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From rags to riches

From rags to riches
SUCCESSFUL: Herbert Knight Ganje

An advertising mogul’s tale

It’s not every day that one gets to sit face to face with a multi-millionaire.

The Voice Reporter Lame Modise had the opportunity of chatting with local businessman, Herbert Knight Ganje, founder of H&G Advertising operating from Gaborone Botswana.

Apart from his contribution to the local and sub-Saharan African advertising markets, the Zimbabwe-born Ganje’s recent nomination and listing on Forbes Africa Magazine’s ‘Top 30 at 30’, a feature that highlights and celebrates Africa’s most promising entrepreneurs, put him in our cross-hairs for this week’s Meet the Boss Interview feature.

Ganje, who dropped out of secondary school at the age of sixteen tells an unbelievable tale of his early days in Botswana, how he started his business, what drives him and plans for the future.

Q. Where did your journey in business start?

I started H&G about a year after I had been staying in Gaborone.

Q. I understand you first came to Botswana with a friend who was visiting for a week and you stayed behind, how did that work?

When my friend left, I asked his friend who had accommodated us if I could stay behind for another week and he agreed. He gave me shelter in a tuck shop where I put my mattress and slept. I stayed in that place for a year.

Q. What did you do for money?

My first job ever in Botswana was an odd-job where I had to paint a neighbour’s windows.

Q. What about your studies?

I had decided I was not going back to school by then. I figured it wasn’t working for me. I found it boring and a waste of time.

Q. Of all the businesses you could have done, why advertising?

When I came here, I realised that there was a lot of potential for an advertising business in Botswana as the industry was unsaturated as it is today.

Besides that, I had always known I would go into the media industry. I had a keen interest in media and the arts.

Q. How was starting out in the business?

I had a very long list of companies I had to approach. Every evening when I got home, I ticked off all the ones that rejected me and added more. I always had a door to knock on.

Q. When did you get your first break?

My first big break was with Shoprite supermarket. I brokered a deal for them with RB2 and haven’t looked back since.

Q. Speaking of the present, what are your thoughts on being listed amongst one of the richest men in Botswana on Forbes Africa Magazine’s ‘Top 30 under 30’ feature?

Funny enough, I did not even know that one day I would get the listing. It is a true reflection that hard work and dedication pays off in the end.

Q. So what would you say is your driving force in the business that you do?

I’m a staunch believer in total dedication in what one does.

I firmly believe that working hard to see one’s dreams come to fruition is a sure way to robbing the grave.

Q. What do you mean by ‘robbing the grave’?

Ever heard of the question; ‘Which is the richest place on earth?’ it is the graveyard because there, lies people who have gone to the grave with ideas and dreams that could have been executed and left for the world to appreciate.

So robbing the grave basically means emptying yourself into the world and ensuring that all ideas and dreams are made alive before one dies. That is how the grave is robbed.

Q. Would you say you have robbed your grave?

I believe I’m well on my way to achieving that. Apart from all that I have accomplished in the last thirteen years, there is still so much I can do so that I leave a lasting legacy and still make decisions from the grave.

Q. Speaking of a lasting legacy, what have you done or are doing to ensure that you leave one?

I have built the best advertising agencies that fall under the H&G Group that spread through Sub-Saharan Africa and currently operate in countries including South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia and Sudan to name a few.

Q. H&G Advertising seems to have a very broad reach in the continent, how did that come about?

After conquering the local market, I saw an opportunity to extend my tentacles into other markets outside.

H&G Group grew to procure agencies outside Botswana such as the recently acquired South African Zonke Ignition and NieuwNation and Probrand Africa.

Q. One might be curious to know what services H&G offers looking at all the firms under the group.

I think first one needs to understand that the H&G Group has a slogan ‘The impact of one’ meaning that when a client comes aboard, they are afforded the whole package involving mainstream media advertising through H&G Advertising, Outdoor Advertising with H&G Outdoor, product promotions and activations with the help of H&G Activations and other services offered through our other agencies.

Q. Are all these services available in all H&G branches across Africa?

Yes, they are. All our branches offer the same services and all the agencies work in unison to provide the best possible solution for our client’s advertising needs.

Q. H&G started in Botswana, how has operated in other African countries were?

Honestly, it hasn’t been easy, especially in the non-English speaking countries such as Mozambique and Angola.

We have had to employ Portuguese speaking staff to combat the language barrier issue.

But that is not to say we have not conquered those markets because we have.

Q. What would you say is the recipe to H&G’s success?

Two words; Employee welfare. It is very important to understand the people who work for you.

Their various characters and be wary of their feelings. At the end of the day, they are the ones who push your mandate.

Q. Coming back to Botswana, what legacy are you leaving for the local youth and aspiring entrepreneurs?

I believe strongly in mentorship because I am a product of one I am working on a mentorship programme to mentor anyone who might be interested in starting up a business.

Q. Would you mind sharing who your mentor was?

Not at all. It was Jagdish Shah, and he still is. He has played an integral part in the growth of my success.

Q. Why is mentorship important to you?

It worked for me; I obviously made mistakes because I really had no insight into the marketing business.

I believe everyone needs a dedicated mentor, even leaders in various disciplines because no one can ever know too much.

Q. What motto do you live by that you would want every aspiring entrepreneur to take heed to?

“Never try to be the smartest one in the room. Always strive to learn something from the next person.”