Winner of the Minister’s Award for Overall Excellence for 2018, category for large enterprises

Big can be swift and agile

Conventional wisdom has it that large companies lack agility. Well, Netstar obviously didn’t receive that particular memo.

Adept at adapting, the company has embraced the Internet of Things (IoT) with an alacrity that would give even some start-ups a run for their money. Starting from scratch, it took Netstar less than 36 months – from incubation and testing to full production – to commercially launch its InsureTech platform, making it one of the first vehicle-tracking companies to do so.

This shift necessitated some major changes, including Netstar’s decision to base its InsureTech platform on open source technology. Since open source is to the internet what water is to fish, this has opened up a vast new vista of new business and market possibilities, including horse saddle and bicycle recovery, not to mention collision avoidance in the mining industry. As the Netstar website puts it: “No IoT solution is out of our reach.”

While the company manages to make adapting to change look easy, a massive amount of research and development goes on behind the scenes to smooth the way. Netstar’s annual turnover is about ZAR 1,2 billion and its R&D budget is 3.6% of that, representing a money-where-its-mouth-is investment that few other South African companies match.

That R&D investment goes hand in hand with a generous training budget and bursary scheme, ensuring that Netstar has the skills to oil the wheels of change. This includes a growing focus on developing skills for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), including artificial intelligence and robotics.

“The world of work is changing and we, as a partner of the automotive industry, must be at the forefront,” says Pamela Xaba, Head of Human Capital. “We are also focusing strongly on developing future leaders who can think out of the box and have a global mindset because we don’t just operate in a South African context.”

This is a reference to Netstar’s operations in Australia and its recent expansion into India, which is on track to become the world’s third-largest passenger vehicle market by 2021, presenting massive opportunities for service providers that think big and strike while the iron is hot. Big business can be swift and agile.

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