THOSHAN PANDAY CEO- The Panda Group, South Africa

Our business portfolio includes Copper Mining & Smelting, Diamond Trading, Warehousing & Logistics, Property Development, Agriculture, Pharmaceuticals, Telecommunications, Motor Imports, Petroleum and we have a major brand Truck Stop which is one of the biggest in the country

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EVOLVE: Please share rundown of your professional background with us? Thoshan Panday:

Thoshan Panday: I was born and raised in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa and after completing my education, I started my career in construction gaining valuable experience in the corporate world before shifting focus to the insurance industry. But I believe that my deep understanding of critical business drivers in multiple markets and industries and my highly successful relationship building with upper level decision makers is what encouraged me to enter the world of entrepreneurship. I founded the Panda Group in 2007 and in as little as 10 years after etching itís footprint in the marketplace, Panda cemented its position as one of South Africaís foremost value investors. Having extensive business background in international and multi-cultural environments was also a major contributing factor to the Groupís expansion in India, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola and more recently, the United Arab Emirates.

EVOLVE: Please elaborate on the diverse business portfolio of the Panda Group & give us some insight on why you decided to diversify?

Thoshan Panday:†Through my experience, diversifying your company through new ventures, mergers or acquisitions is always a good entrepreneurial strategy. Rather than relying on your core business alone to generate revenue, a diversified group of businesses can have greater flexibility and more options as the economy changes. Our business portfolio includes Copper Mining & Smelting, Diamond Trading, Warehousing & Logistics, Property Development, Agriculture, Pharmaceuticals, Telecommunications, Motor Imports, Petroleum and we have a major brand Truck Stop which is one of the biggest in the country.

EVOLVE: What is the secret of Pandas continuous and consistent growth resulting in its persistent expansion at local, regional and global markets?

Thoshan Panday: I am always of the belief that we find COMFORT amongst those who agree with us and GROWTH amongst those that donít. I think itís important to be surrounded by a team of challenging and out-of-the-box thinkers and doers in order to transform and grow. We also live in a world where there are more options coming at us faster than ever before with constant external influences impacting our lives and businesses. We need to be transforming all the time in response, creating our own opportunities and constantly paying attention to what people need and what HAS NOT BEEN DONE. If we donít, weíll be left behind Ė outdated and possibly even irrelevant.

Itís important to be surrounded by a team of challenging and out-of-the-box thinkers and doers in order to transform and grow. We also live in a world where there are more options coming at us faster than ever before with constant external influences impacting our lives and businesses

EVOLVE: What has been the greatest lessons you have learned about the investment industry since you started almost a decade ago?

Thoshan Panday: Firstly, I think that hard work will always outweigh intelligence in the entrepreneurial world no matter what industry youíre in. If all you have is intelligence & not the vision, the personality, the ability to communicate, negotiate & lead, you will miss excellent growth opportunities. This not only means working hard when things are going well, but working harder when things are not. It means taking calculated risks and sticking to them, no matter how challenging they are because like good chess players, you need to constantly be†thinking two to three moves ahead.

EVOLVE: Being accountable for such a diverse group of companies, how do you harmoniously integrate your professional and personal life.

Thoshan Panday: Honestly, I think that this type of balance is at best an elusive ideal and at worst a complete myth. But you have to find it where you can, when you can. Work too hard, and your relationships and even your health could suffer; focus too much on private time, and you stand to lose your competitive edge. The notion of Ďbalanceí looks different for everyone. We all have completely different sets of work and personal realities at any one time. I could choose to work a 24/7 week if I have to and then there are days where Iíd choose to go slow or even indulge. Work ebbs and flows. Every day, my balance is changing. And thatís okay.

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EVOLVE: How would you then describe a typical day as CEO of a conglomerate such as the Panda Group?
Thoshan Panday: Iím an early riser. I wake up every morning at 4. I gym on most days for about an hour, shower and then start my morning with prayer. Prayer is my most important conversation of the day. I have breakfast with my family and Iím usually at the office by 7.30am where the work day starts with a meeting with my executive team. As an entrepreneur CEO, there really is no set job description for the day. So what youíre doing at any given time in the work day can vary substantially from day to day. My evening is spent enjoying family time and helping out with kids but even though it may be the end of the work day, your brain never switches off. Entrepreneurs tend to suck at sleep. We have these nasty side effects that kick in around 9pm and youíre juggling 150 ideas in your head of things you should and could be doing to make your business better. I call them bed-time epiphanies! Over weekends, I like to rekindle my youthful passion for speed and drive fast cars that ooze raw power. Its my ME TIME.

EVOLVE: In your impressive list of career achievements, what do you personally see as your greatest achievement?

Thoshan Panday:Taking satisfaction in knowing that I, as an entrepreneur, created a business and that business created jobs, it strengthens market competition and increases productivity. That is my greatest achievement.Here in South Africa, entrepreneurism is part of our African identity and self-image. Itís non-partisan, too; both sides of the political spectrum celebrate entrepreneurial business as a fount of innovation and growth. Entrepreneurism is seen as a route to upward mobility – a way for average people to build wealth. So Iím pretty proud of myself in that respect.
EVOLVE: What has been your biggest obstacle since establishing the Panda Group and how have you overcome it?

Thoshan Panday: I think itís only natural that when you become an entrepreneur, youíre going to want to connect and network with other successful people and upper level decision makers. Communication and the ability to see gaps in the market are my superpowers but unfortunately, once you reach a certain level of success, there are always going to be people whoíd want to drag you down.

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While itís impossible to turn off your reactions to what others think of you or say about you or even do to you, you donít always have to react. Growth is when you realise that not every situation deserves your anger or even your full attention. That way, no matter what other people are thinking or doing, your self-worth comes from within and thatís all that matters.

EVOLVE: Any message for the readers of EVOLVE magazine?

Thoshan Panday: Yes Iíd like to share a message by author, entrepreneur and public speaker, Seth Godin where he said, the media wants overnight successes so they have someone to tear down. Ignore them. Ignore the critics that never have enough to do in their own lives. Ignore the investors that want proven tactics and predictable instant results. Listen instead to your clients & what they want, listen to your vision and work for the long haul. Because timing, perseverance, and ten years of trying will eventually make you look like an overnight success.