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Asish Thakker: From schoolboy trader to multi-business tycoon

NEW DELHI India -- Twice a refugee in Africa, Asish Thakker, the Dubai-based entrepreneur, has made it big in the continent, writes Swami Anand Kul Bhushan.

As a schoolboy, Ashish Thakkar was happy to get a personal computer while living in Kampala, Uganda, in 1993.

A family friend came for dinner and, admiring his PC, asked how much it costs. Ashish padded the price by $100.

The guest asked if he could get a similar PC and Ashish promised it would be done.

Next day, he cleaned his PC of all his files, repacked it neatly in the original box and delivered it to make a profit and bought another PC for himself.

That began a flourishing business career as he bought keyboards, mouses, floppies and other peripherals during his weekly trips to Dubai and sold them at a profit during school holidays.

He persuaded his family to loan him $5,000 to start his business at the age of 15.

He dropped out of school, promising his father to resume his studies if his business floundered.

It didn’t. He founded his company, Mara Group, in 1996 and today it has operations in 24 countries and employs more than 11,000 people, mostly in Africa.

It is headquartered in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. And he is a billionaire.

Thakkar was born in Leicester, UK, after his family moved there from Uganda when Idi Amin expelled Indians in 1972. His family originally migrated from Gujarat to East Africa in 1980s.


.Dubai-based entrepreneur Asish Thakker | Coastweek

NEW DELHI India -- Dubai-based entrepreneur Asish Thakker.


The Thakker family settled in Britain as Ugandan refugees in 1972 and in Uganda as Rwandan refugees in 1994.

They returned to Rwanda and were again forced to leave in 1994 due to Rwandan Genocide and settled in Kampala.

That’s when Thakkar started his business career as a teenager.

He founded the Mara Group and from trading moved into manufacturing, real estate, finance, agriculture and IT services.

Later, he relocated his headquarters in Dubai with major offices in Kampala, Lagos and other African cities.

Believing in a bright future for Africa, he has written a book, The Lion Awakes: Adventures in Africa’s Economic Miracle.

Of course, he refers to the African lion as he thinks that the time of the Chinese dragon and the Indian tiger is over.

In 2013, Thakkar announced a partnership with the former Barclays boss, Bob Diamond, to launch Atlas Mara, a company that invests in commercial banking institutions across Africa.

Bestowed with numerous leadership awards, Thakker, participated in the "Global Accelerator" event in 2014 hosted by the United Nations Foundation and the United Nations Office for Partnerships to discuss entrepreneurships in UN objectives; and the US-Africa summit, hosted by the White House, alongside former U.S. President Bill Clinton, in addition to the World Economic Forum in 2010.

He wants to see Africa prosper and compete aggressively on a global scale.

His Mara Group proudly wears the logo of the African Lion to symbolize Africa’s coming of age and he champions this cause in any way he can.

"The Indian tiger and the Chinese dragon have had their day, " he told BBC.

"Now is the time for the African lion."



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