Jitesh Ladwa is a co-founding partner and CEO of Tanzania-based Mkoba Private Equity Fund. Mkoba seeks to finance businesses in fast growing countries undergoing liberalisation and post-conflict countries rebuilding their economies. The $200m fund plans to make equity investments ranging from $500,000 to $15m in sectors such as agribusiness, services and manufacturing, urban renewal, financial services and innovative ventures in renewable energy and ICT.
Ladwa is a successful entrepreneur with businesses spanning several sectors including agribusiness, water and sanitation, transport and logistics, infrastructure, construction, IT, financial services and hospitality. He is the financial director of all companies within the Ladwa group, a family empire started by his parents in the 1970s that today holds assets worth over $500m.
What was your first job?
My first paying job was proof reading for my history professor. I was paid about US$1.25 an hour. The work entailed reading lines backwards to spot both spelling and grammar mistakes. I was then studying in New York.
What parts of your job keep you awake at night?
None. I don’t sleep a lot, but nothing keeps me awake.
Who has had the biggest impact on your career, and why?
I’d say my parents. My mother was one of the first feminists inTanzania and ran her own business from 1973. She was selling pipes. Both my parents work very hard. They came from very poor backgrounds but worked hard and did well in business.
The best professional advice you’ve ever received?
To say “sorry”. If you have done something wrong you should apologise. Sorry is a very big word because [it makes] everybody suddenly feel good about the situation.
The top reasons you’ve been successful in business?
I think I work hard. You also need to be in the right space to capture opportunities. It is not necessary that hard work will always get you to the other side, but if you keep at it the waves will come and take you. However, if you are not in the game, nothing will help you to the other side.
Where’s the best place to prepare for leadership? Business school or on the job?
On the job because you will face the realities on the ground. You can’t experience the rough weather you will experience in a school.
How do you relax?
I run a 42km marathon once a year. I practise hard for it for weeks.
When in the morning do you like to be at your desk?
I am there at 6:00am.
Your favourite job interview question?
I always ask people to value themselves. I want them to tell me what they think their value is to me. It is not really their value in terms of money, but what they bring to the company and to me. Whether it is hard work, dedication, commitment 14 hours a day. And after that they can value themselves in terms of money if they want.
Your message to Africa’s aspiring business leaders and entrepreneurs?
Many times we look at successful business people here as criminals. When you make money it is not considered a good thing. People think you must have stolen something. That’s wrong. You need to appreciate most successful business people work really hard to get where they are. If you want to be successful be ready to put in hard work. Don’t wait for traditional help or inspiration from the west. Look for solutions to the challenges in your country. You know more about your market than any person sitting in London. So mobilise the talent, knowledge and resources here to build successful local enterprises.