As the third generation in a family business, Vihaan Dasarath, above, has had to learn from the ground up – and today is helping to grow the success of their businesses.
Q: Please outline your background.
A: As a young child I recall watching my father working in his glass shop, and would watch in awe as he went about his daily duties. My mother is a pharmacist, but my dream was to be just like my father, and this is where the affinity to glass, aluminium and the family businesses started. After school, I studied towards a degree in accounting, then my honours, and served my articles at Ernst & Young in Durban. I spent the next three months on secondment in the United States and returned home ready to impart my experience and knowledge with the family business. Initially, I was an apprentice, learning the more practical aspects of the businesses, City Glass and Aluminium, and Hitech Safety Glass SA. After some time my family gave me more responsibility and I became the office clerk, which meant I spent hours studying official documentation and identifying areas of improvement.
Q: As the third generation involved in the business, is there still room for improvement, and how do you get the “older generation” to buy-in to your “younger generation” ideas?
A: The best part of working with my family is the constant support and freedom to bounce ideas off one another. Their decades of experience paired with my youthful exuberance have been part of the success of our family businesses to this day. I am truly blessed to have the support of previous generations and attention to new ideas I bring to the table.We have grown from a retail glass supplier and glazier to a glass processor and architectural aluminium fabricator and installer, positioning ourselves as the high-end differentiator within the architectural glass and aluminium industry. This growth has been both organic and a reaction to the changes within the industry, harnessing the latest technology and materials to enhance our product offering.
Q: What is the foundation of a successful business?
A: A successful business is one that has a defined purpose and goes about achieving this purpose with empathy to all people. I see our family businesses and all businesses as a vehicle for change. If you think of a business like a car, we would be the drivers navigating the road ahead. As entrepreneurs and leaders, we provide the petrol and maintenance to the vehicle and the space within it for the people who choose to join the journey. As a business grows, the car becomes a bus, then a train and hopefully a mega-cruise ship.
Q: What are the advantages, and challenges, of being an entrepreneur?
A: Being a driver of change in people’s lives and within the industry is one of the biggest advantages of being an entrepreneur. But don’t be fooled, entrepreneurship is a full-time job, can be all-consuming, and is often misconceived as having the freedom of time. There are challenges. For instance, balancing your time between family and business, feeling under immense pressure to make the correct decisions, and being responsible for multiple livelihoods that depend on their employment within the business. That said, entrepreneurship is what you want it to be.
Q: What is one hard lesson you have learnt as an entrepreneur, and what is your advice to wannabe entrepreneurs?
A: Business is the official school of hard knocks. One of my greatest life lessons has been realising that no failure is permanent, and success is built over a period of time. This advice goes to any aspiring entrepreneur. Always apply good morals to the development of your business decisions. Be patient when affecting change. Change is incremental and so is success. Commit to your vision and self-belief and, continue working towards your own success.