BACKSTORY: Omnia CEO Seelan Gobalsamy
We question CEO of Omnia Holdings Seelan Gobalsamy on the best and worst investment he’s ever made
What was your first job?
After my studies, I spent a lot of time following my dad around a chemical plant that he ran. But my first formal job was at an audit firm.
How much was your first pay cheque, and how did you spend it?
It was around R1,950. I had a student loan and my family needed financial help, so the money was quickly allocated to cover these expenses.
What is the one thing you wish somebody had told you when you were starting out?
Remain humble and cherish opportunities to learn from people. I have worked with many incredible leaders who have helped accelerate my growth and development.
If you could fix only one thing in SA, what would it be?
Education is the key to success. We need to implement the best education system for the children of our continent.
What’s the most interesting thing about you that people don’t know?
I’m an entrepreneur at heart … My university dorm had little space for much else than a single bed and a tiny desk. Even so, I had boxes piled to the ceiling — filled with T-shirts and tuck-shop stock that I flogged. Selling these helped me pay for my studies and resulted in me buying my first car by my fourth year of study.
What’s the worst investment mistake you’ve made?
Emotional investments are the ones to avoid. While passion is important in business, one needs to be considered and disciplined.
What’s the best investment you’ve ever made? And how much of it was due to luck?
On a lighter note, I bought a few koi fish and, a number of years later, when they were eventually valued, I was astounded by how valuable they had become!
What is the hardest life lesson you’ve learnt so far?
The success of any business or organisation is determined by its people. Making difficult people decisions to ensure you have the right team, and doing so quickly, is key to success.
Was there ever a point at which you wanted to trade it all in for a different career? And, if so, what would that career be?
I would really enjoy spending all my time on a racetrack or with cars.
If you were President Cyril Ramaphosa, what would you change, or do, tomorrow?
The changes I would like to see are ones that have already been extensively considered. However, I’d focus more energy on addressing education, infrastructure and service delivery challenges. Simultaneously, I would look at more ways in which to restore our pride in our wonderful country.
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