Thought Leaders Forum to showcase best business practices, says Asiimwe
Posted Monday, October 14 2013 at 01:00
The Monitor Publication's managing director Alex Asiimwe shares with Angela Nampewo how the Thought Leaders Forum can turn around business operations.
How was the Thought Leaders Forum conceived?
The Thought Leaders Forum was first held three years ago in 2011 but it was certainly conceived earlier. Monitor is a brand that is known for influence, and is known largely as the media that leads the key debates in this country. We had been known to lead these debates especially on the political side of things but we believe there is an opportunity for our brand to lead on the business and management side of things.
Therefore, the Thought Leaders Forum was coined as a platform that would gather benchmark leaders as far as business is concerned on the global scene. Our intention was to have the benchmark leaders come and interact with the business leaders in this market and share cutting edge ideas and hopefully those ideas can help our own businesses to move forward.
What does this year’s Thought Leaders Forum seek to achieve?
This year’s forum has a special theme, which is derived from the needs of the day. If you analyse businesses locally, regionally and globally, it has been a tough time, not only in the past year but also the past two years.
We have had the Eurozone crisis. We have had donors cutting aid and given that government is a major contributor to the operations of a number of businesses, this has made running business difficult.
People are asking the hard questions; can I grow my business in a difficult environment? What are those progressive ideas that can help me navigate through the rough waters and achieve substantial growth?
This year’s theme of ‘Turning Business Impossibilities into Business Possibilities’ is largely coined around these realities.
There are people who have achieved exceptional business growth in difficult times.
That is why we have chosen Ashish Thakkar, a young entrepreneur who has achieved almost impossible business goals at a tender age. It is a certain set of principles that outstanding individuals use to achieve outstanding goals; hence the theme and choice of the keynote speaker.
What is the target audience of the Thought Leaders Forum?
Anyone who wants to succeed is a good fit although we are particularly keen on having business and institutional leaders as well as people who are growing in leadership, such as middle-level managers who are leading departments and are key points of institutional growth.
The forum is also targeted at business students and those studying leadership and are looking for ideas that will help them to succeed.
What value should a participant at the Thought Leaders’ Forum hope to get for their fee?
There are certain sets of principles that outstanding leaders apply for success. I know there are many books that have been written and you will hear this in your university class.
The challenge with many of these books or the university courses that people attend is that they do not quite address the practicality of these business principles.
When you bring a global leader whom we have been reading about in magazines and books, it is quite different because you can ask the burning questions.
It is about bringing that real experience to town. In terms of practical impact, the Thought Leaders Forum is the place I would like to be. Yes, I would like to read a book on Ashish Thakkar but if I know Ashish is in town, I would like to have a face to face interaction.
The experience will be totally different and I think it will leave a lasting impression upon whoever attends the Forum.
How did you select the panelists of the Thought Leaders Forum?
When you look at our previous Thought Leaders Forum, we have brought success stories from Western Europe and North America.
The first business leader we brought in 2011 was Don Strickland who worked with Steve Jobs. It was a very successful event.
Last year, we brought Aguilera Isabella, a former president of General Electric (Spain and Portugal) and former chief executive officer of Google; we dwelt a lot on operational excellence through technology.
This year, our major realisation was that success in leadership is not only happening in Europe and North America. It is happening in Africa. Africa is the next growth frontier. We were looking for that African, who can share his experience. One who has had impact on the global scene and this explains our choice of Ashish Thakkar. We also have people on the local scene who have made outstanding achievements at pretty young ages. Looking at our panelists, you’ll find that they all have a ‘first’ in something.
Allen Kagina was the first female Ugandan commissioner General of Uganda Revenue Authority and she achieved this at a young age.
Herman Kasekende is the first Ugandan CEO of an international bank (Standard Chartered bank) while Vinay Dawda has achieved a lot of success in terms of business in the region; Emmanuel Katongole has many firsts as an individual but also Quality Chemicals was the first pharmaceutical plant approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Sub-Saharan Africa outside South Africa.
Emmanuel Katongole and Vinay Dawda represent the entrepreneurial side of things while Allen Kagina and Herman Kasekende represent the corporate side.
What is the significance of the Forum’s timing? Why now?
The first forum we had was in November 2011 and following that tradition, we have always held it around November. It is also a good time; just around Christmas when many people are thinking about their goals for next year and considering how to ensure that they have a successful year ahead.
What are the achievements from previous Thought Leaders Forum?
Looking at the feedback we have got from many Forum participants, they feel that the Forum has really impacted on how they run their businesses and their work. When you speak to these business leaders, they are trying to apply many of the business principles.
There has been overwhelming feedback. Whenever we announce another Thought Leaders Forum, we get many people coming back, much as we get a large number of new people who are keen to join in. One of the challenges is probably space. We might, with time, be looking at taking the ‘Thought Leaders’ Forum to a stadium.
What should the public know about the Monitor Publications as the initiator of the Forum?
Monitor Publications Limited is a business which over the last 20 years has gone through phenomenal challenges but has been able to navigate through those challenges and still achieve huge success. That defines the DNA of Monitor. The challenges that Monitor Publications has gone through are not a secret. When you look at the founders and principal shareholders of Monitor, you find that these are people who were driven by values and were willing to sacrifice anything but those values.
I believe if we are going to make a difference in society, we must be people of strong values; people who are willing to sacrifice anything for those values but also people who are persistent. As an individual, I draw inspiration from the DNA of the Monitor Publications. We will not shout so much about what we are doing but we will let the world judge us and we are destined to succeed with those values.