Mara Group chief morale-boosts emerging local investors

By John Odyek

Thakkar tipped entrepreneurs that they have to try non- traditional sources of finance such as banks.

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Ashish J. Thakkar, chief executive officer Mara Group, has advised young Uganda entrepreneurs on building good governance structures for their businesses to enable hem survive and grow.

Thakkar, an astronaut in waiting, underscored that there were plenty of opportunities for individuals to do business in the private sector in Uganda.

The Ugandan-born entrepreneur started Mara Group that has tentacles in businesses such as real estate, tourism, financial services, information and communications technology, renewable energy and manufacturing.

He said the mindset of entrepreneurs should focus on doing good which he said will make a difference in the lives of many people. "Success needs to be measured by the lives impacted not the wealth one accumulates.”

This was during the second oil and gas convention held under the theme 'suppliers roadmap to operational excellence'. The function was organized by the Uganda Chamber of Mines and Petroleum took place at Serena Hotel, Kampala.

Thakkar is the only African who has raised the $200,000 ticket fee for Virgin Galactic's first flight to Space. When the trip eventually comes through, he will be the second African astronaut after South African software millionaire Mark Shuttleworth.

On the question of how to raise capital, Thakkar tipped entrepreneurs that they have to try non- traditional sources of finance such as banks.  "There are pools of capital out there willing to work with the private sector as long as the proper governance structures are in place," Thakkar said.

He criticised the banking model in Uganda where he said banks take money from customers and use it to buy treasury bills to make profits. He observed the next wave of banking would be mobile banking which is changing the model of banking.

He declared that his interest is to change the model of banking and confirmed that he and the former Barclays chief executive officer Bob Diamond were leading a consortium to buy shares in Barclays Africa Group.

Barclays Bank PLC has announced it will reduce its 62.3% shareholding in Barclays Africa Group (BAGL) to non- controlling position over the next two to three years. Diamond was passionate about banking in Africa during his tenure in Barclays Bank PLC between 1996-2012.

Thakkar said: "Africa has been misunderstood by the West. When terrorist attacked Kenya, the West cancelled flights to Kenya. When Paris was attacked the world flew to Paris. Are our lives valued according to the GDP? It is our time to take responsibility in our hands to change the narratives. It is our time to act. Have faith and focus on the bigger journey,"