Two-time re-migrant takes second tilt at investing in Guyana

At 57, Anthony Sarjoo has just embarked on his second tilt at doing business in Guyana. In 1990, the former New York Realtor returned to Guyana to set up Computer Traders, an information technology hardware service provider which, he says, was the largest operation of its kind in Guyana at the time. “We were doing extremely well,” he says. “We were securing both public and private sector contracts for computer hardware and we were expanding rapidly.”

Anthony Sarjoo at work inhis Church Street store.

Ill luck, Sarjoo says, struck during the early years of the new millennium in the form of political instability and a crime wave that intimidated the population as a whole. “The demonstrations, the bomb scares and the killings had a serious impact on business. Our contracts dried up. At one point we were losing around US$50,000 per day. All told we must have lost around US$1 million.

Deflated, Sarjoo returned to New York and to the Real Estate business. But his luck had turned there too. His remigration to the US was “a financial disaster” and just over a year ago the Buxton-born businessman who had spent 34 of his 57 years in the United States returned home for the second time. Isaaac Investment Computer and Electronic, is a decidedly modest successor to Computer Traders. It is situated in a tiny area of a Church street building that houses various other small business operations offering various services including travel agency and real estate. “It’s a start,” Sarjoo says. “We are prepared to work and grow.”

Six months into his new enterprise, Sarjoo is about to make his first move in the direction of expansion. From September 1 Isaaac Investment will acquire additional premises inside the Regent and Wellington streets Multi Plex Mall. “It will provide us with an opportunity to offer customers a show room; and we will use the Church Street facility as a service centre.”

When Stabroek Business visited Sarjoo earlier this week he was scrutinizing a tender document relating to the supply of IT hardware to a state-run institution. “I’m hoping I can win this tender,” he said.

What brought Sarjoo back to Guyana this time around was what he believes are the greater opportunities that abound in the IT sector. “The competition has grown but that is what business is all about. It’s about competition and about who offers the best products at the best prices.” Isaaac Investment is seeking to make significant inroads into the market through Dell and HP products.

For the moment at least Sarjoo has two employees, a studious looking technician named Mennon Inverary and Amanda Yusuf his fiancée. It is a far cry from the 28 employees who used the staff the now defunct Computer Traders, but “it’s a start,” Sarjoo says.

Growth with diversification is Sarjoo’s immediate term aim. “I believe that there is probably more money in the service end of the IT market. Everybody is using computers these days and maintenance is a major market. His expansion plans are also taking account of the opportunities afforded by the launch of GT&T’s new submarine cable. “I believe that the IT sector will expand significantly and obviously that should create openings for the services that I offer,” Sarjoo says.

Sarjoo says that what is otherwise a promising business climate in Guyana is marred by some critical constraints. “The electricity supply situation could seriously affect the IT sector in Guyana. Power surges can damage computers in various ways. They can affect the memory, the hard drive, the system board and the power supply systems. To stay safe you need to invest in additional equipment. That is a big problem.” He is concerned too about the need to hasten the pace of developing critical infrastructure that will help attract more investors to Guyana. “Roads, water and electricity supply are the things that investors look for. We need to work on those,” he says.

The re-migrant is also critical of what he says is the conservative policy of the local commercial banking sector. “Part of the problem is that lending is too collateral-driven. In the United States, for example, securing bank loans has to do more with your creditworthiness. The better your credit score the better your chances of securing a loan,” he says.

Sarjoo talks about the development of Guyana with enthusiasm, bemoaning the divisive politics which he says is “holding Guyana back” and asserting in the same breath that not enough is being done to promote Guyana abroad. He says he hates the tension and the violence that attends election time. “It’s bad for business and its holding Guyana back,” he says. As far as the marketing of Guyana abroad is concerned Sarjoo says that fewer people know about Guyana than we think. “Sometimes when you talk about Guyana abroad people think you are referring to Ghana. When I was operating Computer Traders I once had a consignment of goods assigned to me sent to Ghana instead.”

Sarjoo broached the subject of Caricom, asserting that he felt the region offered far too small a market for the goods and services Guyana can offer. “If we want to grow we need to look to the potential of the South American market. Caricom is far too small. I understand the history, but we are part of South America.”

Sarjoo insists that he is back to stay and that he has put the experience of his earlier business venture behind him. “I travel back and forth but I have established a new business here and I look forward to working with it, to watching it grow,” he says.

Latest in Business

At the Princess Hotel Casino

Draft gaming legislation before year end

Legislation designed to update existing local laws to ensure that they keep pace with the evolution of gaming is currently being drafted and could be completed before the end of this year, Chairman of the new Gaming Authority of Guyana Roysdale Forde has told the Stabroek Business.

20160701business cover

Georgetown Chamber expects gov’t to avail 20% of contracts for SMEs as provisioned in act

The Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) has signalled its intention to throw its weight behind the provision in the 2004 Small Business Act that binds government to ensuring that the small business sector secures a minimum of 20 per cent of procurement contracts issued by the state.

default placeholder

Are you really an entrepreneur?

Entrepreneur, Managing Director, GeoTechVision Entrepreneurship seems to be the new buzz word these days and while many are trying to build and contribute to creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem, few entrepreneurs have excelled by turning their ideas into high growth businesses.

default placeholder

Contractors seeking meetings with ministers, mayor to discuss workplace safety issues

Stabroek Business has been sent a copy of a memorandum from the 70-member General Contrac-tors Association of Guyana (GCAG) seeking what its Secretary Neil Cort-Rogers says are “important meetings” with two cabinet ministers and the Mayor of Georgetown to find solutions to “critical issues” facing the sector.

Prime Minister Keith Rowley attended by assorted dignitaries doing sod-turning duties at the site of the planned car park.

Port of Spain getting parking meters too

One thing that Georgetown appears to have in common with Port of Spain is a premium on parking space and yesterday the Trinidad Express reported that on the previous day the twin-island Republic’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley had turned the sod to commence the construction of a TT$100 million multi-storey car park in the capital.

Mercy Wings is training part of the country’s future work force

Mercy Wings needs public, private sector help to provide Sophia youths with life-changing skills

Sophia is one of those working-class communities where unemployment is high, poverty is ever present and the rate of school dropouts is disturbing.

Kitco is a Canadian company that buys and sells precious metals such as gold, copper and silver. It runs a website for gold news, commentary and market information.

Kitco Market

Gold Prices for the three day period ending Thursday  June 30, 2016

Kwakwani faces an acute crisis of bad roads

Berbice River communities facing economic challenges, community differences

Kwakwani is a struggling, underdeveloped community, a poignant example of the fact that the pace of development has not been anywhere near even across the various regions of Guyana.


About these comments

The comments section is intended to provide a forum for reasoned and reasonable debate on the newspaper's content and is an extension of the newspaper and what it has become well known for over its history: accuracy, balance and fairness. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments which contain attacks on other users, slander, coarse language and profanity, and gratuitous and incendiary references to race and ethnicity.

Stay updated! Follow Stabroek News on Facebook or Twitter.

Get the day's headlines from SN in your inbox every morning: