By REARABILWE RAMAPHANE, Weekend Post, 11/06/2017
Billionaire English business man, bestselling author, philanthropist, founder and Chairman of a conglomerate of multinational companies, Virgin Group, Richard Branson graced the 2017 Global Expo organized by the BITC. He specifically gave a talk at a special event dubbed ‘Conversations with Sir Richard Branson’.
Before sharing his entrepreneurial experiences to an audience of captains of industries, expo exhibitors, senior government officials and young entrepreneurs, Branson paid a courtesy call on President Lt Gen Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama and Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi at the office of the President. Branson who has been in Botswana before on private visit commended Botswana for its sound environmental conservation and natural resources preservation policy and management system.
Of his various exploits around the world Sir Branson maintains that his best African holiday trip was in Botswana. “The Okavango Delta, according to me, is amongst the top 10 best things to have happened to planet earth, the place is so incredible.” The filthy rich diverse entrepreneur showered Botswana with praises for its good ratings by the international oversight bodies on good governance and busting corruption.
However he cautioned against the high unemployment rate among young people who constitute the majority of Botswana population. He said this was a sad reality that must be addressed. “It is a sad because young people are the most vibrant and active. In order for jobs to be created people need to take deliberate steps of entering into entrepreneurship and starting sustainable businesses,” Sir Branson said.
Sir Branson who started his first business after dropping out of school at the age of 16 explained that to become a successful entrepreneur one has to be a good listener who can always observe existing opportunities and must be ready to learn. ”You have to ask yourself a question on how you can do something better than other people who have done it before, because entrepreneurship is not always about what hasn’t been done, if there is an opportunity to complement or do something better, that is a gap for a business,” he said.
Sir Richard Branson advised that Botswana should venture into clean energy: “You have a lot of coal, that is wrong timing as the world is shifting to green energy, but for jobs and GDP’s sake you can extract the coal and export to more industrial countries overseas; but for sustainability, start taking a leap into green energy,” he said. The over $5 billion worth English tycoon lectured Botswana on the unexplored diamond this country is sitting on – the natural hot climate conditions. Sir Branson said solar energy can be Botswana‘s multimillion Dollar sector that can create jobs.
“You can even import the chips, cells, the solar silicon cells from China and assemble them here and someone can set up a solar power station,” he said. According to Sir Richard Branson, people must start thinking big business ideas and implement them at a young age while they still have no commitments. “To run a sustainable business is highly dependent on among other things the people you have hired and how you treat them. Good business leaders are always looking at getting the best out of people they lead.”
Sir Branson further shared that people must be comfortable at the workplace in order for them to carry out their mandate fully. He stated that the workspace must not dictate to workers what to wear and how long to work as long as the job is done. Sir Richard Branson who has various charity projects around the world which are aimed at humanitarian work in undeveloped countries and unstable nations believes that people must be given a chance in life.
“At Virgin Active we hire ex-convicts fresh from prison and none of them has ever reoffended.” He also shared his thoughts on drugs: “People who sell drugs are entrepreneurs, they possess a skill, it is just that they are using it in an illegal dealership which also has negative health consequences. We just need to give people another chance in life.” According to Sir Branson drug dealers and offenders can become great entrepreneurs if they are rehabilitated and given another chance to follow the right path in pursuit of their dreams.
HOW HE MADE IT TO THE TOP
Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson, born 18 July 1950, founded Virgin Group in 1966 when he left school to run a business and lifestyle magazine called Student. In 1970, he set up a mail-order record business which was followed by a chain of recording stores under the label Virgin Records.
His fast growing business Group expanded rapidly in the 1980’s. One of his major business segments is Virgin Atlantic, a multinational airline that fought brutally with British Airways to gain establishment. When answering a question from Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Bogolo Kenewendo, Sir Branson said that startups must do whatever it takes to survive the wrath of already established business.
He shared that when British Airlines wanted to swallow his startup Airline and pushed his brand out of the game, he exposed their ill intension with the help of the media. He advised local media to support startups in order to realize significant growth of the economy. Sir Richard Branson also runs an entrepreneurship program termed Branson entrepreneurship school headquartered in London with outreaches worldwide. In March 2000 Branson was knighted at Buckingham Palace for “services to entrepreneurship”, particularly for his work in retail, music and transport as well his humanitarian work. He has partnered with Desmond Tutu, Koffi Anan, and the late Nelson Mandela on a number humanitarian undertakings aimed at bringing peace worldwide.