Q&A Waheed Adam executive chairperson iTouch

14 July 2022





What was your big career break?
At the age of 19, I moved on from the outbound call centre into the sales team of the same company. It started off as a challenge to the sales manager at the time as I thought his team should be doing better. However, the role became something I thoroughly enjoyed and embraced full time, giving up my studies as a lawyer. I became the top salesperson for the next few years and assisted in training new staff. But as it was in South Africa, a person of colour was not given growth opportunities while traditional management were not as young as 21 either. With this double whammy of possible stagnation, I decided to leave the company at the age of 22 and start my own business. This decision changed my life forever, and needless to say, for the better. And this brings me to a saying that lived with me ever since; “through tragedy comes opportunity”.

“Being an entrepreneur is not all glorious as so many believe. It can be a tough and lonely journey at times. More often than not we see businesses fail in their first three years”

Who was your hero when you were growing up?
Being born and brought up in apartheid South Africa was a confusing time for a little kid when all you are told, and as a result feel, that you are inferior to others. However, there comes an age when you realise how wrong this is and I became a youth activist. This was a brutal and dangerous environment but fighting for one’s rights and freedom was all necessary. I can tell stories that makes a James Bond movie feel lame. So, my heroes were the many that stood up bravely and sacrificed their world and for some, sadly their lives. One such person was my sister, Feroza Adam who valiantly stood up to the apartheid regime. She was arrested, stalked, beaten, but eventually saw her vision of a new dawn in 1994 when Mandela became our first democratic president. Feroza served as the youngest parliamentarian in the new dispensation at the age of 32. She sadly died the same year in a car accident. Ironically this was on the eve of Woman’s Day, as fighting for Women’s rights was something she was very firm on. All this a week before her 33rd birthday.

What would you do with US$1m?
Further invest in property, buy crypto, perhaps even an NFT, and take a long holiday.
As a passionate father to three children, ages 24, 8 and 5, my entire being now is about building and securing their future by giving them great education and life lessons that will give them the best chance of success in a highly competitive world. It will be money well-spent, don’t you agree?

Where would you live if money was no object?
How do you beat Cape Town? I don’t profess to have seen the entire globe, but I have travelled a fair bit. Cape Town has everything you would want. The natural beauty, and great weather and the lifestyle this brings, from hiking, cycling, mountain biking, swimming, surfing, kite surfing, and so much more. Then there are the warm and friendly people, a cultural mixing pot that goes back generations. There is the ease of doing business particularly with the growth of virtual and remote working, great schools of international standards (if you have kids like me), and the most delectable fresh foods, also to be found in so many amazing restaurants. And all this at a price much more affordable than most parts of the world.

A second option would probably be Palma de Majorca, which offers a great lifestyle particularly at retirement age. This would be my South African winter escape. Spending time on a yacht in the Mediterranean Sea sounds like a great way to enjoy life too.

If you had to work in a different industry, which one would you choose?
Food security… we have heard over and over that the world’s population is far too high and hence we are depleting its resources. I am of a different opinion in the sense that the earth can provide much more if utilised correctly, and if the corporate world were less about profit and more about sustainability. We have all heard about food dumping in order to regulate food pricing, something I believe is a cardinal sin. Technology is also playing a huge role in improving output of crops, both in traditional farming and using new methods of food production such as aeroponics, amongst others. We can do away with starvation and poverty by also focusing on some level of subsistence farming, even if we begin with a small veggie garden at home. Now there is a business opportunity too!

Which law would you most like to change?
Corporate Law must change from being profit driven to one that is about sustainability. If a Board of Directors’ primary mandate is to ensure the company is profitable and that becomes the only driving factor, it often comes at the cost of everyone else that builds and supports the company, including the consumer. But, if the mandate had to change and be more about sustainability, inclusion and environmentally conscious, we will not see people go hungry and we’ll likely to live on earth a lot longer as a species.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Persist until you succeed… Being an entrepreneur is not all glorious as so many believe. It can be a tough and lonely journey at times. More often than not we see businesses fail in their first three years. While there are many reasons for failure, often it’s the attitude and belief of the entrepreneur that changes due to the harsh reality of the business world. Not giving up on your passion and dreams is key to your success. Persist until you succeed!

“I can tell stories that makes a James Bond movie feel lame. So, my heroes were the many that stood up bravely and sacrificed their world and for some, sadly their lives”

If you could dine with any famous person, past or present, who would you choose?
Sofia Loren…her persona exudes femininity and at a time when male dominance was high. She earned the attention and respect of her peers, male and female alike. She crossed cultural barriers to become the success she is known for. And of course, her beauty is classic. She must have an amazing tale to tell while she would likely be sipping a glass of red wine, South African of course!

What’s the greatest technological advancement in your lifetime?
The internet… it is impossible to even imagine the world without the internet. Everything we do now is somehow enabled by the internet. Whether it is virtual meetings now ever popular since the pandemic, e-commerce, advertising your business, social media, the world of Crypto, NFT’s and the Metaverse, or simply a much cheaper option of a video call to your loved one abroad, and so much more is still to come.