HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsInnerzela with Albert Gumbo: Do some people simply just have it?

Innerzela with Albert Gumbo: Do some people simply just have it?


One of the first space tourists on the Virgin Galactic project later this year will be one Ashish Thakkar. Reading his story makes you think.

At age 14 he harassed his father in to buying him a computer and when his father’s friend came over for dinner and expressed his admiration for the computer, the boy offered to sell it to him for $1400 with a profit of $100.

The idea caught on and he began to go door to door trying to sell computers and eventually sold one to his school. A year later, he found a little shop and asked his dad whether he would run it during school holidays.

When schools opened, he did not go back and continued to run the shop without telling his parents.
When they found out, they sat him down, talked and let him carry on for a year with the proviso that if it did not work out he would have to go back to school!

Soon he had an operation in Dubai and while there, noticed that the supplier letterheads were marked Singapore. He got on to a plane and booked in to the cheapest hotel where a con man stole his passport.

When he called his father to say his passport had been stolen his father asked him how his meetings were going.

Not believing what he was hearing, he repeated the news of his passport and his father replied with the same question!

Upon his return when he confronted his father about his reaction to the news of the stolen passport, his father told him if he had let him focus on that fact he would have lost his confidence and not done any business!

And why is he going to be the first East African in space?

Because, today according to GQ magazine where I found this story, “Ashish Thakar is a billionaire CEO of the Mara Group, a Ugandan family enterprise doing business across ICT, media, manufacturing, real estate, and hospitality in at least four continents.”

He is only 29. Visit gq.co.za and read the full interview.

So this guy, whose family started off with nothing, has to get you thinking, no? A lot of my readers tell me about the “current economic climate.”

Well Ashish’s family went through the Idi Amin expulsion of Asians, fled the Rwanda genocide and yes, I repeat, started off with nothing.

I drink with some pretty clever people and one of them, a Malawian said to me in the middle of a discussion on blackberry versus iphone: “scepticism makes us lose money.”

Are you a sceptic? Do you offer any manner of excuse on why something cannot be done without offering alternatives? How often do you hear yourself say, it is not possible?

All the stories we hear about regarding successful people have something unique about them.

They also offer common points in different geographical spaces and contexts.

Ashish offers talking points in the interview which I highly recommend but the entire story did get me thinking.

If my son sold his cell phone, laptop or play station how would I react? In fact, the one time he tried to sell his DVDs I emphatically said no and forbade him from even thinking about it!

He was thirteen last year! I am embarrassed at myself. What is it? Do some people just have it and I do not?

Am I a sceptic too? Today, I asked him to print out the Ashish interview out, made him read it and then gave him permission to start selling his dvds if he wants to . . . eeeh provided he tells me first.

Ashish grew up in an enabling environment at home even though the country conditions were not favourable. His parents probably talked business at the dinner table which then made it natural for Ashish to gravitate in the direction from early on.

We learn of the same in another talented person.

Dambisa Moyo grew up with parents who talked economics and development at the table.

Perhaps you should do the same, instead of complaining about the government of national unity, you should perhaps change topics.

Unless you want your son to get in to politics, in which case you should refine your topic from simply complaining about the Zanu PF or MDC to discussions on how Obama made it!

Once your child surprises you with what you might consider to be an unusual request, have the presence of mind to not immediately brush it off with a very stern no but to pause and say something like that is not a bad idea at all and then offer whatever support you can.

Remember it does not have to be money. Real Madrid has just signed a seven year old.

A seven year old! Imagine how many people in the slums of South America are thinking if Messi could go over to Europe as a 14 year old, so can my son at seven.

It starts in the child’s mind but it is planted and nurtured by the parent’s attitude to life. It can also be destroyed by the same. You want to light a candle instead of cursing the darkness?

Change the subjects of discussion in your home, especially around the dinner table.

You might just be creating fantastic opportunities for your children in whatever field they choose to venture in to and may they hopefully make a ton of money for themselves while they are at it! Good luck!

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