Equity CEO James Mwangi has narrated how he hawked milk to be able to be where he is today.
Featuring on the cover of Forbes Africa magazine’s August issue, Mwangi said taking milk to the village restaurant or selling fruits to the village middleman, who would take them to [the market] in Nairobi, introduced him to the concept of supply chains.
“I realized that I was the primary producer with my mother, the middleman dealt with logistics, and then an aggregator, who was our face in the marketplace, played on volume and made more money than everyone else,” he said.
“The owner of the shop received [goods] from the ‘aggregator’ and sold them to ‘consumers’, through the ‘brand’ of his shop. I understood how the value created [in the supply chain] was shared.”
Mwangi who hails from Nyagatugu village in Murang’a county, said he is a product of his upbringing.
“..It has had a significant influence on how I see things today… though my village was not enough to say that I conquered Africa,” he said.
He described his childhood as humble, dignified but fraught with difficulty.
“It was a simple life. As boys, we grazed cows and goats… we hunted wild animals like rabbits. Growing up, we didn’t know [if] people were ‘well-off’ or [if] people were ‘poor’, we were all equals,” he told Forbes.
After Nyagatugu shaped Mwangi, he had the opportunity to study the theory that governed his early entrepreneurial experiences, on scholarship, at the University of Nairobi several years later.
After university, Mwangi began his career as an auditor with Ernst & Young in Nairobi.
Four years later, he moved to the now-defunct Trade Bank Group. Then an innovative financial services firm, founded in 1985, it quickly gained prominence as Kenya’s first attempt at mass-market banking.
Over a brief career at the bank, he climbed the ranks from teller to Group Financial Controller. Years later, he joined the Equity bank.
Mwangi is a top shareholder of Equity Bank, the largest bank by market capitalization.
“Seeing a smile in people’s lives still makes me happy. I’ve lived a full life and it’s humbling to know that the child my mother raised has not changed and [with the values she taught me] I’m able to share what I have with others. Thirty years later, it’s been a journey of changing one life at a time.”