African entrepreneurs in the spotlight
This year’s Africa Awards for Entrepreneurship saw a record 3,300 companies from 48 African nations submit entries to compete for the Grand Prize of US$100,000.
The awards, founded by private investment group Legatum, were designed to promote the value of entrepreneurship in Africa, encourage small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs and attract more venture capital inflows towards good businesses across Africa.
The winner of the big prize was SECURICO, Zimbabwe’s service-focused security company. Director and Founder Divine Ndhlukula said: “I hope that my story of creating SECURICO, and those of my fellow finalists will help to inspire other African entrepreneurs to seek opportunity, embrace risk, and above all, believe in themselves.”
THE SECURICO STORY
So what is Ndhlukula’s story? By all accounts, it’s quite a remarkable one.
The idea of SECURICO was created in her home in the country’s capital, Harare. The company first started working out of Ndhlukula’s cottage with just four employees. Her determination was tested when her supportive husband passed away, but nevertheless she continued to pursue her dream using savings.
At that time, security giants such as Midsec and Fawcett dominated the industry – which may not have been quite ready for a female-led company. “The market was not convinced on my capacity to deliver in a hitherto male dominated industry,” said Ndhlukula. “The way to manage that was being the best…and the market was sure going to recognise a good thing coming out of our company. I had to work five times harder than the average man in my industry to get noticed. That won the day.”
Ndhlukula was clear in the principles she wanted to enforce from day one. The highest quality service and a shorter turnaround time than SECURICO’s competitors were two such values.
SECURICO provides guarding services and electronic security solutions and became the first security company to be ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) certified and now employs more than 3,400 staff – 900 of which are women.
“I started the business to create financial security for my family and myself and also to be in a position where I would make a huge impact on other people in particular, women,” said Ndhlukula, making sure that employees are provided with medical aid, help with education, housing and life insurance.
SECURICO has been rewarded with a number of achievements outlining its success. It won the inaugural National Quality Awards (NAQA) Company of the Year Award (Large Enterprises) hosted by the Standards Association of Zimbabwe and was also voted Zimbabwe's 7th Best Employer for 2010 in a national survey conducted by Industrial Psychology Consultants.
Ndhlukula said she was not willing to compromise employee welfare for profit. "While competing on price is healthy there should be a balance between the business' concern for growth and the welfare of employees," she explained on her website.
"The tendency to charge unrealistic prices compromises employees' welfare and in the end the quality of the service provided by these companies is seriously compromised. They inevitably end up losing business rather than growing their businesses.
“Our vision as SECURICO is we become a leading security organisation in the Southern African Development Community region and continue to grow at the targeted rates and make our company a truly international business.”
There were five other finalists, including Chocolate City Group. Based in Nigeria, the entertainment group of companies, consisting of Chocolate City Music, Chocolate City Media and Chocolate City Distribution, is home to some of Africa’s biggest hip-hop stars such as M.I and Jesse Jagz.
Ethiopia’s soleRebels also made it into the final six companies. Founded by locals to create jobs for the poor community in Addis Ababa, the shoe company has become a global success. Using recycled material and Ethiopian artisan crafts, the footwear company has gone from strength to strength and is the only World Fair Trade Organisation certified footwear company.
Other finalists included Expand Technologies, based in Mauritius, Unique Solutions of the Gambia and Pepperoni Foods of Nigeria.
Josephine A. Okot, founder of Ugandan agricultural company Victoria Seeds, won Coca-Cola’s Most Outstanding Woman Entrepreneur, taking home a prize of $100,000.
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5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.