Bharat Thakrar: The Multi-Millionaire Who Was Forced To Exit The Company He Founded 

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Bharat Thakrar: The Multi-Millionaire Who Was Forced To Exit The Company He Founded 
Ex-Scangroup CEO Bharat Thakrar Photocredit/TheStandard

By Prudence Minayo

Bharat Thakrar will go down in history as the man who built Kenya’s biggest marketing and advertising firm. The 70-year-old established WPP Scangroup from scratch as a one man show. The firm grew into a reputable multi-million advertisement agency responsible for some of the biggest media campaigns in the country. 

Here is his story and how he was kicked from what he built from scratch as told by WoK.

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Background and Education

Bharat Thakrar was born during the colonial period in Nairobi. He started school when racial segregation was alive in Kenya. He attended Highridge Primary School. At the time, the school which mostly served Asians, was not well funded by the government. To conduct research, they had to travel to MacMillan library or the Nairobi Museum. 

He was exposed to the world of advertisement through his father who worked as a commercial director at Skyline Advertising Agency. In the past, this was Kenya’s leading advertising agency. Bharat Thakrar would at times accompany his father to work. He would be left in an empty office to study for his national primary exams but when he got tired, he sneaked to the 5th floor and watched how artists crafted advertisement letterings. 

Being a very cheeky kid, his father sent him to a boarding school in India for high school. While in the school, he started producing the monthly newsletter- became film secretary and did well in electronics. These skills enabled him to come up with very colorful posters. 

He returned to Kenya for his A levels where he specialized in Physics, Chemistry and Biology. His father wanted him to become a doctor and study Medicine in the US hence his subject choices.

Career 

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After high school, he got a job at the same agency where his father worked. Those who worked with him soon noticed how talented he was and urged his father not to send him abroad for a medicine degree. He was officially employed as an accountant executive trainee at Skyline and a year later was promoted to account director. 

Also Read: Stanley Kinyanjui: The Man With A Firm Grip On The Multi-Billion Billboard Advertisement Industry In Kenya

The company ceased operations and he secured a job with Advertising Associates. The company was bought by McCann Associates and he was put in charge of the Unilever Account. He was among the team that launched Blue Band, Close Up and Royco Mchuzi Mix. He worked hard in those earlier years but became disillusioned with McCann after he was passed over for a promotion he had been expecting to get. He resigned and formed a company with his friend, who became his brother-in-law much later. Their company dealt in the production, marketing and distribution of Sundry food products. In a span of two years, he was burnt out. 

SCANAD

In 1982, he left to form SCANAD. He was all alone at the beginning and would do all the work. He clocked in for work at 7:15 pm and would work up to 11pm except for Sundays. The agency grew into a powerhouse and he soon expanded to Tanzania and Uganda. 

Scangroup

In 1999, the company traded as a private limited liability company under the name Media Initiative EA Limited. In October 2005, its name became Scangroup Ltd and in August the following year it was listed on the Nairobi Securities exchange (NSE). Its initial public offer was Sh94 million. 

Initially, he was the largest shareholder with his stake reportedly being valued at more than a billion. Nearing the close of 2015,  WPP was the major shareholder, subsequently changing the name to WPP Scangroup PLC. At this time, it was reported Bharat’s stake had fallen to 10.6% while WPP had shot up to 56.3%. He remained on as CEO. 

The company has done some of the major advertisements including: Princess Patra, Rally Gum, Fiat Uno, Knorr Soup, Bank of the Vision, Trade Bank- National Bank, Tusker Milleli, Kenya Airways- Premier World, Niko na Safaricom and Story Ibambe. They have also done projects for Coca Cola, Unilever and Airtel. 

Today, the company is said to operate in 25 African countries including: South Africa, Zambia, Uganda, Senegal, Nigeria, Rwanda, Ghana, Tanzania, Cameroon, and Gabon. They also have minority interests in: Mozambique, Niger, Sierra Leone, Botswana, Congo, Malawi, Angola, Mauritius, and Ethiopia. 

Leaving WPP Scangroup

In February 2021, he was suspended alongside chief finance officer Satyabrata Das over unspecified claims. On 25th March, it was revealed that he had resigned as the company CEO. 

“Mr Thakrar has resigned as a director of the company’s subsidiaries and affiliates. Investigation into the allegations of misconduct and possible offenses against the two will continue,” read a statement from the company. 

According to the Daily Nation, the company recorded a profit of Sh478 million in 2015 and Sh612 million in 2018. The same article indicates that in 2019, the profit dropped to Sh158 million. 

In December 2021, it was revealed that the firm had closed its investigation against the former CEO without finding out anything substantial.

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