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17 April 2012

Manoj Raithatha, entrepreneur

Manoj Raithatha has been a teacher, a Bafta award-winning TV writer and a successful property entrepreneur. Raised a Hindu, he has been a Christian since 2008, and today continues to run his business. He has recently set up a new publishing business called Instant Apostle.   

Manoj also heads up the South Asian Forum, a grouping within the Evangelical Alliance, set up to equip the Church to share the good news of Jesus with Asians.

As a child what did you want to be when you grew up?

I seemed to change week by week.  One minute I wanted to be a cricketer, the next a businessman. This impulse to do different things has stuck with me into adult life. I call it having an entrepreneurial spirit whereas my wife describes it as having a malfunctioned brain.

How did you end up in business?

I don’t ever recall making a conscious decision to get into the property game. It was something I drifted into, swept in by the tide of house price growth in the late 90’s. I had bought my first home in 1996, a small Victorian terrace in Wandsworth, and sold it just over two years later for more than double. After making a quick turn, I had most certainly caught the property bug.

How did the financial crisis affect your work?

Back in 2007 my company had a huge turnover. I was wealthy and living the high life. However as we moved into 2008, the credit crunch ripped apart the business. Our business model was based on buying and selling new-build apartments and with our investors failing to complete on their contracts due to lack of mortgage finance, we were left in the firing line. Although the company still runs today, it is a shadow of its former self.

But it was also in 2008 that I found Christ after a Christian couple prayed for my critically ill son. I may have lost all that we had worked for but at the end of the day I found Jesus and that is far more important than having money and material possessions.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in business so far?

Having become a Christian, I found myself being challenged by the way I ran my business. Whereas the primary focus had been making money, today I see business as an opportunity to shape the world for good and for God. I have so much still to learn. If God’s plan is to keep me in business I hope that I will be able to grow a business that seeks to transform communities and lives. I primarily see business as an opportunity to carry the gospel and bring people to the knowledge and love of Christ. 

What biblical text or personality inspires your work?

Jesus inspires me. My human mind can’t grasp the immensity of God’s love, a love that meant God taking on human flesh and dying for someone as sinful as me. To Him belongs all the glory.

What is your vision for your new enterprise, Instant Apostle?

Our new publishing company, which I have set up with Bridget Adams, a priest in the Church of England, is not just about books and it’s not about a one way information flow. It’s about building a community where ideas are exchanged. Ideas are expressed at an appropriate length. Some will take the form of books. But in many cases ideas can be expressed more briefly than in a book such as short books or pamphlets. As with pamphlets of old, these are likely to be opinionated, and produced quickly so that the community can discuss them.

Well-known authors are welcome, but we also welcome new writers. We are looking for prophetic voices, authentic and original ideas, produced at any length; quick and relevant, insightful and opinionated. And as the name implies, these will be released very quickly, either as Kindle books or printed texts or both.

What’s your least and most green credential?

On becoming a Christian, I found God challenging me to recycle and so I now take this seriously. My least green credential has to be having two freezers in the house when we could manage with one.  

Give us the gist of your new book.

Against the background of an international debate on business ethics and more just societies, this book which I have written with Bridget Adams looks at godly business in biblical, historical and practical ways. It includes advice on starting a business, and case studies of businesses already making a difference. There are lessons to be learned. As David Landrum from the Evangelical Alliance says: “Our most hurting and broken communities in the UK need Kingdom-oriented businesses. If we want to see transformed lives, we need to see business as mission – and take a lead.”

How do you turn a crisis into an opportunity?

The great thing with a crisis is that you learn something new and here lies the opportunity; to share that newfound learning with others. So for example, in having gone through a crisis in business, I am able to share with others the importance of building businesses that are Christ-centred. In my personal life, seeing my son critically ill has given me a greater heart to pray for other children when they are in sickness. Being in crisis is not a pleasant experience but as we look back on life, we can often see the benefits of having been through the trials and tribulations.