Mentorship game: Critical lessons to learn from one young CEO

BY VICTOR ADAR

It is a hot Tuesday afternoon and we are having a chat with Vijay Gidoomal at Car & General (C&G) showroom, which is at the junction of Lusaka and Dunga road in industrial area. Gidoomal cut his teeth as a lawyer from University of Warwick in the UK in 1989 but would return to Kenya in 1993 to establish C&G operations in Uganda and Tanzania. 

As an executive director, he slowly but steadily introduced new product lines that include three wheelers and two wheelers as taxis in East Africa, and has seen the firm spread its tentacles with representation not only in Kenya but also Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Seychelles, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia. 

We are trying to generate better leaders in order to benefit the whole of the universe and make ourselves better as people. The better we are, the better we perform

Mr Gidoomal is managing a company that in 2017 entered the fintech business through the acquisition of 26% of Watu Credit whose primary focus is financing of two and three wheelers. In 2018, C&G collaborated with Indian based NIIT to launch a vocational training institution, a move that aimed at pushing their corporate responsibility strategy to higher heights. He has also seen the firm expand some of its franchise representation such as Doosan construction equipment, Kubota tractors, Garmin GPS devices, Toyota forklifts, Cummins diesel generators, Mercury outboard, TVS and Suzuki motocycles, Piaggio three wheelers, Motorol lubricants and MRF tyres. His milestones are quite fascinating yet he maintains a huge sense of humility and passion. 

He is the current mentorship officer of the Young Presidents Organization (YPO) in Kenya, a global organization of more than 27,000 chief executives. The next big thing for him is the impact that YPO is making in businesses, personal development and the well-being of families. He talks about growing leadership skills by mentoring the top egg in the midst of a harsh business environment. 

“We are trying to give members a taste of mentorship,” says Gidoomal, a golfer, a cyclist and a bridge player. “It provides you platform to share with CEO at a similar level. The idea is that we are trying to generate better leaders in order to benefit the whole of the universe and make ourselves better as people. The better we are, the better we perform.”

Mr Gidoomal says that companies run by the YPO members are diversified among industries and various types of businesses, and employ in excess of 22 million people globally and generate some $6 trillion in annual revenues. And as the YPO Nairobi chapter is marking its 25th anniversary this year, he says that their goal is to be impactful, relevant, and raise profile while achieving lifetime objectives.

“We are very proud that our chapter has expanded from very humble beginnings… we started with 5 members, now we have more than 70,000 and it is very cosmopolitan, and of all ages. We have 65 year olds, 30 year olds… You can apply so long as you are at the age of below 45,” he points out, adding that a potential member should be running an organization with a turnover of $13 million (Sh1.3b) and have over than 50 employees.

On average, the international fee is about $3000 (Sh303, 000) with membership comprising of entrepreneurs, family business operators and professional managers.

Kenyan chapter manages about 50 to 60 events per year. Globally, he says, the network runs 5000 events a year with membership fee varying from country to country. On average, the international fee is about $3000 (Sh303, 000) with membership comprising of entrepreneurs, family business operators and professional managers.

It is a well known fact that there are highs and lows in business. Further, challenges are part of life and how one gets through them in a stable manner is what defines the future. That is why, if you are not fearless as you start off something, it can be business or leisure goals, you might most likely fail. As you use your encounters and experiences to your advantage so that the so called “lows and highs” doesn’t impact you so much, the bigger picture is where you will be in future. Progressive growth is what matters, not what you always wanted to do. 

“I think it has been quite a journey,” he  says. “I became a member from 2002, and learning has been great, very impactful and relevant. We want to keep the peer group at a similar level because we share the same challenges, and need the same experiences. So there’s big learning. There are CEOs who basically want to be better leaders not only as CEOs but also as individuals. We have to arm ourselves with experience to be as good as possible.”   

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