Adil A. Popat, WG’84, oversees one of Africa’s most impressive business empires as chief executive officer of Simba Corporation. What started as a family-owned auto dealership has grown into an automotive industry giant that is diversifying into real estate and hospitality. Popat is also a diplomat for the School and an eminent volunteer, serving on the Wharton Executive Board for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). He was kind enough to volunteer a few minutes of his time to talk with Wharton Magazine.
WHARTON MAGAZINE: What events and news coming out of the EMEA region do you want other Wharton alumni to know about?
ADIL POPAT: The main thing is the Wharton Club of Africa Investment Summit & CEO Forum, which happened in Nairobi [from Nov. 6-8, 2013]. People came in from all over Africa, all over the world. It’s an exchange-of-ideas kind of event. Hopefully, it will increase interest and development in Africa.
WM: Why do you volunteer for the School?
POPAT: It’s quite obvious. Wharton has opened so many doors for me. Every time I mention the Wharton name, people sit up and pay attention. They open a door for me. They really open up their businesses for me.
WM: What has been your favorite Wharton moment of recent memory?
POPAT: The Wharton Africa Forum in Philadelphia in 2010. That was quite an eye opener. I didn’t realize how many Africans attend Wharton and how talented they are. [During his stay on campus, Popat was hosted by two thenstudents, Ngetha Waitha, WG’11, and Rose Ndindiri Thiga, WG’11.]
WM: What are your three pieces of advice for an entrepreneur or businessperson looking to expand into Africa?
POPAT: Come and do your homework. Really understand the market in which you’ll enter. Make sure you look for a local partner. You need to look for a long-term investment. You don’t want to come and make money on the first day. That will come back and haunt you.