Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson
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Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson popularly known as Richard Branson is a British business magnate, best known for his Virgin Group spanning over 400companies. Branson is the 5th richest person in the UK according to Forbes' 2011 list of billionaires with an estimated net worth of USD 4.2 billion. His internationally acclaimed brand "Virgin" is displayed on everything from credit cards, to airlines and music "megastores". He has knack to attract media with his marketing tactics and balloon adventures.
Born on July, 18, 1950 in Blackheath, London to barrister Edward James Branson, Branson suffered from dyslexia and had a poor academic performance as a student. He did his schooling from Scaitcliffe School until the age of thirteen and later attended Stowe School till the age of sixteen. His entrepreneurial ways began pouring early and gradually he discovered his ability to connect with others.
At the tender age of 16, Branson started publishing a magazine called ‘Student’. He did not go on to graduate and instead set up an audio record mail-order business in 1970. In 1972, he took the plunge and opened a chain of record stores, Virgin Records, later known as Virgin Megastores. The brand grew with leaps and bounds during the 1980s. Branson later set up Virgin Atlantic Airways and expanded the Virgin Records music label.
With the passage of time Branson bootstrapped his way from record-shop owner to head of the Virgin Empire and in the process created one of the most recognizable brands in the world. Gifted with a seemingly insatiable appetite for starting new business ventures, Branson with his enterprising instinct has managed to "Virginize" a very wide range of products and services. He is continuously on the prowl to seek new business opportunities and loves challenges, especially in a market monopolized by few major players.
With around 200 companies in over 30 countries, the Virgin Group has now expanded into leisure, travel, tourism, mobile, broadband, TV, radio, music festivals, finance and health. Virgin Green Fund is investing in renewable energy and resource efficiency.
The variety of businesses that Branson controls is as vast as the geographical coverage the brand has, with business located throughout the UK, USA, Australia, Canada, Asian, Europe and South Africa. Some of his major brands include: Virgin Atlantic - An international airline flying to many major destinations; Virgin Megastores - Music Super-markets located in major locations in the UK, USA and Australia; Virgin Books - Publisher and distributor of books;Virgin Credit Card - Branson's attempt to provide credit card at a reasonable price; Virgin Holidays - Book a holiday and fly Virgin Atlantic; Virgin Trains - Virgin making trains sexy in the United Kingdom;V2 Music - Largest UK based independent recording label; Virgin Active - Chain of fitness clubs throughout the United Kingdom;Virgin Galactic - Branson's planned affordable flight to space venture and Ulusaba - Luxury game reserve located in South Africa.
Branson treats his empire like a family rather than a hierarchy. They are empowered to run their own affairs with shared ideas, values, interests and goals. The motto of the company is to give birth to new Virgin companies, encourage them to progress as they gradually become full-fledged members of the Virgin family. The enigmatic entrepreneur is always looking for an interesting business to start. In his website Virgin.com there is even a section to submit new and exciting business venture that Branson might consider pursuing.
Branson is committed environmentalist and philanthropist. He started his first charity, “Student Valley Centre”, when he was only 17. He has pledged the next 10 years of profits from his transportation empire to the development of renewable alternatives to tackle global warming. He has also launched the Virgin Earth Challenge, which offers a GBP 25 million prize to the first person to come up with an economically viable solution to the greenhouse gas problem. He has previously donated to educational charities in Africa.
In 2004 he set up Virgin Unite to encourage all of his staff around the world to tackle tough social and environmental problems in an entrepreneurial way. In 2007 Branson formed The Elders – a small, dedicated group of leaders, working objectively and without any vested personal interest to solve difficult global conflicts with Peter Gabriel, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Kofi Annan, and Jimmy Carter. When late Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, he made arrangements to fly 40,000 blankets to refugees fleeing into Jordan much to the displeasure of the British government.
Branson was awarded a Knighthood in 1999 and became Sir Richard Branson for his contribution to entrepreneurship. He is married with two children and currently resides in London. The man even owns his own island- Necker Island.
Flamboyant and enigmatic Branson is passionate about life and living every minute to its fullest. Since 1985 he has been pumping his adrenaline through world record breaking attempts by boat and hot air balloon. He makes each record attempt a media event with his Virgin logo prominently displayed during every launch, which has been an excellent source of free advertising and brand marketing for the Virgin Group.
His autobiography, "Losing My Virginity: How I've Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way" is similar to his bubbly nature. In the book he shares some of his business successes, world adventures and personal background. In some parts he is humble enough to poke fun at himself and talk about his failures while being self confident enough to take on some of the most challenging industries in business.
The 60-year old entrepreneur with his disarming charm, likability and devilish smile starts his every venture based on hard research and analysis. He says, “We ask fundamental questions: is this an opportunity for restructuring a market and creating competitive advantage? What are the competitors doing? Is the customer confused or badly served? Is this an opportunity for building the Virgin brand? Can we add value? Will it interact with our other businesses? Is there an appropriate trade-off between risk and reward? Typically, we review the industry and put ourselves in the customer's shoes to see what could make it better.”
An entrepreneur, explorer and multi-billionaire, Branson’s success is a success that was never expected from a dyslexic, nearsighted boy.
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