By Prudence Minayo
When Kamal Budhabhatti came to Kenya, founding a multi billion business empire was the farthest thing on his mind. He had come to the country for a job. Unfortunately, the job did not pan out as he had initially expected and going back home with empty hands was as appealing as swallowing a ton of nails.
Here is his story as told by WoK.
This motivated him to venture into the tech space. He started developing softwares for financial providers. Kamal Budhabhatti had not pursued IT at university but he had passable knowledge on softwares. Armed with only a laptop, he founded Craft Valley, a company dedicated to building softwares for their clients. He met clients and told them he had the product even when he heard nothing. He had a plan and it was not to return to India empty handed.
Bored with his job, he found out from a friend that a bank was looking for a clearing house software. He started working on the software but when his boss found out, he was fired and deported back to India. His situation was dire but he managed to fly back to Kenya, finished working on the software and presented it to the bank. He earned good money, but looking back he believes he was underpaid since he seemed desperate.
Once he got started, however, there was no stopping him. Clients loved his services and little by little Craft Valley grew into a powerhouse. He offered services to the financial institutions including K-rep, Equatorial Commercial Bank and Equity. Today, not only does his company have offices in Kenya but also in different countries across Africa and Asia including India and Indonesia. Craft Valley offers services to mobile, microfinance, banks, switch solutions and electronic payments. According to a Forbes 2011 article, Craft Valley had offices in Silicon Valley as well, had a market value of about $50 million and made annual profits of around $6 million.
In 2016, he decided to take on the big players by founding Little cab. This is an online cab hailing service provider. He partnered with Safaricom PLC and at first people thought it was the telco giant’s initiative. Within five years of operations, the company had spread out from Nairobi to other areas like Eldoret, Kisumu and Nakuru. The company also operates in other African countries. Kamal believes their services are both favorable to their drivers and customers.
The founder of Little was born in India. His mother was from a royal family and was expected to get married to a son from a royal family. However, she ran away with a simple man, a newspaper vendor, she had fallen in love with and the two got married. Along the way, it didn’t work out and they went their separate ways. While her father was willing to welcome her back, she chose to carve her own path. She raised Kamal as a single mother and some of the three important lessons he learned from her were:
- Never have a plan B so you could dedicate all your energy on plan A
- When you are confused, follow your heart not your head
- Take full responsibility for your actions.
Unfortunately, his mother got into a serious road accident which while it didn’t claim her life, claimed part of her brain. Hence, she doesn’t have most of her memories and cannot advise Kamal as before. While writing a special Mother’s day message, he encouraged people to tell their loved ones they loved them before it was too late. He wishes he had done the same for his mother while she could still understand it.
Awards and Honors
Mr. Kamal Budhabhatti started the Craft Valley Foundation which offers free computer lessons to those interested.
For both his foundation and company, he has been the recipient of numerous awards including:
- Award for outstanding leadership and contribution towards society through Digital Literacy Program of Craft Silicon Foundation.
- Awarded Fintech CEO of the year by Digital Impacts Awards Africa (DIAA) 2019
Craft Silicon was also recognized as one of the 10 Most Promising Banking Technology Provides 2021 and Africa’s Best Fintech Solutions Provider by Digital Impact Awards Africa (DIAA) 2020.