, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 3 – In his other life, Heril Bangera, the CEO of Flame Tree Group, would have been a rock star.
In this life however, he prefers the CEO’s hat.
While undertaking his Mechanical Engineering studies at Bangalore University, the 44-year-old entrepreneur conceived an idea; to establish a plastic tank plant in Kenya.
“I was 18-years-old and “knew it all” that was back in 1989, while still studying, were you born yet? (He chuckles) By that time there was only one manufacturer of plastic tanks and I saw the opportunity in the industry. I just thought if I could produce just four tanks a day I would be a millionaire, now we produce over 500 tanks a day,” he says.
“I got capital from my father to start the enterprise. With no experience at all my father took my project as pet project, but 26 years later and here we are, it’s been a long journey. I learnt it’s not so bad to work somewhere first and get the experience,” he adds.
The Flame Tree Group is now worth Sh1.2 billion and has operations in Eastern Africa with manufacturing plants in Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Rwanda and Mozambique and a workforce of 1,000 employees.
So who is he and what has made Flame Tree Group what it is? Find below:
What is the greatest lesson you have learnt in your entrepreneurship journey?
I have learnt that businesses go up and down, don’t be so proud when business is up and don’t be so down when the business is down, also be passionate about what you do, don’t just do it for the money, your passion will keep you afloat during the hard times.
Why did you list your company on the Nairobi Securities Exchange?
I wanted to raise capital to expand the business. Since then we have acquired new brands that includes the newly acquired SuzieBeauty.
I also wanted the company to go beyond me; I wanted to create a governing structure for it, so that it can still survive after I’m gone.
Why do you think most successful companies fear listing at the NSE?
Firms fear transparency and scrutiny that comes with it as well as losing control; you have to think on those lines as you think about listing.
What are the major issues affecting local manufacturers?
Cost of power is a major issue, though we have seen the government trying a lot and the cost has gone down in the recent past and we hope with the cost of fuel going down, we can see a reduction in power soon.
Infrastructure is also a problem, but we see the government investing in new roads, the future is bright.
Who is your role model?
I have three, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa.
What book are you reading now?
I love to read, now I am reading No man’s Land – Where Growing Companies fail written by Doug Tatum
James Bond movies.
Favourite Kenya vacation destination?
Mombasa Raha of course, Kenya has the most beautiful beaches.
What do you do to relax?
Listen to music, playing my guitar.
I’m more into rock music, that’s why I own and like to play the guitar.
Aah! I have so many to choose from, (After a long thought) I will choose Guns N’ Roses
Favourite football team?
I am not a sports fan really, but I support Chelsea because of my son.
What would you like to be remembered for?
I want to be remembered as one of the entrepreneurs who created a multinational company in Africa. I believe us Africans can build companies that are world class, why not?
Your parting shot?
Believe in yourself, start small and start now, be passionate about what you do and always be honest in your business.