Cura Risk Management Software, winner of the Sustainability Award
in the small enterprise category
Multiple futures await business in SA
If the path to
success was a straight line, it would be a very crowded path. It isn’t, of
course. There are multiple possible future and multiple paths towards them, and
the steps a company takes now will determine which future it ends up in.
Management Software has already been in business for almost 20 years, which is
an eminently respectable age for an SME in South Africa. It is banking on being
around for a long time to come and with that in mind, is planning for the
futures. (Note to reader: this is not a typo.)
“There is not one
set future but multiple possible futures; that’s very important to grasp,” says
Jessica Knight, head of Strategy. “When you assess multiple possibilities, you
enhance your preparedness for anything that might arise.”
Here are just a
few examples of the different futures that might be awaiting the company. “One
is where we achieve our Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) of establishing a
significant presence on every continent. Another is where we never achieve
that. And another is where we no longer exist.”
possibility is not an option any company wants to imagine (with the exception
of fly-by-nights and other short-termist enterprises). But if you don’t, your
days could be numbered. So while thinking about your organisation’s demise
might not be pleasant, it’s a prospect that can’t be ignored if you still want
to be around in 20, 50 or 100 years.
“We are assessing
all possibilities, doing risk assessments and learning from our clients and
listening to what they want,” says Jessica.
and learnings are constantly fed into Cura’s strategy document, which is a
never-ending work in progress that ensures the business stays true to its
strategic objects and moves ever closer to its BHAGs, while adapting to
whatever curve balls might come its way.
The Covid-19 is a
prime example of such curve balls, of course, providing many useful lessons for
Cura to incorporate into its planning for the futures.
Aizatron, winner of the Sustainability Award in the medium
How humans and robots can co-exist in the 4IR
For anyone worried that robots are
going to take over all our jobs, a conversation with Ansu Sooful is a
reassuring experience. “That’s scare tactics,” is the matter-of-fact attitude
of Ansu, managing director and founder of Aizatron, one of South Africa’s first
purely 4IR companies.
While automating businesses can
reduce dependencies on humans, which can lead to job losses, this is not inevitable,
“Based on the outcomes we have
seen, a completely automated workplace is not desirable from a productivity
perspective. A completely manual environment is also not conducive to business.
The latest research shows that what is the most desirable environment is where humans
and bots work hand in hand together.”
Humans bring a dynamic to the work
environment that bots have not yet been able to emulate, making person and
machine a better combination than one or the other. “Artificial intelligence
should be seen as tools that humans in the business use to do their jobs
better,” Ansu says.
But this vision of
happy co-existence between humans and bots is not going to just fall into
place. It is going to take work and commitment to retrain and reskill human
workers of today to be ready for the jobs of tomorrow, he says. “We must train
the people on the technology and push them up from manual and repetitive tasks
to become more creative and add more value.”
The question is:
will businesses rise to the occasion and do the right thing? Well, Aizatron’s
“We are very
involved in the automation space where we use artificial intelligence and smart
technology to automate business processes. But as social entrepreneurs who want
to use technology to solve society’s problems, we approach this from a holistic
perspective. When we go into an organisation, we don’t just set out to automate
its business processes but also to train up its human resources to be more
creative and function at a higher level.
“This is the
proposal that we always put forward when we look at automation and artificial
intelligence. If the organisation doesn’t want to take our training and won’t
look at upskilling, we generally won’t take the business, unless they explain
what’s going to happen with these employees, such as moving them to other areas
of the businesses where that makes sense.”
So far, Aizatron’s
commitment to automation that does not cost jobs has served it – and its
clients – well. Since opening its doors at the end of 2017, the Cape Town-based
company has grown exponentially, almost doubling its revenues every year and
increasing its own employee numbers from a handful to over 35.
this growth to the company’s conscious choice to use technology to the broader
benefit of South Africans and to anchor its business on its values. “Each of us
needs to centre ourselves around something to be productive and contribute,” he
says. “From a company perspective, we are centred around our values as an
organisation. If something violates our values, we won’t do it. If it supports
our values, we will.”
VNI Consultants, winner of the Management of Systems Award
in the emerging enterprise category
The consulting firm was ahead of its time in anticipating business in a pandemic
In August 2019, about six months before the world changed irrevocably, Pieter du Toit, founder of VNI Consultants, gave a presentation to the tt100 panel of adjudicators. It was titled, “What would you do as an SMME when a pandemic hits?”
His thinking at the time was that if a pandemic struck,
small businesses everywhere would probably need to move everything into the Cloud.
In anticipation of such an event, VNI Consultants had already
become providers of a platform that would ease small businesses’ journey into
That platform, which has since been trademarked as BluAgile™, saw VNI Consultants walking away with the trophy in the Management of Systems category of the awards. It had been a finalist in this category for three consecutive years and this was its first win. But not it is last.
Pieter was back again on 28th October 2020 with a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) solution that was perfect for a pandemic – which by then, as we know, had actually happened.
This new cloud-based solution, named EduNomix™, offers business education on demand,
asynchronously. In other words, there are no teachers or facilitators and the
students engage with the learning material as and when they want to. Fourteen
EduNomix offerings are already up and running, including Would prefer
programmes such as Occurrence Investigation Management (OIM), Applied
Creativity in Business Management, Continuous Change Management, New Venture
Creation and Advertising to replace the ones mentioned here.
EduNomix was an idea whose time had come and which was ready just
when it was needed. VNI Consultants duly walked away with their second trophy
in the Management of Systems category.
There is a strong possibility that this business consulting company is ahead of its time. They certainly know a lot of things that aren’t commonly known. Such as the fact that it was none other than former South African Prime Minister Genl. Jan Christiaan Smuts originally coined the terms “personology” and “holism”.
These are terms that embody VNI Consultants’ view on
systemic thinking, referring as they do to the importance of understanding people
and organisations in terms of the whole person or entity. “The metaphor Smuts
used was that the whole world is working on a tapestry,” says Pieter. “We don’t
know what that picture is like unless we can engage with each other.”
Engagement with flesh-and-blood people in organisations is
fundamental to the way the company works, as are its insights into the ways
people think and therefore do business. VNI Consultants have identified four
main constructs in the way people think, i.e.: structural, process, systemic
and synthesising. “For instance, if I have a preference for analysing things,
and possibly overanalysing things, I start to structure my business to be an
analytical kind of business. That becomes the system,” he says. “But if you can
create a balance among all four constructs of thinking, not just analysis, the
organisation could be a whole lot more sustainable.”
Look out for more on VNL Consultants’ distinctive
approach in the upcoming article on their Director-General’s Award.
Cura Risk Management Software, winner of the Management of
Systems Award in the small enterprise category
Business objectives are the golden thread
Yes, Cura Risk
Management is a software company but when it talks about integrating and
linking systems, it isn’t speaking from a software perspective. It means
business – the governance, risk and compliance (GRC business).
“Our focus is on
making sure that our business objectives link throughout the entire organisation,
and to our vision, mission and overall purpose,” says Jessica Knight, head of
Strategy. “Without that systemic integration, you will have misalignment,
duplicated work effort and inefficiencies. Those are things we try to overcome
by making sure our objectives are the golden thread running through the
Every activity and
function of the company is linked to its objectives, of which it has two types:
strategic objectives and Big Hairy Audacious Goals, or BHAGs.
between them is that strategic objectives are specific, relatively attainable
business goals, which then roll up into BHAGs, which are “slightly
unattainable” so that the company never gets to the point where it has nowhere
to go and nothing to strive for.
“BHAGs keep you
moving forward and can catapult growth into a disruptive space,” says Jessica.
One of its BHAGs, for instance, is to have a significant presence on each
continent across the globe.
This might seem slightly
unattainable for a small South African company but not impossible since Cura,
founded in 2002, is already in Australia, India, Malaysia and the United
States. That means there are only two continents still to go.
The company has
several strategic tools that it uses to maintain that golden thread between
what it does and the business objectives it strives for.
One is a
stakeholder ecosystem analysis, where Cura breaks up its ecosystem into all
stakeholders affecting and affected by its business, now and in the future. It
has 27 to 30 stakeholder relationships and it has linked every one of them to its
business objectives and assigned a level of importance to each stakeholder
“In this way, we
can assess what each stakeholder would like from us now and in the future, and
how we can serve each stakeholder, now and in the future,” says Jessica.
Another key tool for keeping that golden thread
going is Cura’s strategy document, which is constantly being reviewed and
refined, and now runs into over 80 pages. “It never stops,” she says. “We are now
in a very dynamic time and we are a small business but very complex. We need a
detailed, dynamic tool to manage that.”
Aizatron, winner of the Innovation Concepts Award in the medium enterprise category
Let’s face it, crime should not pay
When the City of Cape Town started replacing electricity meters in households in 2020, criminals were quick to spot an opportunity. Posing as employees of the CoCT, opportunists gained access to many residents’ homes and committed a spate of daylight robberies. This is exactly the kind of social problem that artificial intelligence can help solve, says Ansu Sooful, managing director of technology fusion company Aizatron. Not only was Aizatron willing to provide a solution, but it was also willing to do so at no cost to the City.
“At that stage, we were building a facial recognition doorbell and we thought, Let’s make this technology available for free,” says Ansu. Aizatron promptly designed an app that anyone with a smartphone can use. All the authorities had to do was upload the faces of the employees who were officially representing it on the meter replacement drive. Then, when anyone knocked on a resident’s door claiming to be from the CoCT, the resident concerned could open the app, which would then verify whether or not the person was indeed who they said they were. Making smart technology available free of charge in this way fits Aizatron’s profile as social entrepreneurs who use technology to solve societal problems. It is not entirely altruistic, however, says Ansu. “The more faces we have on our system, the better artificial intelligence becomes at identifying people,” he says. “South Africa is an awesome country to build a facial recognition system because we have such a heterogeneous, mixed pot of facial types.” This is in contrast to less-diverse countries such as the United States and China, where facial recognition programs have shown racial bias in their inability to identify black people in particular. South Africa, with its abundant diversity, could potentially be far more effective in making facial recognition technology work. Meanwhile, another solution that Aizatron has developed to combat crime, especially sexual and gender-based violence, is its Awêh Guardian App and Awêh Panic Button. (Note to reader: Awêh is pronounced “aware”.) Community members who download the Guardian app (free from Google Playstore or iOS AppStore) become part of a community-wide network of Guardians willing and able to assist victims of crime within two minutes of an incident. Guardians are alerted to a call for help when a member of the network presses their Awêh Panic Button, a keyring-sized device (for sale from Aizatron) that can be set to send an alert within a radius of between 50 meters and 500 meters. Ansu describes Awêh as a safety system that mobilises entire communities to keep people safe. “When pushed, South Africans stand together,” he says.
Unlock the Lockdown by Becoming More Agile, Aligned and Engaged in Enhancing Your Business Performance
Unlock the Lockdown by Becoming More Agile, Aligned and Engaged in Enhancing Your Business Performance26 August 2021Register Now: https://bit.ly/3ClN7I8Join us on the 26th August to explore how to overcome the challenges business has faced by unlocking your ability to become more agile, aligned, engaged leaders and enhancing business performance.The dialogue will explore topics and frames that will catalyse you and your business to emerge from this pandemic re-ignited and re-imagined. If you want to become more agile, aligned and engaged, then this free webinar is just for you!
Key Topics : • Impact of the 5th Industrial Revolution in business • Management of Technology and Management of Innovation Date: 26 August 2021 Time: 14:00 SASTWho Should Attend: Join over 100 guests across start-up, emerging, small, medium and large enterprise on the African continent.3 Reasons to Attend: • Focus will be on key national issues in the technology and innovation arenas and how technology and innovation has evolved for businesses. • The business leadership framework impact in business success. • Business access and opportunities for start-up, emerging and small enterprise on the continent through innovation management system.
Ogutu Okudo – Oil and Energy Specialist, A member of the 2020 Forbes Africa, 30 Under 30 Class.
Ogutu holds near a decade of experience in the oil and energy industries. Serving on numerous international boards and advisories, Ogutu is an energy expert with a career overseeing projects in Sub-Saharan Africa in multiple business domains.
Nureshka Viranna – Forbes Africa 30 Under 30 Technology, Director and Co-Founder of ShopLi
Nureshka Viranna is a female Technology Entrepreneur based in South Africa. She is the director and co-founder of Shopli, a specialist eCommerce company that helps people sell their products and services online. She is recognized as an innovator in the industry and has helped many businesses start online stores, marketplaces, eLearning platforms, online malls and drop shipping stores.
Professor Ben Anderson (Keynote Speaker) – CEO, Davinci Institute
Ben enrolled for his undergraduate studies at the beginning of 1979, at the University of the Free State. After completing his Bachelors degrees in Philosophy, Psychology and Theology he continued with post graduate studies in both Theology and Psychology, concluding a Masters degree in Psychology during 1989. During this period he worked part time to sustain his academic development journey. He formally started his career as a registered Psychologist during 1990 and became involved in student and academic development matters at the University of the Free State.During the mid-ninety’s he became involved in community related activities in the Free State region, involving the development of working adults in a post-apartheid system. These engagements with both public and private sector organisations as well as labour unions resulted in him registering for a PhD focusing on the learning development needs of working adults in South Africa. One of the outcomes of his PhD was the development of a Bachelors degree in Managerial Leadership for working adult learners. As a result of this development, the University of the Free State agreed to establish a Business School which would offer, amongst other, a Bachelors degree in Managerial Leadership (BML) and a Masters degree in Business Administration (MBA). Ben joined the Business School as one of the founding members in 1999. He was appointed as an Associate Professor at the University of the Free State at beginning of 2000 and awarded his PhD soon thereafter.He joined the FirstRand Group during 2000 as the Chief Learning Officer for FNB, tasked to establish a for profit learning entity within the FirstRand group of companies, based on the work done at the University of the Free State. For the next 5 years he had extensive exposure to business related activities as experienced within a corporative context. Amongst other milestones, FNB Learning was registered as an accredited education and training provider.During 2005 Ben joined forces with Prof Roy Marcus to establish the Da Vinci Institute, a registered private higher education provider. He was accountable for the design, development and registration of a Certificate in the Management of Technology and Innovation, a Diploma in the Management of Technology and Innovation, a Bachelors of Commerce (Business Management), a Masters in the Management of Technology and Innovation and a PhD in the Management of Technology and Innovation. Ben has delivered several conference papers on managerial leadership development, at both international and national conferences. He has been involved as Chief Executive officer for the Da Vinci Institute since its formal registration and accreditation in 2005.
Spark ATM Systems, winner of the
Management of Sustainability Award in the large enterprise category
sustainability, stick to the basics
business is riding out a storm such as a global pandemic or trying to keep the
lights on when the power is out, the best course of action is to go back to basics.
For Spark ATM Systems, the basics that keep it anchored amid turbulent times are
its underlying mission and values.
“When faced with a situation or event that impacts on the business, we lean into our values – passion, integrity, and excellence – and ask ourselves if our decisions are in line with these,” says Russel Berman, Sales and Marketing Director.
This sustainability strategy has been tested time and time again – and held steady – in the 15-year history of Spark, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of US-based Cardtronics, the world’s largest ATM operator.
Its latest test has, of course, been the
Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on Spark ATM’s operations.
“When the country went into level five lockdown, we embraced the change of working from home and conducted a detailed needs analysis for the whole team,” says Russel. “This analysis considered home office components including a comfortable chair, sufficient screens, internet connectivity, scanner/printers, and even stationery.”
Attending to basic details like these is in sync with the company’s values. An employer with passion, integrity, and an ethos of excellence would hardly sit back with folded arms if its employees lacked comfortable seating arrangements and proper workspaces, even if there was a pandemic in full swing.
No sooner had all those arrangements been made than along came load shedding and Spark went back to basics again, making sure that the work from home arrangements was not affected by power supply issues and provided UPS units for all internet and laptops being used.
“Embracing change and creating value is fundamental to sustainability,” says Russel. “You’ve got to keep reinventing yourself in the face of change.”
As we speak, for example, Spark is preparing to launch the first South African-assembled ATM, the state-of-the-art Touchline, which has a 15-inch touch screen, a Linux operating system, and, most importantly, faster transaction times than the current standard.
Spark ATM remains committed to environmental sustainability with the offices in Cape Town and Johannesburg taking care of plastic, paper, and metal recycling as wells as exploring solar installations to support the power grid.
Nor do its old ATM components end up in landfills. “An initiative that we are particularly excited about involves donating old ATM motherboards to local technology universities and colleges so that students can work on these components to gain experience,” says Russel.
“Creating a sustainable organisation is
critical for the longevity of a company. Being able to rely on a solid set of
values as the foundation of the team is a critical starting point. If these are
in place then going back to basics when needed will be an easy task for a
committed team” says Russel.
Vault Group, winner of the Innovation Concepts Award in the Small Enterprise category
Relief in store for crime-hit courier companies
Courier companies in South Africa have become a soft target for criminals, especially now that online shopping has taken off and there are so many courier vehicles on the roads carrying high-value packages.
But it will soon be a whole lot harder for thieves to carry out heists on couriers. VaultGroup, specialists in secure storage, has come up with a solution to outwit the criminals.
“Courier companies are making massive losses and people are losing faith in the industry. As a consumer, I’ve been thinking, ‘Do I really want a courier van to come into my road?’ We realised that courier companies are suffering so we developed something for them,” says Lance Baum, VaultGroup chief operating officer.
That something is called AutoVault and criminals are not going to like it.
It’s an extremely secure system of lockers that uses geolocation and will only open when the courier driver arrives at the correct delivery address. When the driver is about 100 metres from the place where a particular package has to be delivered, the locker containing it – and only that locker – will unlock.
What’s more, the locking system is remotely programmed and operated for the safety of the driver.
Lance says geolocation-based storage is better suited to the courier industry than time-delay systems, which work in retail but could be detrimental to courier drivers.
“AutoVault is designed to cause as little disruption or inconvenience to the drivers as possible,” says Lance.
On the other hand, it should cause plenty of disruption among criminal elements who, up to now, have had the odds stacked in their favour.
Hopefully, this crafty innovation will bring some relief to the hard-hit courier industry.
PRD Logical Solutions, winner of the Innovation Concepts Award in the Emerging Enterprise category
Dignity for wheelchair-bound people when it is needed most
Approximately 75 million people around the world need a wheelchair on a daily basis, representing about 1% of the world’s population, according to the World Health Organization. Yet even in the high-tech 21st century, some of the most basic needs of wheelchair-bound people have been overlooked, such as being able to go to the toilet without assistance.
Portia Mavhungu, South African social entrepreneur and inventor, is changing that. Her invention, the Para Tube, is a wheelchair device “that helps people maintain dignity when they need it most”.
The Para Tube is a retrofitted wheelchair seat with a hidden toilet beneath it that the occupant of the chair can operate himself or herself without having to be lifted off or out of the seat.
The device includes a biodegradable bag containing a sachet with powder that soaks up the contents, turning into a gel that deodorises the bag, which is sealed until it can be disposed of.
This is a significant improvement on the usual built-in toilet facilities for wheelchair-bound people – typically a commode that also fits under a wheelchair seat but usually requires at least some assistance from a third party.
The Para Tube was inspired by Portia’s own experience of temporary disability a decade ago.
“In 2011, I fell from a three-storey building and broke my pelvis and arm,” says Portia, who vividly remembers the indignity of having to ask her mother or grandmother to lift her out of the wheelchair when she needed to use the toilet.
“I went into a deep depression, even though my disability was temporary. It got me thinking about what people experience when they have a permanent disability.”
Portia came up with the idea for the Para Tube, and then started looking for funding to develop it. She sent an email to all the Cabinet Ministers in government at the time, saying that she was a black African woman wanting to make a contribution to the quality of life of people with disabilities. “I said that if they couldn’t help, I could always go to America,” she recalls.
“Within 24 hours, I received a reply from the Minister of Science and Technology, who suggested I approach the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA).”
TIA agreed to provide R1 million in seed funding, along with coaching and mentorship and after that, one thing led to another.
As things stand today, 20 working prototypes of the Para Tube are undergoing clinical trials in South Africa and the patenting process is well in hand. The device has been granted PCT registration in China, South Africa and the United States, and the Austrian Patent Office – the largest in the world – has granted Para Tube novel status, confirming its uniqueness.
Portia and her company, PRD Logical Solutions, have since received no fewer than 24 innovation and entrepreneurship awards for the Para Tube, along with funding from the Industrial Development Corporation, a Presidential mention in 2019 and an honorary ambassadorship to the United Nations. The company is also working with Yale University in the United States on a marketing plan.
Portia is optimistic that the Para Tube could be on sale in South Africa before 2021 is out, helping to bring much-needed independence to wheelchair-bound people across the country.
Spark ATM Systems, winner of the Management of People Award
in the large enterprise category
‘There are no skills shortages for an employer of choice’
South Africa’s talent pool has never been healthier, and
it’s clear that Russel Berman of Spark ATM Systems is not joking when he says
“There are no skills shortages for an employer of choice,”
says Russel, Sales and Marketing Director. “It amazes me the number of times
people who apply say ‘We’ve heard from our friends what a cool place Spark is to
work at’. We have never found it
difficult to find talent.”
This is despite the fact that the payment systems industry
itself is small. “We hire for attitude and train for skill,” he says,
explaining that rather than recruit from just one or two industries, Spark
likes to hire young graduates from a variety of industries. “They bring in
their own ideas and fresh concepts.”
One of the qualities that makes Spark sit up and notice is a
problem-solving mindset. “We look for self-starters who approach a problem with
a solution. The team here know not to say, ‘I’ve got this problem, what should
I do?’ Rather, it’s ‘I’ve encountered this problem and our possible solutions
are x, y or z and I suggest y. Nine times out of 10, they are making the right
call and this way we are encouraging sound decision making habits,” Russel
If a company wants to attract and retain self-starting, creative-thinking,
problem-solving people it had better have the people management policies to
“One area where we are unique is that we pay two bonuses per
year – in December and in the middle of the year, for star performers,” says
Russel. These six-monthly stars are nominated by their managers, reviewed by a
committee and confirmed by Spark’s executive committee.
Other components of the company’s work hard, play hard
approach are gym facilities at both offices (in Cape Town and Johannesburg),
regular wellness events and, pre-pandemic, weekly socials and team breakfasts
With all this, and more, Spark is generally a happy,
productive group of high-performing people. But just as it strives to identify
and reward the top performers, the company knows there will also always be a
small percentage of underperformers.
“We are always looking for the bottom 10% who need to be
process-managed out of the business,” says Russel, referring to the 20-70-10
rule coined by former General Electric CEO Jack Welch.
Good people management is, after all, not only about making
the popular decisions but the hard choices too. That’s what separates a
run-of-the-mill business from an employer of choice.