Tuesday, April 16, 2024

I left my top-paying IT banking job to be my own boss, broke even in tough 2020 year

Imran Sumra is the chief executive officer and co-founder of Finsense Africa, a financial technology firm based in Nairobi.

I started this business six years ago. I moved from a lucrative and comfortable job as a technology banking expert to be my own boss by starting a firm that would help financial institutions and payment companies overcome the challenges of using financial software.

Today, apart from providing this solution, my business also has a robust middleware layer that connects the old and exposes to the new age digital channels in a seamless and real time way using microservices architecture. This kind of setup is what is used in all the digital banks you hear about today like Revolut, Monzo, and Mox.

Expanding the business during the 2020 pandemic was a great milestone for me. We grew our team, and our client base increased exponentially, which was not the same for the majority of businesses. We had a challenging and slow start. As a result, we took very calculated risks around our expansion for the first few years. During the 2020 period, we got the opportunity to scale and took the risk. It paid off.

Take risks, but ensure they are well calculated. It is also important to understand that growing a business is a team effort not your individual responsibility as the founder. Share what you know, or what you have, be it ideas, work, and be open to collaborate. Build your social capital, be visible on social media. It’s the new place to hang around and find out who is who in business. Use it to learn, network and communicate.

Never do any business without a written contract. Word of mouth is not a legal agreement. This is the mistake I used to make. I would over trust people with my dealings without an agreement or a contract in place. When I started out also, I was not very keen on learning from the mistakes of other people.

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If I did, I would have avoided doing some of the things I did that ended up costing me money. I only changed this and started learning from observation after I heard Ali Baba’s founder Jack Ma explain why wise businessmen thrive from learning from other peoples’ mistakes and avoiding them.

I should have ventured into entrepreneurship earlier than I did. In retrospect, I also feel that I should have gotten my hands a little dirtier by trying out new things and learning from the failures and successes. This would have given me a better grasp of sales and a chance to meet more people than I did when I was starting out.

I used to save the traditional way by keeping a separate account and saving funds for a rainy day. But then I realized that this mode of saving money was not a good option for me. I switched to investment based savings. Today, I invest in passive income investment vehicles that ensure my money keeps growing. This has also seen me create extra income streams that I previously didn’t have.

Follow the abbreviation C.L.N if you want to make it in business or in your career. This means Communicate, Learn and Network. None of these components can work efficiently without the other. Each must be integrated into your business or your career for progression.

For example, to grow your network, you must communicate. To gain from that network, you must apply the lessons you learn along the way.

A version of this profile feature on Imran Sumra of Finsense Africa was also published in the Saturday Magazine. The Saturday Magazine is a publication of the Nation Media Group.

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