Ashish Bahl is a successful serial FinTech entrepreneur. Bahl had an unusual childhood, escaping Kenya at a young age with his family and leaving behind all of his personal possessions, in the hopes of having a successful, career-oriented future. In today’s article, we’re highlighting the obstacles Bahl overcame to become the successful businessman he is today.

At only 7 years of age, Bahl was put on an airplane in Kenya with his parents—his dog and his toys left behind—to go to the United Kingdom. He recalls being shocked about being uprooted. The reason for the move was (Ugandan leader) Idi Amin.

Amin had been spreading a very nationalistic doctrine in Uganda, and the fear was that the uprisings and killings there would spread to neighboring nations, like Kenya. British citizens in Kenya were especially worried, and Bahl and his family were British citizens. Bahl and his father, a doctor, were born in Nairobi, and his grandparents fled India to Kenya seeking a better life.

Being risk-averse, his father said, “We can get a flight out, and we’re all leaving.” The family literally left all of their possessions in Kenya and flew to England, which was their staging ground. After a year, they arrived in the United States, settling in Pittsburgh.

In terms of adjusting, Bahl remembers the English school system being very rigid. They wore gray wool pants, white oxford shirts, and blue blazers. Then he moved to Pittsburgh, home of the Steelers, where everyone wore jeans and T-shirts. Bahl immediately felt he looked like an oddity to the locals when he arrived.

In Bahl’s Italian neighborhood of Pittsburgh in the mid-1970s, they didn’t know what an Indian was. They thought his family was Sicilian, but had British accents and dressed funny. Because of circumstances like this one, Bahl recalls, “I learned at a young age how to adapt, how to listen, how to persevere. It’s helped me a lot.”

Bahl adjusted to become an average American kid, but there was an immense amount of pressure because of his Indian background to succeed academically. Indians who tend to leave India are often the best and the brightest. So education-wise, there was tremendous pressure for him to knock it out of the park.

Bahl was getting pushed hard by his father to pursue a medical career. Back then, his father held the opinion that you were either a doctor, or you were a nobody. However, Bahl ultimately decided to major in engineering at Vanderbilt. After graduating, he worked at Wall Street in a financial training program for a year. He then went back to Pittsburgh to become a stock analyst for an investment firm by day, while getting his MBA at Carnegie Mellon at night. He then became a management consultant in Atlanta in financial services. A-year-and-a-half into it, everything changed for Bahl.

As a consultant, Bahl was working for the chief information officer for Wells Fargo. In 1995, the chief information officer asked Bahl what the bank needed to invest in as the Internet came of age.

Bahl gave him six ideas. In response, he said Bahl could do one of the ideas and Wells Fargo would be his first client. Bahl would be handed a $1.5 million project. Bahl recalls, “You’ve got to be at the right place at the right time. You’ve got to be able to engage people. You’ve got to establish an element of trust.”

Bahl had the idea that the Internet would transform financial services. He believed that companies were going to have to put all their products on the Web and have real-time quotes. Banks were going to have to do bill payment on the Web, etc.

He started his business with the big contract from Wells Fargo, and shed the risk aversion from his father. He recalls, “I had a very different DNA. I did not want to end up in a small, enclosed world. I was getting big contracts. But I was only independent for 60 to 90 days when I got an offer to merge with a bigger firm, iXL, which I did.”

According to Bahl, in technology, there’s a tremendous war for talent. Often, you cannot hire enough good people to sustain growth or quality. But if you can have a business with very few key individuals, all playing critical roles, largely dependent on patents and a data center, your risk is substantially mitigated and your stress level is, too.

Ashish Bahl is currently the Chairman and CEO of KyckGlobal, a company he co-founded in 2018 with 2 additional payments executives. Despite leaving everything behind in Kenya and starting over entirely in a new country, he has led a successful career as an entrepreneur. This goes to show that Bahl values work ethic and integrity regardless of the obstacles you might face on the way.

Published On: March 24th, 2021 / Categories: About Ashish Bahl / Tags: , /