May 20, 2024

Anza Now CEO Bobby Gadhia during the interview in Nairobi on September 29, 2022. PHOTO | LUCY WANJIRU | NMG
Twenty-seven years ago Bobby Gadhia set out to try his hand in business. The fresh IT graduate had no business management experience leave alone finances, but he didn’t let that dampen his entrepreneurial dream.
Being passionate about technology, the 22-year-old naturally gravitated to the sector and started selling computers from his room. The digital revolution had just dawned and government and private organisations were replacing typesetting machines with computers, creating demand which created an opportunity for Mr Gadhia.
He started small in his room with only Sh2,000 and organically grew his small venture before later teaming up with a friend and moving to a tiny shop in Nairobi’s Yaya Centre.
“Somebody was selling the shop and migrating to Canada. It was a computer business. So we took it over and that’s how PC World was born,” says Mr Gadhia of the moment they seized the opportunity.
Mr Gadhia says the only way he could fill up stock in the business was by using his creditworthiness and reputation as bargaining chips. Suppliers would issue him goods on credit and he would pay later.
Business was good and soon they started importing their consignments.
“I realised from the onset that I was not cut out for employment life and thereafter discovered that I had a talent in selling and that’s what took me off,” he says.
The initial challenge, he says, was that customers often dismissed him because of his young age. He, however, used his age and the naivety that came with it to go into a full-blown exploration of innovative ways to grow the business without any considerable fear of consequences.
Within a year, Mr Gadhia bought out his partner becoming the sole owner of the business.
“When we were starting the business, I was a 20 percent shareholder and he was at 80 percent. Within one year I bought the 80 percent,” he reminisces.
Then came the downfall.
In 2016, he closed down the business after being on top of the game for 21 years.
So what exactly happened?
Mr Gadhia notes: “After 21 years in business, the industry changed. When I got into the market, the competition was low, margins were high. As the economy liberalised, competition increased. We had unscrupulous businessmen, and government policy changed making the business environment very tough. I eventually shut down and exited.”
But like the shrewd business operator he had become, he did not waste much time. He immediately jumped into real estate in the interim.
He later set up Anza Now, a human resource recruitment firm in 2018 where he currently sits as CEO.
This, he says, was borne out of the challenges he faced during his days at PC World where he could not find properly equipped staff to suit his human resource needs.
“The day I started Anza Now, I had customers lined up even before I did any marketing. This is when it hit me that there was a big gap and that many organisations were struggling with staff hiring.”
“Anza Now is my current identity and I’m building it to be a super brand, better than PC World was.”
What does he know now that he wishes he knew then?
“I wish I had people who would tell me that these are the dos and don’ts of business. If you are starting a business, you need to have a mentor or a coach, someone who can walk with you and one whom you can learn from their mistakes. I did all my mistakes fresh, which I shouldn’t have.”
On going to school and studying business formally and professionally, Gadhia quips with a grin, “I’ve learnt business from the school of life.”
He however occasionally joins business coaching platforms and reads relevant material which he says has kept him abreast with interesting investment trends.
As a further confirmation that the entrepreneurial spirit is deeply rooted within him, Gadhia has got two business ventures lined up for launch in a month, a fast-food enterprise and a chili manufacturing and export exploit.
He also looks forward to launching an executive coaching programme where he will be seeking to mentor upcoming and passionate entrepreneurs.
On the question of how much he’s worth, Gadhia is non-committal. He however confirms he was a dollar-millionaire before PC World crashed and that he’s well on course to getting back and surpassing the value.
Biggest lesson?
“Guard your reputation at all costs. When I went down with PC World, I came back easily because people trusted me. I had not conned anyone, I had a good standing and that’s what made people stand with me. My reputation saved me.”
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