You have met or heard about this breed of people who have a penchant of coming up with great businesses ideas and making them work. They don’t stop at one or two, they can go on to create even a dozen businesses. Yet they don’t stay back and run them.
They are called serial entrepreneurs. They just keep churning out businesses. Never mind that some serial entrepreneurs can be perennial failures, starting business after businesses but which fall by the wayside.
Lots of unique ideas
A serial entrepreneur is one who continuously starts new businesses. As opposed to a typical entrepreneur, who will often come up with an idea, start the company, and then see it through and play an important role in the day to day functioning of the new company, a serial entrepreneur will come up with the idea and get things started, but then give responsibility to someone else and move on to a new idea and a new venture. Others sell off the businesses to other investors and move on to the next.
This can be a good thing if the individual has lots of unique ideas and is the best one suited to get each started, but can be a bad thing if the individual stops putting time into a company that needs his or her help, in order to try to move forward with a new idea that may or may not succeed.
One such serial entrepreneur in the making is Jinal Savla, who has three businesses up and running and is in the process of actualizing the fourth one.
In this interview, we get insights from a serial entrepreneur on management and general life and he reveals how his children have sharpened his management skills. First let’s look at the businesses that are running.
MO MOVIEZ – The baby steps
In 2005 Jinal, who holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree, took his baby steps into entrepreneurship by starting a video-on-demand outfit, which he called Mo Moviez. He said he created value by availing latest original movies for rental at a small fee, a better alternative than buying which can be costly for something you watch for an hour or so. Mo Moviez has gone global and is now providing African content to the rest of the world through an application, which supports pay-per-view and subscriptions.
Its app is available on Samsung Smart TV and mobile store, which gives it access to 194 countries and 500 million TVs globally.
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He says Mo Moviez is also working to access Windows phones estimated at 200 million and over 1.4 billion Androids. “We want the world to know Africa has got talent and not just wildlife,” Jinal says. “Film and movies are a good way for people to experience Africa. See how Hollywood changed perceptions about the US.”
He says getting just a tiny fraction, say 1%, of this humongous market will be a good beginning.
IDEAS UN LIMITED – Expanding horizons
As Mo Moviez began operations, Jinal’s mind started looking for a new business idea. A year later, he launched Ideas Un Limited, an out-of-home digital signage company. The digital content (mostly adverts and shopping info) was delivered on screens in supermarkets.
Behind this is a digital signage technology solution that manages screens from a central location. He started off with one supermarket, but has expanded into seven towns, 31 locations and 300 digital displays, all reaching 4 million shoppers per month. If you have been to Equity Bank, you must have seen screens that beam banking information. Ideas Un Limited, which pioneered the technology in Kenya, supports Equity Banks screens in 240 branches.
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In 2010, the firm developed the application, which is sold on license to clients while Ideas Un Limited provides support for it. “The digital out of home is our own investment with supermarkets. It’s an information channel to communicate offers, services and solutions to shoppers,” says Jinal.
What started as an advertising network is a thriving business worth millions.
SOLUTECH – it’s all about solutions
It may appear that Jinal dumped his Bcom knowledge and started drifting deeper into IT. The newest baby is Solutech, a web and mobile applications development company, which he launched in 2015. The solution is helping company operations to go not only digital, but mobile as well.
So far, Solutech has been successful, and has developed various apps including: merchandiser app, Mo Moviez app, peer-to-peer lending app, accident reporting app and community feedback management. It has also developed ecommerce platforms in farming and health sectors.
Jinal says when it comes to business ideas, there can be no limit on how much someone can come up with. “It will be unfortunate to limit yourself,” he says. “The brain processes 86,000 thoughts a day and for me 20% of that have to be solutions to various problems.”
He says having many businesses is not an issue, so long as you are serving different demands and creating adequate infrastructure to sustain them. If a business meets 100% capacity of demand, then growth it further. If not improve or diversify.
“I am very open to ideas. If a good one comes, nothing stops me from nurturing it. It’s fun coming up with these businesses because the satisfaction that you are doing the right thing is pleasurable,” says Jinal.
Juggling many ideas
Just how does he juggle three businesses and the many ideas often swirling in his mind? Initially, it was challenging for Jinal and he would mix up things. But he says his brain got accustomed to it and he is able to two switch roles from the CEO of Mo Moviez to MD of Solutech and to CEO of Ideas Un Limited. “It’s like in the morning you are a father, evening a husband, at some point a son or daughter and so on,” he says.
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He says to run many companies you must be focused and have a calendar of tasks. Jinal has a dedicated calendar of activities and he sticks to it. Now he is developing teams and capacity to reduce the burden on his shoulders to make himself much freer to have an oversight and think of more ideas.
He has centralized management of the three companies to reduce movement from one location to the other and make decision making easier.
Lessons from my children
You need a family that understands and support you because you find yourself always thinking about the businesses. “I have a supportive wife. She understands me well. Without her this wouldn’t be possible. But always spare time for family.”
Kid’s Play: “I learn a lot from kids. In fact, I don’t teach them anything. They teach me. One of the biggest lessons is how to be simple in your thought process. My 13-year-old daughter has taught me about development. I have seen her grow from a simple smile to a teenager and you definitely admire the frankness of children as well as their honesty and diplomatic approach to issues.”
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Jinal says his six-year-old son brings out lessons in being lively. Just like at a home, a lively workplace will deliver great results and motivated people. A six-year-old is ever busy, and that’s a lesson for entrepreneurs and other businesspeople.
“You must have something to do every minute otherwise things become boring. If you look at a six-year-old you will notice that they are extremely calculative and never get stuck. They are always finding a way out of a situation, even if it means crying out. They are go-getters and path finders. Those are invaluable lessons for business people.”