Rajiv Mehta, 31, is one of Kenya’s most outstanding young entrepreneurs. The 31 year-old serial entrepreneur is the founder of Tangerine Investments, an outdoor advertising firm that uses public transit vehicles, litterbins and street poles to market leading consumer goods in Kenya.
Tangerine, which was founded in 2008, has clients such as Kenya Airways, Pizza Inn, Subway and Coca Cola HP among others. The company has annual revenues exceeding $1 million.
I recently had a chat with him where he recounted his entrepreneurial journey and reflected on the lessons he has learned along the way.
What’s your personal and professional background?
I attended junior & high school in Kenya and then college and stared studying business management and marketing in university but actually never completed my education & one of the major reasons was finance issues not being able to afford to complete my university.
How did you get started as an entrepreneur?
I had it quite tough as I was working at the family business after my dad passed away and while I was in university and after dropping out too and as usual the family politics started and I was kicked out of the business. I had nothing given to me and had no substantial savings to get started so had no capital and didn’t know where to start. My uncle had given me a challenge to go and earn my own money and had told me that I would never be able to do so and would come back for his help that itself had given me the motivation.
I initially started importing liquid tyre sealants and accessories like car winches that I sold to clients locally for that I initially raised around $1000 for my first shipment from China in 2008 which I raised from a few shares I had that I sold and some borrowing from my mum. Thinking of it $1000 in 2008 wasn’t a huge amount and then I kept reinvesting the money back into the business. I moved out of the family house together with my mum, sister & brother and had to cater for all the expenses like house rent etc so It was very hard to get to save money as all I was making was mainly going in reordering stocks and in house expenses.
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I got married after moving out and when I knew I was expecting a child I decided to get a job elsewhere while running my business in the night so I was working in the day and planned my orders I had in the evenings, I tried getting to save money again but it still was quite a challenge and I decided to finally quit my job and take a risk as it was getting frustrating with the slow growth.
I then was also very motivated by the story of Dhirubhai Ambani which I watched in a movie and honestly that was the turning point for my start I put in all the effort worked late nights sending clients emails and working on client proposals. I told my wife I would have no choice but to take the risk which was very worrying for her as I was supporting the whole family with addition to my newly born daughter now.
My wife had a saving of Sh250,000($2,500) which I then borrowed from her and started the advertising business. With all the effort I put in things just completely changed and the business really grew. So it was the risk I took that made me make it which If I never took thinking of it now I probably would have been in the same place and not had a quick growth.