want to get rich quickly then you will do a lot of wrong things.
Have a good business plan, focus and aim to do it for a period of years, not months.
10. How can Africa realise its full potential?
We can realise our full potential very quickly if we adopt good governance. There are maybe two countries in Africa that you can emulate: Mauritius and Botswana. If you look at [them] the governments are clean and they spend a lot of the natural wealth on improving services and support for their citizens. We need to improve governance, get rid of corruption and invest more in the population. We talk about free education here in Kenya but when a child is taken to school [the parent] has to pay for books, development levy… and nobody can account for that money. Even the school cannot account for that money. Is it really free education or forced education?
Ashok Shah is the group CEO of leading East African insurance group Apollo. The firm provides general and life insurance through its subsidiaries APA Insurance, Apollo Life Assurance, Apollo Asset Management and Gordon Court, in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Established in 1977, Apollo is one of the first locally owned insurance companies in Kenya.
Shah was awarded the Think Business Life Time Achievement Award for his contribution to the Kenyan insurance industry. He is also a finalist of this year’s EY Eastern Africa Chapter Entrepreneur of the Year Awards.