Every month, we take a closer look at one of our favourite sustainable and socially responsible businesses to find out more about them and their ethos. This month, we spoke to Ashish J. Thakkar, the founder and managing director of Mara Group.
1. What is the Mara Group and the Mara Foundation?
Mara Group, a 16 year-old pan-African multi-sector business conglomerate with extensive operating experience in domestic and international markets. With current operations covering IT, BPO, real estate, asset management, infrastructure, hospitality, packaging, and media, the group has operations across 19 African countries.
Mara Group is growing existing companies and looking at new businesses to work with constantly. As long as what we do has a positive social impact on the people and the country, the businesses needs to be game changing, pan african and "Mara" branded and we are in!
Mara Foundation is Mara Group’s social enterprise that focuses on emerging African entrepreneurs. We work to create sustainable economic and business development opportunities for young business owners via Mara mentor, Mara business incubation centres and Mara ad-venture fund. Our mission is to provide comprehensive support services including mentorship, incubation centre workspace and online business training to African entrepreneurs. We believe that these support services will transform entrepreneurs’ business ideas into profitable and thriving business entities that will employ other Africans and contribute to the local and national economies.
2. What inspired you to do start your business?
After surviving the 1994 Rwandan genocide, I moved to Kampala, Uganda with my family. During High School in Kampala, I began selling computers to his classmates and friends. This awakened a passion within me, With a loan of $5000 I started my IT company and gave up school, there were knock backs and hard times along the way, which were all lessons in survival. Gradually I started to identify opportunities to build businesses in under-served markets and by selectively partnering with international firms focused on expanding in Africa.
3. Why is so important for a business to have a positive social impact?
I feel that every business must have a moral angle as success isn't just monetary gain it's also about making a difference, whether it's environmentally or impact on the economic growth of a country by way of availing resources and contacts to others. At Mara Foundation, we are focused on fostering entrepreneurship among young Africans.
4. What is the most fun part of your job?
When I see that we have made a real difference to someones livelihood or social standing with our Mentorship platform, also when my vision for Africa is turning into reality.
5. What is next for the Mara Group and Foundation?
The launch of Mara Women is the new initiative from Mara Foundation which will have a positive impact on women all over Africa and globally. Mara Women will enable, empower and inspire African women entrepreneurs, from start up to expanding by way of mentorship, incubation centres and venture capital.
6. What would be your advice for people who want to start a social enterprise?
Do it! It should be something you are passionate about yourself as your energy will be transferred to all involved in your vision to make a change.
Find out more about the Mara Group and Foundation here!
Ashish is also on twitter!