Ashish Thakkar

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Ashish Thakkar
Born (1981-08-05) 5 August 1981 (age 37)
ResidenceDubai, United Arab Emirates
OccupationFounder, Mara Group
Years active1996 - present
OrganizationMara Foundation
Known for
Parent(s)Jagdish Thakkar
AwardsMiddle East Man of the Year at the Esquire Magazine Awards 2016, Base Leadership Award at the MTV Africa Music Awards 2014

Ashish J. Thakkar is a Dubai-based British entrepreneur.[2][3] He is the founder of Mara Group and Mara Foundation, and he is a co-founder of Atlas Mara. Thakkar was born in the United Kingdom, but he moved to East Africa as a teenager before founding Mara Group, a Pan-African conglomerate, at the age of 15.[4] Mara Group's operations and investments span 22 African countries.[5] He is the author of The Lion Awakes: Adventures in Africa's Economic Miracle.

Thakkar is a member of the World Economic Forum's Young Global Leaders,[2][6] and was included in Fortune magazine's list of the top "40 Under 40" in 2013.[7] He was awarded the Base Leadership Award at the 2014 MTV Africa Music Awards event.[8] Esquire named him Middle East Man of the Year in 2016.[9]

In 2015, Thakkar was appointed Chair of the United Nations Foundation’s Global Entrepreneurs Council.

In 2017, Thakkar was appointed Chair of the Presidential Youth Advisory Group at the African Development Bank

Early life and education[edit]

Thakkar’s family emigrated from the Indian state of Gujarat to Africa in the 1890s.[10][11] Thakkar, however, was born in Leicester in 1981,[12]. He spent his childhood at Rushey Mead School as part of Belvoir S form group. After his parents had moved to the United Kingdom in 1972 when Idi Amin enforced the expulsion of Asians from Uganda.[13] Thakkar and his family returned to Africa to live in Rwanda before they were again forced to leave due to the Rwandan Genocide in 1994. The Thakkar family then fled to Burundi before settling in Uganda as refugees.[7][13] At 15 years old, Thakkar dropped out of school to start his own business with a $5,000 loan.[7]


Thakkar founded his own company, Mara Group, in 1996 at the age of 15.[12] He began by importing computer parts including keyboards, mouses, and desktops from weekly trips to Dubai.[14] After Thakkar had received a $5,000 loan to start his company,[15] he opened the small IT business in a shopping mall across the street from his father's shop in Kampala.[16]

Over the next ten years, Thakkar expanded Mara Group into manufacturing, real estate, agriculture and IT services.[2][7] Thakkar later relocated the company headquarters to Dubai, but kept business in Africa.[13][17]

In 2013, Thakkar announced a partnership with Bob Diamond to launch Atlas Mara,[18] a company that invests in commercial banking institutions across Africa.[19] Diamond, the former chief executive of Barclays, and Thakkar met at a conference through their foundations, Mara Foundation and the Diamond Family Foundation.[15] Thakkar and Diamond raised $325 million in funding in December 2013, before listing the company on the London Stock Exchange.[20][21]

Other activities[edit]

Thakkar founded Mara Foundation, a non-profit company that mentors and supports young African entrepreneurs,[22] in 2009.[13] Mara Mentor, a mobile application that connects young entrepreneurs with business professionals, was launched through Mara Foundation.[3]

In June 2014, Thakkar participated in the "Global Accelerator" event hosted by the United Nations Foundation and the United Nations Office for Partnerships to discuss entrepreneurships in UN objectives. Thakkar presented and worked at the event of over 100 entrepreneurs and UN officials including Michael Dell, Barbara Bush and Arianna Huffington.[23] In August 2014, Thakkar participated in the US-Africa summit, hosted by the White House, alongside former U.S. President Bill Clinton.[24] He has also participated in the UN Women Initiative,[25] and was a guest speaker at the Emirates Foundation Youth Philanthropy Summit in November 2014.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 31 March 2015. Retrieved 2016-03-03.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ a b c "Young, Successful And African: Ashish J.Thakkar, CEO of Mara Group". Forbes. Retrieved 24 April 2013.
  3. ^ a b Nsehe, Mfonobong (7 August 2012). "Young African Millionaire Launches, Africa's First Online Mentorship Network". Forbes Magazine. Retrieved 1 August 2014.
  4. ^ "Ashish J. Thakkar: Shaking Africa's business universe". African Business Magazine. 4 April 2013. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  5. ^ Maritz, Jaco (5 October 2014). "Why Ashish Thakkar's Mara Group has its head office in Dubai". How We Made It In Africa. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
  6. ^ "Ashish Thakkar". World Economic Forum. Retrieved 24 April 2013.
  7. ^ a b c d "40 Under 40 2013: 19. Ashish Thakkar". Forbes. 2013. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
  8. ^ "2014 MTV Africa Music Awards winners". 9 June 2014. Retrieved 11 June 2014.
  9. ^
  10. ^ G. Seetharaman (26 January 2014). "Mara group's Ashish Thakkar: How he established a multi-million dollar, pan-African group". The Economic Times. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
  11. ^ G Seetharaman,. "Mara group's Ashish Thakkar: How he established a multi-million dollar, pan-African group". The economic times. Retrieved 24 October 2015. Thakkar's paternal great grandfather moved from Gujarat to Uganda in 1890 to trade in maize, cotton and other commodities. But his family had to leave Uganda in 1972 when the country's dictatorial leader Idi Amin ordered the expulsion of Asians. His parents moved to the UK, where they set up a business trading women's fashion goods and where Thakkar was born.
  12. ^ a b Blas, Javier (22 June 2014). "Ashish Thakkar: Bob Diamond's African partner". Financial Times. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
  13. ^ a b c d Matt Symonds (9 March 2014). "Ashish Thakkar: Child refugee who built business empire". BBC News. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
  14. ^ Christina Farr (7 August 2012). "Genocide refugee, CEO, and astronaut-to-be gives back to Africa with accelerator". Venture Beat. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
  15. ^ a b Kathleen Caulderwood (4 March 2014). "Mara Group's Ashish Thakkar On What Investors Get Wrong About Africa". International Business Times. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
  16. ^ Ayesha Durgahee; Jessica Ellis (24 April 2013). "Tycoon to fly African flags in space". CNN. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
  17. ^ a b Roberta Pennington (4 November 2014). "Businessman hopes to inspire youth". The National. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
  18. ^ Chad Bray (9 December 2013). "Robert Diamond Aims to Make Banking Comeback – in Africa". New York Times Dealbook. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
  19. ^ Mfonobong Nsehe (5 September 2014). "Young African Millionaire Ashish J. Thakkar Launches Mara Mentor In Ghana". Forbes. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
  20. ^ Mfonobong Nsehe (14 May 2014). "Bob Diamond And Ashish J. Thakkar To Raise $400 Million to Fund Deals". Forbes. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
  21. ^ "Bob Diamond-backed Atlas Mara to expand in Africa via acquisitions". Reuters. 31 March 2014. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
  22. ^ Mike Cassidy (16 May 2013). "Ashish Thakkar And The Mara Group Take A Flying Leap At Becoming The Skype Facebook, Google Talk Of Africa". Silicon Beat. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
  23. ^ "Welcome to the United Nations Office for Partnerships". United Nations Office of Partnerships. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
  24. ^ "Ashish J. Thakkar, US-Africa Leader's Summit". C-SPAN. 8 August 2014. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
  25. ^ Donna Fenn (11 March 2014). "How Ashish Thakkar Built an African Business Empire". Inc. Retrieved 27 November 2014.

External links[edit]