Ylias Akbaraly is the Madagascan businessman who turned a small family business into a multi-million dollar giant.
Ylias Akbaraly is 52 years old, and the most successful businessman in Madagascar. Akbaraly heads up the multinational corporation, Sipromad, and has amassed a personal fortune valued at $700 million by Forbes magazine. The man who turned his father’s small, family business into a giant company is still striving to grow his enterprise further.
Sipromad : a family enterprise
Ylias Akbaraly comes from a family which has a history of taking chances and making big decisions in order to succeed. Akbaraly’s paternal grandfather was Indian, and he left the country to move to Africa in search of greater opportunities. His move led him to Belo Tsiribihina, a small town in Madagascar, and from here he began trading in sugar and salt. Akbaraly’s father, Sermamod Akbaraly, followed in his own father’s footsteps, and moved to the Madagascan capital, Antananarivo, in 1972 to set up his own business.
The business was named Sipromad, and it manufactured soap, candles and shoe polish that were sold to small traders in the capital. It was this family run business that would be transformed into the multi-million dollar industry that it is today. Despite its huge growth, Sipromad is still very much a family operation, as Ylias’s sisters are also key shareholders, and his father only retired from his position in the group in recent years.
Ylias Akbaraly : Learning from around the world
Ylias may have been born in Madagascar, but with his Indian heritage and his education abroad, he has a multinational background that has helped shape his attitudes to business. As a child, Akbaraly studied in France, before returning to complete middle school in Madagascar. Studies in management at Paris’s renowned Institut Supérieur de Gestion were followed by a Master’s degree from Berkley in California. While this education was no doubt invaluable to Akbaraly, he says that an internship – at Bourbon Industrial Society – on the small Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean was even more eye opening. Akbaraly explains, “In working with them, I learned one of the cardinal rules of business – the customer is always King.”
Akbaraly had settled in the USA when his father urged him to come home and help run Sipromad, which at the time was turning over around $20,000 per year. Akbaraly heeded his father’s call, and made an immediate impact by changing how the company sold its biggest product – shoe polish. Akbaraly said that at the time, all polishes came in cans no smaller than 1000 cm³, and by offering cans of only 400 cm³ at a much lower price, Sipromad became the market leader.
Expanding at speed
After his “masterstroke” within the shoe polish market, Akbaraly soon bought out a large candle making factory with loans from the bank, and as Madagascar at the time had many reliability issues with electricity, candles were big business. Sipromad’s factory soon became the biggest in the country, and Akbaraly recalls “we channeled our profits from there into other ventures”.
These ventures became increasingly diverse, as Akbaraly began importing construction materials which led him to securing the contract for the building of Mahajanga airport on the west of Madagascar. Construction continued with the development of housing, and today Sipromad has a portfolio of over 200 residential and commercial properties.
While Sipromad Trade and Distribution now produces everything from soap to cigarettes, Akbaraly has also ventured into hydropower, security products for banks, and has a telecommunications provider (BMS-IO) too. The company grew by more than 40% in 2016, and employs 3000 people.
Ylias Akbaraly claims that it is his acceptance of new ideas from other people that has helped his success, saying, “At Sipromad, there is no bureaucracy…my office is open and suggestions can be discussed quickly.”
It seems likely that 2017 will see Sipromad continue to grow, as Akbaraly looks to further increase the reach of his Madagascan empire.
Source Links: forbesafrique.com and groupesipromad.com