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Thursday, August 17, 2017

From hardship to becoming an insurance CEO

In 1997 Bashir founded an insurance brokerage company. Later on, after completing his MBA in 2002, he divested from the brokerage business, and, together with a friend started a company called Soliton Telmec, which provided the background research, initial training and financing to create what would become Kenya’s first registered fully Sharia-compliant insurance company, Takaful Insurance of Africa (TIA), in 2011.

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Bashir spent years developing the model for TIA and fund raising. He was able to raise a sum of $6 million Dollar from individual and institutional investors, and obtaining approval from regulatory authorities.

Today Bashir heads the Takaful Africa Group, which has since expanded to Somalia and is eyeing other markets in the region. Last year, the firm recorded Ksh.810m (about $8m) in premiums.

“The thing I remember most about my life as a young boy was the dreams of going to university. I did not have this gut feeling that I was going to succeed. But I did have the feeling of going to university,” he says.

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He excelled during primary school, but his parents could not afford secondary school tuition, so Bashir left school to work odd jobs in hospitality, transport and construction.

After eight years of work, one day he decided to go to the offices of the United States International University – Africa (USIU-Africa) in Nairobi and seek admission. He was confident that his years of work experience would make up for the lack of a secondary school certificate, but the university would hear none of it.

Instead, the admission officer advised that he complete secondary school. So, Bashir enrolled for secondary school certification examinations as a private candidate. Two years later he returned to USIU-Africa and was admitted for an IT degree, later transferring to international business administration.

It was then that Bashir developed an interest in starting his own business. Shortly after graduation, he quit his job at the university, where he had been working in order to earn financial aid for his studies.

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So Bashir founded his own insurance brokerage firm. A friend gave him some money to pay for a licence to operate, and another offered him a room in Nairobi to use as his office.

“I started marketing floor by floor, building by building,” says Bashir. “In the first three months I wrote 1,500 introduction letters addressed to the people in the Nairobi directory. Those days we had call boxes and each had a directory chained to it. I found a directory whose chain had been removed, so I took it to the office. I wrote to everyone listed in the directory. Those first three months were painful. We did not insure anything.”

This is the story of many entrepreneurs who try to setup a business in our today’s world. The road to this place is not an easy one. So fasten up your belt.



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