Air Blow Fans

Air Blow Fans

Winner of the 2018 award for Excellence in the Management of Technology, category for small enterprises

Fan specialists take the risk up front and blow competitors away

A small company facing stiff competition from major multinationals has to do things differently, especially in a niche market where a competitive edge can quickly vanish into thin air.

Air Blow Fans have carved out a nice slice of the African industrial fans business for itself in the past 15 years, but it knows better than to settle into a comfort zone. In fact, there’s nothing like taking risk upfront to keep an enterprise on its toes, says Gavin Ratner, its managing member.

“We go out to the site, find out what the problem is and do the investigation for free,” he says. “This really means putting our money where our mouth is, and clients appreciate it that we take the risk upfront.”

The Kempton Park-based company’s clients are usually mining houses, power plants and manufacturers that use industrial-strength fans for ventilation and can ill afford the production downtime that goes with faulty or poorly functioning fans.

Their problems typically revolve around fans that someone else supplied and installed, so Air Blow Fan’s arrival is a breath of fresh air; it has a talent for fixing legacy problems.

While the fan concerned might not be brand new, Air Blow Fans’ approach is stat-of-the-art.

“We are continually improving our skills and solutions, and are very strong on the engineering side,” says Gavin. Air Blow Fans – which won no fewer than five tt100 awards in 2018 – has invested heavily in engineering software for analysis, design and systems monitoring, and is one of a handful of small South African companies with ISO 9001:2015 accreditation. It should not come as a complete surprise that the company is also a fan of the TIPS™ framework. “What I like about TIPS is the way it ties everything together,” Gavin says. “There is no one component of business you can focus on in isolation. You have to look at all of it. That’s what TIPS helps you to do.”

SVA Holdings

Winner of the Excellence in the Management of Innovation award for 2018, the category for large enterprises.

Foreseeing the future of risk with 99% accuracy

Predictions are notoriously difficult to make and there aren’t too many companies confident enough in their forecasting abilities to claim a near-perfect accuracy rate. A rare exception is SVA Holdings, an asset protection and risk management company with a track record of being right 99% of the time when forecasting its clients’ risk problems – months and even years ahead.

“For instance, we can predict non-compliance issues in a retailer’s stock-take two and a half years in advance. It’s been tried and tested, with 99% accuracy,” says Derick Deyzel, chief commercial officer at SVA Holdings.

However, clients need not wait for any length of time to see the benefits of implementing the improvements SVA suggests when it detects risk or compliance loopholes in their systems or processes, from the supply chain to health and safety. “We feed back to clients in real time so that they are able to make quick decisions about their risk profiles,” says Derick. “We are constantly hunting to improve processes.”

Technology gets it right

The uncanny accuracy of SVA’s risk-related forecasting is rooted firmly in its Infoman technology platform, developed in South Africa and patented in 43 countries.

It all starts with gathering the client’s operational data 24 hours a day and feeding this into the SVA platform, where it is weighted, rated, prioritised and escalated according to the client’s risk profile, all in real time and without getting in the client’s way.

“Infoman tells us when there is a challenge, where it is, who needs to fix it and when this can be achieved,” says Derick. “Our competitors may offer comprehensive audits but they are largely based on historical information. We bring current and more relevant information, right now.”

The benefit of real-time analysis is that the client can take immediate action to correct any non-compliance. If the driver of a logistics company, for instance, deviates from the approved route, Infoman will pick this up while it is happening and alert the client, who can deal with this straight away instead of after the fact.

Similarly, Infoman will pick it up immediately if one branch of a 300-store retail chain is neglecting to do the required daily count of high-value items such as TV sets and cellphones.

What SVA’s technology also does extremely well is to adjust and align with the client’s risk policies and procedures as these evolve. “It changes and improves so that it’s as relevant to the business in five years’ time as it is today,” Derick says.

What likely also impressed the tt100 adjudicators about SVA Holdings’ management of innovation capabilities is that its technology is as relevant to small enterprises as it is to large ones. “The technology platform works just as well with a company of five vans as it does with a national retailer with 300 to 400 outlets,” he says.

Perhaps it’s time to make a bold prediction: this won’t be the last time that SVA Holdings comes up with innovative technology that changes the face of risk management.



Winner of the Excellence in the Management of Innovation award for 2018, category for medium enterprises

Keeping payroll relevant in the Gig economy

As the Gig economy grows, who knows what the future holds for corporate payrolls. As more and more people do gigs rather than full-time jobs, who will pay them – payroll or the accounts department? Come to think of it, will large corporates and their payroll departments even exist in the virtual era of nimble newcomers?

These are some of the questions about the future that Accsys’s leadership team are keeping in their sights while dealing with today’s dilemmas – of which there are plenty. 

When it comes to innovation, for instance, the following catch-22 comes to mind, says CEO Teryl Schroenn:

“As an IT company, we have got to be innovative, which means we have got to take risks – and then we have risk. So how do we innovate while maintaining stability and limiting risk to our clients?”

Consider that some of Accsys’s clients have upwards of 25 000 people on their payrolls and operate right across Sub-Saharan Africa, from South Africa to Senegal, and it’s clear that finding the balance between innovation and stability is a real business imperative.

In fact, it’s one that Accsys, which has clients doing business in 19 African countries, is tackling right now.

“We are busy with a massive update that we have been preparing for since last October,” says Teryl. “We are always our own guinea pigs, so we started testing the update in our own payroll. After two months, we ran it live on two client sites and now we are starting with some of our bigger clients.”

It sounds so simple but it’s actually not: with clients operating in 19 countries, the update has to accommodate 19 different national tax frameworks, not to mention a host of other country-specific salary and employment details.

This update not only caters for clients’ current payroll requirements but is part of the evolution towards a digital future that is unfolding as we speak. “Innovation means making sure you have a product that people can use now and that works, while also being mindful of how things are changing and the impact of digital on payroll,” says Teryl.

Talking of change, what does she think the future holds for large corporates and their payrolls?

“I think people and companies are like countries,” she says. “Some want to be their own country, like Catalan or Scotland, and some want to be centralised, like Russia. In business, there are different models too: some companies want to be small and agile, and some want to be huge. “But one thing is for sure: whatever the future holds, SARS is still going to want their tax.

Cura Risk Management

Cura Risk Management

Winner of the 2018 award for Excellence in the Management of Innovation, the category for small enterprises

How to outperform your peers in a listless economy

In today’s grim economic climate, revenue growth of over 60% is an unimaginable feat for most South African companies. “If you innovate constantly, you can outperform the market, despite the economy. Maybe we would have done even better if the economy had been up to speed,” says Alex Roberts, Regional Director: Sales and Operations of Cura Risk Management.

That level of growth in 2018 might be understandable in a start-up coming off a small revenue base, but Cura is an established company with a 16-year track record, not a start-up. So how has its South African business unit managed to buck the trend of flat sales and sluggish growth?

A contributing factor is the nature of its business. Being in the business of providing Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) software solutions, Cura is in the right place at the right time. “South African companies are getting a lot more pressure for good governance and we are in that space,” says Alex.

But that would only be part of the story – and a small part at that. The real secret behind Cura Risk Management’s success is its mastery of innovation. Take its ability to service customers at both ends of the market, from small to large, as well as everything in between.

“Competitors generally focus on one end of the market or the other,” says Ross Saunders, Director for Global Technology Services. “We service both ends, from corporations that require very complex nuances to small clients that want enterprise-grade software in a hosted environment.”

In the past, enterprise-grade software would have been out of the reach of most small enterprises but Cura has bridged the gap. “With SMEs, affordability is the problem and historically, they would only have been able to afford a lesser product. Now, because our product set is unique and we use different business models, we can offer small clients a solution similar to something a massive financial services company would use, yet focused to their own needs,” says Alex.

As for large companies – Cura’s traditional market – they too are under pressure to up their Governance, Risk and Compliance game, and tend to be receptive to Cura-style innovation. Its business model for large enterprises is integrated and built on a single source of the truth, he says. “We combine risk management, business continuity, internal audit, SHEQ, incident management, IT risk management, etc, all as a single, fully integrated solution.”

This differentiation, along with a technology platform that is constantly evolving, underpins the kind of growth that many South African companies can only dream of. If you innovate, you can grow.



Winner of the Excellence in the Management of Innovation award for 2018, category for Emerging Enterprise

Fashion in SA is a whole new ball game

The local textile is in tatters thanks to cheap imports and fashion designers are struggling but some are fighting back – and keeping their sense of humour while they’re at it.

“It’s a whole new ball game,” says Roman of ROMAN HANDT, avant-garde fashion scientists and textile artisans. This is the tongue-in-cheek slogan for “Romandies” (pronounced “Rom-undies”), a sleek and comfortable line of men’s underwear that boxers, cyclists and other sportsmen are snapping up.

It was Romandies in particular that caught the attention of the tt100 adjudicators.  ROMAN HANDT manufactures them in-house, which is unusual for a small design and textile house because underwear is difficult to produce, requiring elastication and various other complicated processes and machinery.

But if you get it right, underwear can be a money spinner. “Men’s underwear has shown the most growth (in the clothing industry) and they are reckoning that the market is worth billions,” says Roman, adding that modern men are “quite happy” to pay for really snug, comfy, aesthetically appealing underwear.

“We pay a lot of attention to fit and the cup part of Romandies sits very snugly so that men never sit on or hurt anything. It really is a whole new ball game.”

The brand has significant market potential in South Africa, not to mention profit potential for its originators. In South Africa, the clothing market is all about price, and underwear is one of the few clothing products that can be sold with a decent mark-up, says Roman.

“When you produce the product in-house, you cut out the middleman and can be very competitive in the market. And with underwear, there is a no return policy!”

To reap the benefits, though, in-house manufacturers need to invest in the right technology – something that emerging and small enterprises are often reluctant to do.

“The only way you can compete is by investing in technology,” says Roman, adding that this need not break a business’s budget. “If you invest time in doing your research, you can pick up quite inexpensive machines by going to auctions.”

Once you have the right equipment to manufacture underwear, it can be used for many other types of garments too, opening up all kind of future possibilities, not just for the individual entrepreneur but for the economy.

“I want to teach younger generations, entrepreneurs in their twenties, that if you have a sewing machine and a product, there is a way to be an entrepreneur and support your family,” says Roman. “Work for yourself – that’s what I want to show people.”

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