NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 16 – “I feel embarrassed of being the chief guest at tonight’s event,” business magnate and serial entrepreneur Vimal Shah, CEO of BIDCO Africa and Chairman of KEPSA, began his presentation during the 25 under 25 awards gala ceremony.
“You are receiving your first award at the age of 25. I had to wait until I turned 40 to receive mine,” Shah said in good humour.
His remarks were timely.
Twenty five youths, mostly entrepreneurs, leaders, society mover and innovators whose work has made great impact in their communities, were being recognised just in time for the upcoming Global Entrepreneurship Summit which will be graced by US President Barack Obama.
Shah, who has built an empire based on entrepreneurship, applauded them stating that they held the solutions for Kenyan challenges in their hands.
“You have to realise that the biggest invention of mankind in the 21 century is not the internet, bandwidth or technology. It is entrepreneurship,” Shah stated.
According to Shah, university graduates have no business with job-hunting. He called out to young graduates leaving school to become job creators so as to absorb the ever-growing employment demands.
“Our biggest challenge, which can also be seen as our biggest opportunity, is our demographics. There are at least one million people leaving school every year, all looking for jobs. On the other hand, the private sector is creating approximately two hundred thousand job opportunities every year leaving a total of eight hundred thousand people scrambling for government jobs,” shah stated.
And the demographics are set to become worse.
Statistics predict that the country’s population will be tipping over to about 65 million, hence a growing need for the creation of sustainable jobs.
The seasoned businessman however had ideas for the youth to invest in. According to him, traditional fields such as agriculture were still very viable and created endless opportunities for the entrepreneurs.
“Kenya for starters has such great weather. We do not have extreme temperatures, we are around the equator and we have great soils for agriculture. We have plenty of water as well as the capacity to invest in agribusinesses,” he said.
But agribusiness is not the only place that is ripe with opportunities for investment.
According to Shah, one only needs to look around them and see what is imported and see if it is possible for them to produce those products to bridge the gap. He also called out to entrepreneurs to consider businesses in infrastructure and security provision among others.
The old age excuse of lack of capital to start a business was also refuted by the entrepreneur.
“So many aspiring entrepreneurs claim to have excellent business ideas but cannot pursue them because of lack of capital, yet they have not packaged those ideas. They have not done their market research, neither have they done they book keeping to know how much they need nor do they even know their products inside out,” Shah lamented.
To Shah, capital is available; it is the entrepreneurs who are not looking for the investment in the right places stating that Kenya’s government for instance, provided them with great sources of capital. He further explained that a great idea that is well investigated will always find investment, if the entrepreneur is willing to do his part.
“We have the Global Entrepreneurship Summit coming up. The US President and thousands of investors are coming into Kenya. How can one be complaining of lack of opportunities to make their business prosper?” he asked.
The businessman cautioned entrepreneurs to do more than they were doing stating that it was their responsibility to create jobs, transform their societies and solve global problem.
He finally advised entrepreneurs to disrupt the ecosystem by delivering the next big projects that the world needs.
“The years when someone had a five year plan are long gone. Things are changing every day, the only plan you need is a daily plan, but do not change the goal of your business. Be a risk taker, be willing to put in extra hours to grow your business, and do not do it just for the money because it will not happen overnight,” he concluded.