Why I give: Ashish J Thakkar

2012-10-27 17:50

Ashish J Thakkar, Uganda: Entrepreneur, founder of the Mara Group

Wow. You started out selling computers to your school friends?
I was 14 when I sold my first computer. I was a great playground entrepreneur – and it has served me very well ever since, I think.

Where did you go to school and were you a geek?

No I was one of the cool ones!

I went to school in UK, Kenya and Uganda and left school at an early age to start my business.

So I am as uneducated as they come.

You are 31. Does your own youth shape and inform your philanthropic interests?

I started my own business full-time when I was 15 and so much of my youth was spent developing my entrepreneurial self.

This is why I am now so passionate about supporting other entrepreneurs.

I feel like my development now lies in helping others to grow, be the best that they can be and avoid making the same mistakes I made.

I believe when people receive they “pay it forward” – so my ultimate satisfaction will come from seeing this far-reaching impact.

Do you still live in Uganda?
Unfortunately not.

I do still travel for 20 days a month in Africa.

However, I now live in the United Arab Emirates which is also a great place and a fantastic hub for Africa.

Tell us a bit more about your foundation’s Entrepreneur Launch Pad project?

The Entrepreneur Launch Pad mentorship programme was launched in 2011 by Mara Foundation at the Mara Group Headquarters in Kampala.

The launch involved a unique “business speed-dating” event, where prominent business personalities in Uganda had a series of three-minute timed conversations with young entrepreneurs.

Sixteen entrepreneurs were matched with formidable mentors for a mentorship period that spanned six months.

The impact has been far reaching. Mentors have developed the thinking, capabilities and networks of their mentees and helped them develop self-sustaining businesses.

Mentees have increased turnover, employed more team members and some are even helping to develop the mentorship programme by mentoring part-time.

Do you think of philanthropy as a job or a hobby?

That’s easy! A passionate hobby, but a very serious one

What – or who – first turned you on to philanthropy?

My spiritual leader, Morari Bapu. His teaching is Truth, Love & Compassion.

Does giving make you happy?

Very much so. Much more than receiving!

What has been one of your best giving moments?

One of our young mentees started a business at age 16, making school uniforms and employing one of her classmates.

She was struggling initially and only making about $70 (R600) a month. Her parents are farmers and were making about $250 a month.

After being paired up with a mentor for six months, this young lady is now employing 12 of her classmates and making over $750 a month!

Seeing this kind of grassroots impact is very exciting and only makes us want to do more.

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