Ashish Thakkar: The billionaire who wears a Sh240, 000 perfume
11 months ago, 13 Jan 12:43
Having a fortune worth more than half the current value of Kenya’s Eurobond, and being dubbed Africa’s youngest billionaire while still in his 20s by Forbes, has not gone to Mr Ashish Thakkar’s head. He does not have that arrogant self-assurance many moguls relish projecting, nor does he have the inflated ego that so often stalks those at this level. Instead, the 32-year-old projects modesty and warmth. Inspired by business tycoons such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, Ashish insists the billions of shillings he has amassed are a drop in the ocean. He says he knows where he stands in the entrepreneurial food chain The genocide On a chilly Saturday afternoon, Business Beat sat down with the Ugandan-born serial entrepreneur Wearing a pair of jeans, loafers and a trendy trench coat, we found Ashish winding up a meeting with one of his business associates. He does not compromise on his image. He looks dapper and his scent screams affluence. He laughs when asked if he’s wearing the Sh240,000 Clive Christian perfume, the world’s most expensive scent. He does not answer. From the beginning of the conversation, Ashish emphasises the importance of mentorship, compassion and ethics. But just what is his background? “I was a refugee, I’m a school dropout, an entrepreneur, a philanthropist, an astronaut and a young African,” he says. He is of Indian descent, but his parents were born in Africa, as was he. “In 1993, when I was 12 years old, my family sold their business in the UK and moved to Rwanda where we invested. Several months later, the Rwandan genocide began, subjecting us to weeks of terror as we watched bodies pile up around us. We lost all of our physical investments, but luckily managed to escape in a chartered plane to the United Kingdom. “From being top entrepreneurs, my parents were reduced to waking up at the crack of dawn to sell women’s clothes and drive vans to markets all around England,” he says. Ashish’s family then moved to Burundi and then to Kenya before resettling in Kampala, Uganda, when he was 15. Having seen people look down on his parents after they lost their fortune, Ashish was determined to start a business while still in school. His parents were not too pleased with the idea as he was still young. One day, a family friend came to their home, and Ashish sold him his personal computer, making a profit of about Sh8,600. “I then got convinced I could make a lot of money in IT. I dropped out of school after finally convincing my family that this was temporary and I was just testing the waters. If business did not work out, I would go back to school “I convinced my dad to borrow $5,000 (Sh438,000 at current exchange rates) from friends, and I used the money to travel to Dubai on weekends to stock up on computers, hard disks and motherboards, among other items.” Ashish cashed in on the “Africa Rising” ...
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