1. What was your first job?
It was in corporate finance in Africa.
2. What parts of your job keep you awake at night?
I think everything. But what keeps me awake currently is the fact that the growth in Africa has slowed and the way we do things going forward is going to change. This means we need to work in partnerships with retailers. The bankers need to work with us as partners as well, as opposed to service providers. So I think it is basically this sort of relationship that needs to be changed.
3. Who has had the biggest impact on your career and why?
There is not just one person. There have been a lot. It began back in the days when I started in corporate finance. It has been people I have worked with, as well as the people who work with me currently, like my team… It also includes other people such as my taxi driver and good friend Francis in Ghana. I am always amazed when I go to Ghana and what I learn from this guy. So it has been a multitude of people as opposed to just one.
4. What’s the best professional advice that you have ever received?
Never give up.
5. The top reasons why you have been successful in business?
A big thing has been understanding culture and that the one-size-fits-all [model] doesn’t work. Then having ears and being able to listen to people.
6. Where is the best place to prepare for leadership, business school or on the job?
On the job. It’s about the practice. Everybody can do the theoretical stuff, but [what is needed] is on-the-job experience.
7. How do you relax?
You know it is funny because when you say the word ‘relax’, people often think it’s the opposite of work. But it can happen anytime. So last Friday night in Accra with my colleagues, having a nice dinner and drink – that was for me relaxing.
8. By what time do you like to be at your desk?
There is no [specific] time, and my desk is mobile.
9. Your favourite job interview question?
How much are they willing to forfeit, monetary wise, for experience? When I started my first job I had just come back from London with my degree and two master’s. I went for a first job in corporate finance at KPMG, but there actually wasn’t a position available for me. So I went in and I told them I would work for 12 months for free because I wanted the experience. And that, by the way, gave me the experience in Africa that got me here today.
10. What is your message to Africa’s aspiring young entrepreneurs and business people?
Be local, be yourself and be humble. I don’t believe in a copy-and-paste approach and you learn a lot from mixing with local Africans, irrespective of level. I have learnt more from my taxi driver in Ghana and my taxi driver in Zambia than from market studies.
Kevin Teeroovengadum is the CEO of AttAfrica, a Mauritius-based property investment company with a specific focus on shopping centres in strategic sub-Saharan African countries. Its portfolio consists of four shopping malls across Ghana and Zambia – with two more under construction.
Teeroovengadum has a BSc Economics, MBA and MSc Finance from the University of Leicester and has worked for EY, Deloitte, KPMG, Loita Capital Partners Group and Actis Capital.