ICT savvy but down to earth, meet the captain of the Techno Brain ship
By George Gichuki
When he came to Africa in the 90s and shared his vision of establishing a world class information communication technology (ICT) firm with a friend one evening over a cup of coffee, he was casually dismissed as a day dreamer. “My friend was working for a multinational ICT firm and he could not see any sense in my idea,” reminiscences Manoj Shanker, the chief executive officer of Techno Brain Group. Twenty years down the line, Manoj’s dream has become a reality.
Techno Brain opened business in 1997 as a small ICT training firm in Dar es Salaam – Tanzania. Its founder was Mr. Mahesh Patel; a close friend of Shanker and the current chairman of Techo Brain Group. “It was very clear to our founder that ICT was revolutionizing the world and this informed his idea to embark on training people in that field,” says Shanker. “Nevertheless, it was more of a philanthropic as opposed to a business idea,” he adds.
When he came on board, Shanker set his goal on transforming the small firm into a world class ICT giant, with African roots. That was no mean feat. Nevertheless, through innovation, vision, commitment and passion, Techno Brain has grown in leaps and bounds. Offering ICT solutions and business process outsourcing, the company has a presence in twenty one companies globally, among them being USA, UK, UAE and South Africa.
A firm believer in talent development, Shanker has assembled a highly motivated team of young professionals (some fresh from college) in his quest to enable Techno Brain attain world class standards. “We would rather invest my resources in helping my members of staff to develop their talent, as opposed to purchasing an expensive four wheel drive vehicle,” he points out.
Indeed, Shanker’s philosophy is to empower people by arming them with skills (in this case ICT) in their endeavour to advance their careers. “Africa has very many talented young people whom we identify and grow as a company,” he observes. “Kenya in particular is rated very highly in the ICT field and although the country has not yet attained world class standards it is on course to doing so,” he adds. He emphasizes on the need to commit time and resources while being very patient in the endeavour of developing highly talented and skilled people. According to him, that is not a one-off process. “ Talent development is a long term process but it bears fruits which benefit organizations in a great way,” he emphasizes.
The story of Africa
Africa is endowed with many natural resources like minerals, fertile land and forests. Unfortunately, these resources have for very many years being benefiting the developed countries at the expense of Africa. The continent for instance exports minerals like gold and diamond in their raw form to the developed countries, only for the latter to add value to them, and sell them to Africa at exorbitant prices. That is a narrative that Shanker is very keen on changing. “ We are very passionate about the socio-economic transformation of Africa given the continent’s rich pool of human and natural resources,” he says. It is against that background that Techno Brain develops local ICT solutions to address the local needs and challenges, as opposed to relying on the developed world. By so doing, the company saves Kenya ( and other Africa countries) a lot of foreign exchange that would otherwise have been used to finance imports.
Under his stewardship, Techno Brain has won very many awards globally and it has been recognized as the market leader in automating governments in Africa. Regionally, it was the first company to develop ICT solutions like automated finger print identification system for police departments, revenue management systems which help county ( local) governments to electronically collect and manage revenues as well as border control systems.
Given his passion about technology and how it can be used to enhance the transformation of Africa, Shanker was named the entrepreneur of the year for the East African region in 2014 by CNBC. He was also recognized as a leading entrepreneur in Africa as well as an African business leader in the 2015 All Africa Business Leaders Award.
Moreover in the 2014 Deloitte’s Fast 500 technology company survey, Techno Brain was ranked the second fastest growing technology company. In the same year, CNN also named Shanker the ‘Top five leaders who want to make life easier in Africa.’
Despite his busy schedule as the leader of a corporate with a global presence, Shanker spares time for bird viewing and photography during his leisure time. He also spearheads Techno Brain’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives whose major programme is environmental conversation through planting of trees. “ As a responsible corporate citizen, we are keen on preserving our bio-diversity and one way of doing that is by planting trees,” ends the passionate entrepreneur.