When I was assigned to interview Ali Mufuruki, the Executive Chairman of InfoTech Investment Group Ltd, some of my colleagues scared the hell out of me.
They cautioned me to prepare myself well before approaching him. He is a very tough man, they said. Apart from being rich, he wears many hats which makes him one of the famous and influential people in the country. He is a CEO here, a board chairman of some company there, …you name it.
Being the busy man that he is, it was not easy getting an appointment for interview. After some time of waiting, I finally got the rare opportunity to have a word with him.
As my photographer and I waited in the beautiful garden, we could not stop admiring the beautiful one-storey house and its surroundings. The beautiful flowers, a well kept lawn and beautiful trees made us forget we were in Dar es Salaam for a while. We enjoyed the sound of birds and the view of the fresh water in the swimming pool.
Dressed in blue jeans, a white stripped black golf shirt and black sandals, our host joined us in the garden after few minutes. He warmly welcomed and greeted us before taking his seat. In just a few minutes, I realised Ali was a totally different person. He is down-to-earth, very attentive and funny.
He shares his life story with Sound Living.
What is your typical day like?
That’s a very interesting question. I work anywhere and anytime, but I wake up at 5 am, read and answer mails before I start working. I break at 2 pm and if I am in Dar es Salaam, I always go to play golf at Lugalo. The truth is that I travel a lot. I work out too. Before I used to play squash but stopped after developing a back problem.
What are the principles that guide your life, job and marriage?
Working hard tops the list. I always work hard and make sure I am happy all the time. I believe in respect and discipline at work as well as being a man of integrity. People have to be very sincere and faithful. These are among the things that help people succeed.
Is there any specific formula that you use to raise your children?
Children always depend on us (parents) for their education. My mother was the one who went to school up to Standard Four, my father didn’t. My parents therefore could not advise me on my education when I was schooling. I found myself studying engineering because I was directed into taking science subjects due to my performance in the sciences. I personally had a passion in filmmaking, which is why I ended up working in the engineering field for a short time before I switched to business. I thank God I am in a position where I can advise my children in academics though at the end of the day, I let them choose their preferred career paths with the help of career advisors at school, who do so basing on their performance.
Do you set any standards for your children?
If they fail I become very disappointed and if they pass we celebrate their success together. I studied in a difficult environment and became the best student, so sometimes I wonder why these children fail because they have everything; I just don’t understand. I do not accept poor performance. They will tell you daddy is always pushing us so hard but they have to work hard.
At what age did you get your major breakthrough?
Looking back, I think there has not been a single breakthrough moment that stands out. Success in life is an incremental process that you live through every single day with some days being tougher than others.
How much have you invested in your business?
My entire life has been invested in my business. It cannot be counted in financial terms.
When you were first starting out, what were the two biggest mistakes that you made?
I do not dwell on my mistakes. Instead, I learn from them and move on and deliberately erase them from my memory. I believe a life without regrets is a life well lived.
Did you grow up knowing you would be wealthy?
How do you manage your finances?
I am not good at managing my finances. I have lost a lot of money in bad investments.
Has money changed your life? If so how?
I hope not.
Tell us about any sacrifices you have made to get where you are?
Business consumes a lot of personal time and this means loved ones and especially family end up paying the price that comes with frequent absences from home due to travel.
You multi-task a lot. Are there some positions you would wish to let go?
A mono-tasking life would be most boring for anyone. Multi-tasking engages the mind, creates productive tension and delivers results if well managed. However, one must always know their limits lest it turns into stress which can be destructive.
Do you hope to take a break from life in the fast lane?
Most people make a choice between living and working, I try not to. I believe in the importance of living every day as fully as I can. I love having fun and being playful, I think a balanced life is necessary although it is not easy to attain.
Have you ever considered writing an Autobiography?
Actually I’m busy writing it. I started writing it in 1999 and I am still working on it. I want it to include all of my speeches, which I made at various occasions.
Are there any more lessons for you to learn?
Life is about learning without end. I am a constant student of ideas. I love learning. I have a number of unaccomplished dreams. I hope to write a book or two before I sign off from this life.
Do you see yourself being the next richest man in Tanzania?
That status does not interest me at all and I do not spend time worrying about it. I want to be healthy and happy. I want to be able to take care of my family and those who depend on me. That is my ultimate ambition.
What is your favourite food?
I like beef but I like beef barbecue the most.
Is there anything you would like to change about yourself if given a chance?
In life, I never look back and regret. I take my life the way it is. I embrace life; I see it in bright colours and above all, I am not a person who always complains about life.