I didn’t get a job because I wanted a job for life. I went in to do a job, because I wanted to bring about change!


Discover how a girl from rural Punjab, in India, found herself running Africa’s biggest entrepreneurship programme.

Parminder Vir OBE is the former CEO of the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), Africa’s leading philanthropic organisation. TEF entrepreneurship program is the most ambitious African Entrepreneurship programme with a $100 million commitment over 10-year, to identify, train, mentor, and fund 10,000 entrepreneurs from across the continent.

Parminder has a background as film and TV producer with BBC Television, Carlton Television and Channel 4, as well as CEO of her own independent production company. She has produced some of Britain’s biggest events and TV shows including the MOBO Awards and EMMA Awards.

It was a call to destiny… and having the courage and the imagination to respond to this opportunity at the age of 57,” Parminder says.

In this breath-taking conversation we talk about how she became the CEO of the Tony Elumelu Foundation entrepreneurship program as she was just thinking of retiring. But with the blessing of her husband and her two daughters, she embarked instead on this new adventure in Lagos, Nigeria where she had to imagine what the entrepreneurship program would look like on a blank sheet of paper.

She explains the fascinating concept of ‘institutionalising luck’ and ‘democratizing opportunities’ and the seven pillars of the program and its holistic approach to entrepreneurship development.

She also tells how her storytelling skills as a filmmaker and being on the ground helped to create an original African model rather than adopting western-based business models and also how her biggest challenge was about managing success when the applications received climbed from 20,000 in the first year to 216,000+ the fifth year to select 1000 entrepreneurs.

Parminder reveals how the underlying thread of her multifaceted career led her to become an agent of change in big institutions such as British television and British film industry.

She also talks about how being family and duty-bound were so important that she accepted an arranged marriage at 18 to someone she never met and why failure was not an option as she realised the sacrifice that her parents made to put food on the table. She had to succeed to make a better life!

Parminder believes that you have the power to imagine what you’d like to be and what you’d like to do. You can create the roadmap for achieving them. And whatever you’re doing, know that someone else has done it before; you can be inspired by someone else’s story.


Action points

What was your key takeaway from this episode? What are you committed to do today to find more meaning in your work and live a more meaningful life? Comment below. 

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  • Read stories about entrepreneurship on ParminderVir.com 
  • The Tony Elumelu Foundation 
  • TEFConnect to access the 12-week Entrepreneurship program 
  • Read books: from classics to biographies and novels
  • Watch films, documentaries and invest in Arts and Culture


Contact Parminder Vir


Contact Me, Francine Beleyi the host of the show


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