Azim Omar’s exhilarating entrepreneurial journey catapulted when he sold his very first car at the age of 15 − before he even knew how to drive a car. And that sums him up perfectly: he is an avid businessman who in his spare time loves to refuel his petrol head by test driving fast and fancy sports cars.
‘I absolutely love motor vehicles,’ says Azim Omar. ‘I can’t recall exactly when it started, but it was definitely before I started school. I am not sure who I picked it up from, as my dad was and still is not a person who cares about cars. I just have always had some sort of connection to them and have always admired the technology around motor vehicles. These technologies are so vast as they cover things like engine power and efficiency, engine growl, G-forces from acceleration, deceleration and cornering, safety features, aerodynamics, interior comfort and interior technology.’
Azim continued with his car sales right through university and later gleaned invaluable experience from various other forays into the business world, right from fast-food franchises and medical practices to running his own practice.
Today, he is a partner at EY, heading up the newly titled EY Private across Africa. In this role, Azim works with private companies to grow and scale their businesses locally and globally, from multi-generational family business all the way through to listing a business on the stock exchange. And, he is able to assist his clients from his own entrepreneurial experience. It leaves him with a great feeling of accomplishment knowing that he is assisting businesses to move to the next level of growth.
‘It’s such a thrilling and satisfying feeling!’ enthuses Azim, adding that he cannot understand why anyone can not be passionate about entrepreneurship.
‘Entrepreneurship is the lifeblood of any economy and its possibly one of the most exciting spaces to work in as every day or sometimes every hour it’s a new challenge. Just having the ability to interact and assist these amazing men and woman who are making a difference to society through building phenomenal businesses.’
Azim has launched many successful entrepreneurial initiatives like the SAICA tailor-made initiative for small and medium practices called Power Practice as well as being instrumental in launching the Pan African Federation of Accountants (PAFA) He currently runs an EY Winning Woman programme that equips up-and-coming female entrepreneurs from across South Africa with the necessary knowledge, tools and skills to improve how they operate their businesses to grow and scale.
‘The key for me is assisting these amazing entrepreneurs to see how they can work on the business and not in the business,’ he says.
Thanks to his role in the organisation, Azim is able to pull the necessary expertise required to assist entrepreneurs with various transactions and growth challenges. This includes tax, transactions, strategy, consulting and assurance. A recent highlight has been the inclusion of much of his input into a global EY Resilience tool to assist clients better understand their resilience vulnerabilities, especially during a crisis like COVID-19.
‘At EY we have also purpose-built a tool called EY Growth Navigator that assists businesses to self-evaluate how they stack up across the EY 7 Drivers of Growth framework that has been put together by culminating information from the most successful businesses globally. We have recently taken this tool and linked it into an online space tailor-made for entrepreneurs in the form of EY Velocity. This space allows you to link with other great entrepreneurs globally.’
Azim says: ‘The best part of what I do though is unearthing the amazing entrepreneurs we have on this continent through the EY World Entrepreneur of the Year awards. Here we recognise those unsung heroes who have changed the way business is done in Africa and who have made a huge impact in society while building amazing businesses.’
Azim describes his ultimate fun daily car is a McLaren 720s. He explains: ‘It is such a beautiful car to look at but, more importantly, thanks to its amazing technology, this vehicle can be docile and easy to drive in normal mode – almost like any other daily runner. When you need to have more fun or even visit a track, it’s just a turn of a knob and the car becomes a total beast. It has to be the ultimate fun car to own.’
Living up to his passion, Azim’s daily drive is a sporty drop top mated with a manual gearbox, an absolute must for any petrol head.
Azim believes that through every change are always new opportunities. ‘This pandemic has shown the world that something that you can’t even see can change everything in almost a split second. This virus has definitely changed everything about the way we work and interact with one another and it’s something we will have to come to grips with. My advice is that we need to find the silver lining such as enjoying free-flowing traffic rather than being stuck in traffic jams for hours. This is also a time for us to explore and find new opportunities and new ways of doing business. This can be something simple like being able to manufacture masks for the masses to building new tech business that will assist in the new way of working. As bad as this situation is, let’s use the time to rebuild ourselves, our strategies and our business so that we are ready for the new world as we emerge out of the lockdown.’
It has always been a dream of Azim’s to be able to drive the latest and greatest of vehicles and thus he believes that if you follow your dreams one step at a time, one day you will achieve them.
’In life many say when you get lemons make lemonade. I say when you get lemons make what you want with it, as long as it brings you closer to your dreams. So, whether is lemonade, dried lemons or growing lemon trees, it’s yours to decide and prosper.’
Now turn to the Motoring section on page 150 and see what he has to say about his latest test drive …