“Entrepreneurs are people who have the natural ability to seek opportunities that will lead them to excel. They tend to start small by running a hands-on business and then grow gradually by replicating the lessons learnt and applying proven principles.” – Bharat Thakrar
The above quote is simply a summary of the journey of the CEO of WWP Scangroup, Bharat Thakur who built from scratch, a formidable advertising empire. Thakrar is the founder of East Africa’s largest Integrated Marketing Communications Company which according to Forbes Magazine has a market capitalisation of $70 million. You may wonder how he arrived at his present position of heading a multi-million dollar conglomerate; here is how he started his journey.
* Bharat Thakrar
Bharat Thakrar was born in Nairobi Kenya. His first formal education was at Highridge Primary School, then proceeded for his A-levels. As a child, Bharat was exposed to the business of advertising as his father who was the Commercial Director at Skyline Advertising Agency, the largest advertising agency in Kenya at the time, always took him to the agency where he developed the passion for advertising.
While he was in secondary school, Thakrar showed his creativity by producing newsletters and serving as film secretary at his school where he also learned about electronics. After his secondary education, he returned to Kenya to take up a temporary trainee position in the advertising agency where his father worked pending the time he will proceed for his University education. While working at the agency, it didn’t take long for the management to notice Thakrar’s unique potentials.
He became the agency’s Account Executive and within a year, he was promoted to the position of an Account Director on the Colgate-Palmolive account at Skyline where I was promoted to account director within a year. When the agency closed down, Thakrar moved to another agency called Advertising Associates which was later bought over by McCann Erickson where he handled the East African Industries (Unilever) account.
In 1982, Thakrar set up his first advertising agency – Scanad, a small scale firm which through the years of hardwork and acquisition, has grown into Scangroup - an impressive African Marketing Communications which is listed on Nairobi’ Stock Exchange. Scangroup Limited was incorporated in Kenya as a private limited liability company on 26 January 1999 under the name Media Initiative East Africa Limited.
In October 2005 the company changed its name to Scangroup Limited. Scangroup in 2013 became a subsidiary of WPP when other shareholders ceded a controlling stake in the business to WPP - a British multinational advertising and public relations company and subsequently the company renamed itself to WPP-Scangroup Limited on 15 June 2015.
WPP-Scangroup has presence in 25 countries in Sub Saharan African countries like; Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and minority owned operations in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Namibia, Senegal and Zimbabwe. The group also has affiliate partners in Botswana, DRC, Congo Brazzaville, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Niger, Reunion and S. Leone.
Comprising of other agencies which include; ad agencies Ogilvy & Mather, SCANAD, JWT and BluePrint Marketing; media firms GroupM, MediaCom Africa, Mindshare and MEC; public relations agencies Ogilvy PR and H+K Strategies; market research agency Millward Brown; specialty communication firms Roundtrip and Geometry Global; and digital companies OgilvyOne, Squad Digital and SCANAD Digital, the group provides advertising services to multi-national industries like; Coca-Cola, Nestle, Airtel, Unilever, among others.
In an interview with Forbes magazine, Thakrar stated that it would be an honour to be remembered as one who made a difference in the Kenyan advertising industry. He said “I believe that I have transcended the impossible. Twenty years ago, no one could have imagined that I would succeed in my endeavour. It is no rocket science as determination, will power, honesty and sincerity is all you require. You also need to clear focus, work hard, a good team and a supportive family. You cannot do it alone.”