Sprinting away from adversity
Written by Matt Staff
Oscar Pistorius has made waves, not just across Africa, but globally since he burst on to the athletic scene in the 2004 Paralympics in Athens.
Since then he has dominated his trademark events at 100, 200 and 400 metres, and has become so successful in the latter that he has competed in the able bodied event at the athletics World Championships too.
Aged just 11 months, a congenital absence of the fibula in both legs led to a double amputation of the lower limbs, but like the problem facing so many of his fierce international competitors, this was, in no way, ever going to slow Pistorius down.
With eyes focused on the Olympics and Paralympics in London later this year his sporting credentials are second to none, as depicted by the numerous global awards he has received as a consequence. But the South African is far more than a one trick pony, and the 25-year-old is already laying down the foundations for a second career in business.
Pistorius is currently studying for a Bachelor of Commerce in Business Management with Sports Science at the University of Pretoria, combining his two major passions.
‘Bladerunner’ as he is affectionately known, due to the design of his prosthetic legs, has already shown his business capabilities, and his promotional pulling power, through his affiliation with French fashion designer, Thierry Mugler.
The world renowned flamboyant brand utilised Pistorius as part of their Amen perfume selection to wide critical acclaim.
The advertising images used crossed the boundaries between machine and man in a clever initiative from both parties.
Ever since the partnership was formed, the two have co-existed in complete harmony, aiding each other’s respective industries. A win for one reflects well on the other, and Pistorius has definitely got used to winning over the years.
Out of the limelight, off the track and away from the cameras, ‘the fastest man on no legs’ is also respected as a kind and respectable individual, and this has been brought to life with his recent charity work, also.
As an ambassador for the Mineseeker Foundation, Pistorius’s endearing love for his homeland, and the wider African continent in general is clear for all to see.
The non-profit organisation is allied with the British Military of Defence in raising awareness as well as scoping the undetonated mines across dangerous African regions, and Pistorius’s notoriety has played a large part in developing the initiative.
It is this same notoriety that will keep the name ‘Bladerunner’ in people’s memories long after his sporting career has ended. In fact, his second career has already begun, and you would not bet against him being just as successful a businessman as he has been an athlete.
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.