A way to millions

Tuesday, 03 March 2015 16:27   |   Written by Tlotlo Mbazo
A way to millions

After a lifetime of working hard to build an empire and create a legacy, what is clear is that flamboyant millionaire Jagdish Shah has arrived.  He is confident to say it himself. “I have worked hard over the years, I do not follow a particular routine. I have enough time to do whatever I want to do,” he says. 

With so many investments, it is even hard to determine his net worth. His complex web of investments run from properties, health and fitness, IT businesses, advertising, dividend income and other private interests. Jagdish, originally from India first came to Botswana in 1993 and established CA Sales and Distribution Centre, the biggest distribution centre in the country at 35 000m2, 120 trucks and over 1 000 members of staff. After 20 years in this single investment he got a giant opportunity to sell.

“I was happy to get such a rare opportunity of a buyer who comes with just a single cheque. I went for it,” he says. This decision then opened several other investment opportunities for him to invest in other smaller businesses that run across several industries. “I could have easily retired after the successful sale, but I could not just sit at home,” Jagdish says. Selling the business that brought him fame and fortune was not a difficult decision for him to make. In fact, in his view, there is no such thing as a bad decision. The decision that you make, no matter how unpopular it is at the time of making it, is always worth it. Atleast this is in the view of a man who has a history of building a company from nothing to an empire after 20 years. Even though he does not regret any business decision he has ever made, he says if he was given an opportunity to go back in time, the one thing that he would change is his spending habits. “I know that if it was not for my spending, I could have made a lot more money than I have now.”

Jagdish, who has now acquired a Botswana citizenship owns Jack’s Gym, a chain of gym and fitness centres in Botswana; with seven centres in and around Gaborone and one in Palapye and many more in the pipeline. This, he was able to do within a space of two and a half years. Most of the support base for the gym is in the capital Gaborone. The idea of a gym came after a realisation that there was a gap in the market to cater for health and fitness rather than bodybuilding that had taken centre stage.
And as soon as he established the first gym in Gaborone returns quickly followed, then expansion into different parts of the city. However, Jagdish had something unexpected coming. Some competitors launched a complaint with the Competition Authority, alleging anti-competitive tendencies and accusing him of monopolising the industry. He holds a different view.  

He is also owner of Winchest Properties, which owns a portfolio of properties in warehouses in Francistown, CA Sales Distribution Centre in Gaborone, and lodges, among others. Among his businesses are; IT company, Zebra Net, which is the most profitable currently. He owns an advertising company, cattle ranch, game viewing and hunting farm in a 14-hectar land in Ghanzi. Although he owns 40 percent stake in the Premier League football club, Township Rollers since January 2013, he finances the club 100 percent. Jagdish’s investment in local football was prompted largely by his vision to transform the status quo. He believes his involvement in the local football scene will go a long way in bringing some professionalism to the sport. “It is high time that we do not just look towards the government, but that business people get involved in local sport,” he says. He guarantees that if the private sector can continuously take an active role in local sport – sport will be run like business, and therefore will be bear desirable fruit over time. “There is need for a radical mindset change to achieve this,” he says.

His investment in football is worth it but has not brought any returns yet; in fact, he does not anticipate any economic returns for a while. His involvement in local football is more of a social investment rather than economic. Being the visionary he is, he believes that it is only a matter of time before football in Botswana yields dividends. He spends approximately P200 000 monthly in the club. Although returns are fast in the gym business, Jagdish is of the view that the nature of the business requires a long-term viewpoint for it to bring desirable returns. As a businessman and investor, Jagdish advices that it is always good to celebrate good returns, decide when to dispose off a business, and then find opportunities for long-term investments.
Currently he has employed around 400 people across all his businesses in Botswana.

Abroad, Jagdish has businesses in the USA, Dubai, India, South Africa and Namibia. In Dubai and India, his businesses are in property; in the US he has invested in hotels and motels. Of all the countries that he has made investments, he finds Botswana’s tax regime, less complicated. However, “setting up a business and running a business is far more easier in those countries than in Botswana.” He thinks this could be attributable to the fact that in comparison to Botswana, these are bigger economies. 
Having operated businesses in other parts of the world, Jagdish advices entrepreneurs, especially young people to take full advantage of the opportunities availed by government. Jagdish is convinced that if young people of Botswana could do an analysis of countries including America, China, India to see what those governments are doing in comparison to what they are offered here in Botswana, they would realise that there is really no excuse. “Government tries, for example; if one gives you a small plant, fertilizer and water, all you need to do is to make sure you nurture that plant to a point where its sustainable.

But the day you start plucking off the leaves and eating the roots, you are killing the plant,” he advices. He strongly believes that entrepreneurs must realise that success does not happen in one day. Business is a cycle, some businesses take longer to be fully established, but with patience and hardwork you are bound to succeed.  In his many interactions with other business people, he has met several investors who want to come and do business in Botswana. According to him, many have done individual researches on Botswana and have interacted with the Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC); however, they still find satisfaction in enquiring from someone who has done it before them. Looking at his success in business, one might think that it has been smooth sailing. Jagdish believes that challenges in business should be faced head on. “I have had my share of challenges, but I have taken them as opportunities, and worked them into successes.” He says one such was a fire incident in May of 2005, where their CA Sales warehouse in Gaborone West Industrial was burnt down. “The whole facility was destroyed in one day, the business could have been liquidated. We worked for 24 hours to set up a temporary warehouse. I challenged each an every member of staff to put all they had into that, and we did. Do not run from issues and problems rather move swiftly to address them.”

He describes himself as a very simple person, despite the pomp of his opulent office, located in Commerce Park, CA Sales Distribution Centre, the company he used to own. The buildings form part of the properties that he owns. One of his outstanding attributes is his care about his staff. He believes that if he makes his staff happy as an employer, he will ultimately reap the rewards. A quick scan in his office walls and cabinets would also prove that Jagdish is a people’s man. Photos of him with former presidents of Botswana, presidents of other countries, and world leaders are displayed. His gifts and abilities in the world of business have earned him respect among many political and business leaders across the world. Many of the photos are of him during social investment activities. He has given out houses, funds, other gifts to the less privileged of society. He strongly believes that “if you cannot help someone, do not harm them. Reach out to as many people as possible.” This has also been a secret to his success in business, his value of his staff. One of the things that demonstrate his commitment is a fully equipped gym that he has established in his building for staff use. “As a business person, your greatest asset is your staff, ensure their welfare, support them with knowledge that will help them in their jobs, do not discard, rather strengthen.”

He says when President Ian Khama launched the housing scheme in 2011; he pledged to donate 72 houses in all, a house every month.Jagdish who has a background of Commerce and Financial Studies says he has always been a business minded person from an early age. However, immediately he completed his studies he started working, a first in his family. “My entire family is in business,” he says. He appreciates efforts by the government of Botswana in stirring citizens into entrepreneurship. He believes citizens; especially young people should take full advantage of what government offers to go into business.