In the fifth episode of the series, scheduled to air on 2 and 3 March, Changing Fortunes explores the changing balance of wealth between young and old, profiling three entrepreneurs who began to build their fortunes at a tender age.
In the West, the wealth gap between the young and old has grown dramatically over the last few decades. It is estimated that 80 per cent of the UK’s personal wealth of £6.7 trillion is held by the over 50s. In the United States, the average age of a millionaire is 54. In China, it is 39. The recent opening of the Chinese and other Asian economies has allowed young businessmen and women to make their mark.
After incorporating his web and software company at the age of 14, Suhas Gopinath became the world’s youngest CEO and the youngest millionaire entrepreneur in India. Now 24, Gopinath has built his firm, Globals Inc, into a 400-people strong company, doing business in 11 countries. Born in Bangalore, India, Gopinath may be a business success, but his family help keep his feet on the ground. He still lives at home with his parents and has given in to his father’s belief that getting a good education is of the utmost importance – he’s now studying for a degree while running the business.
Not many 30 year-olds can boast their software company has 80 million users worldwide. Si Shen, co-founder and CEO of PapayaMobile, started her company at the age of 25. She grew up in Beijing, China, where she completed a degree in Computer Science before joining Google to act as a Product Manager. She later transferred to the Mobile Division.
In 2008, she decided to leave Google and return home to set up a social mobile gaming company, PapayaMobile, with a friend from university. The company designed games for smartphone platforms, allowing users to play their games, buy virtual goods and communicate with players from across the globe through instant messaging. Five years on, PapayaMobile has helped turn mobiles into social networks, attracting millions of users from inside and outside China.
British-born entrepreneur Ashish Thakkar moved to Rwanda with his family when he was just 12. A year later, his family were forced to flee the country, leaving everything behind, to escape the Rwandan genocide. They moved to Uganda and shortly afterwards, Ashish’s entrepreneurial journey began when he started to sell computers from his bedroom to his classmates and friends. At the age of 15, he borrowed $6,000 to start a small shop, selling hardware, later convincing his father to let him leave school and continue the business. Ashish would go to Dubai at the weekends to buy computer parts and come back to Uganda to sell them during the week. Six months later, using the capital he had earned, Ashish set up a distribution business based in Dubai supplying IT hardware to African countries. This small trading operation snowballed into the Mara Group, a pan-African conglomerate that has operations in 26 countries and employs over 7,000 people worldwide, with interests from infrastructure to financial services, real estate to agriculture and includes one of the largest IT companies in Africa.
Ashish now devotes approximately 40 per cent of his time on the Mara Foundation, a social enterprise set up for emerging young African entrepreneurs.
Changing Fortunes is a six part series by BBC World News, exploring the new patterns of wealth that have emerged over the last two decades. From the United States, to Brazil, Europe, Africa, India and China - the series meets some of the innovators, entrepreneurs and business success stories whose fortunes offer a window into our rapidly changing world.
Changing Fortunes, broadcast in association with Coutts, will TX weekly on BBC World News from 2 Feb on Saturdays at 01.30; 15:30, and Sundays at 09:30; 20:30 (all times GMT).
For all the latest news from the series, please visit bbc.com/changingfortunes (non-UK only).
The sponsorship arrangement was facilitated by BBC Advertising, which sells advertising and sponsorship solutions on behalf of BBC World News and bbc.com.