Winner of the Director-General Award for Overall Excellence for 2018, category for emerging enterprises
Get that idea off the
drawing board and into action
Some people have brilliant ideas that sadly never come to
anything. Others manage to get their ideas off the drawing board but take so
long or spend so much to implement them that the market moves on in the
meantime. A relatively rare few can translate a great idea into commercially
viable reality, and to do so swiftly and inexpensively too.
It’s clear to which category SVA Innovate belongs. Having
been instrumental in incubating various patented – and profitable – risk
management and asset protection solutions for parent company SVA Holdings, moving
ideas off the drawing board and into clients’ businesses is where it excels.
“Our job is to take the ideas and make them happen,” says
Lee McFadyen, Group Technology Executive at SVA Innovate, adding that this
isn’t quite as simple as it sounds.
“It’s not always easy to interpret the business requirements
and come up with a spec. You’ve got to have a very good understanding of the
client’s business and technology, and then convert the spec into the kind of
technology jargon that young people (the developers) can understand.”
Moving from idea to spec to solution involves much
brainstorming and consultation, using a whiteboard approach that explores the
problem and its proposed solution from all conceivable angles, from finance to
design and testing.
Once a workable specification has emerged, it has handed
over to the “whizz kids” whom SVA Innovate handpicked for their technical
ingenuity and “out-of-the-box” thinking.
This is how the company has managed to come up with market-disrupting
risk management and governance solutions like a retail stocktaking solution
that is 99% accurate in predicting stores’ stock levels 24 months in advance.
What’s more, the idea-spec-solution process is constantly in
progress, with a steady stream of innovation projects at different stages of
incubation and realisation at any given time.
“You won’t find us sitting on our laurels and expecting what
we did yesterday to be good enough for today,” says Lee. “We always have at
least five products in the pipeline, all with the same ambition: How can we
disrupt the market?”
It’s a hard act to follow – just ask the competition
Winner of the 2018 award for Innovation Concept, category
for large enterprises
Netstar in the
driving seat of the Internet of Things when related to GSM connectivity
So you thought Netstar was just a vehicle-tracking company? That’s
only half the story. Quietly and without blowing its own horn, the company has
reinvented itself as an Internet of Things (IoT) business built for the future
when related to GSM connectivity.
Netstar’s IoT platform has opened up a host of new business
possibilities that the company is wasting no time in exploring, says Francois
Stols, Chief Technology Officer.
Based on open source technology – a departure from Netstar’s
traditional closed-source model – the IoT platform is highly scalable, highly
redundant and capable of ingesting “massive” amounts of data for Netstar’s
customers, according to Francois.
When he says massive amounts of data, he means massive
amounts. Between 250 million and 300 million messages a day are streamed via
the platform to insurance companies and brokers, as well as Netstar’s own emergency
These millions of messages originate from over 700 000 Netstar
subscribers with devices installed in cars and trucks on South Africa’s roads
(and some assets too; horse saddle recovery is another new market where Netstar
is leaving its tracks).
All this data has immense value for insurers and companies
with large vehicle fleets. “The better they understand driver behaviour, the
better they can manage their business costs and risk,” says Francois. “Some of
our insurance clients base their entire insurance model on the data we
The beauty of Netstar’s IoT platform is the flexibility and
scalability that Francois mentioned earlier. Insurance players of all sizes use
its data-streaming capabilities, from small and advanced brokerages through to large
and major insurers.
While the platform is the same for all, the communication medium and technology service is not. Small brokers are serviced through a web portal, mobile app and insurance dashboard, while advanced brokers have additional integration. Large insurers receive their data via the IoT platform from the devices installed in vehicles.
Not content with being one of the first vehicle trackers to make headway with InsureTech, Netstar is lengthening its lead through paperless device fitment, automated capturing for workforce management and the like. It’s also exploring new market possibilities like collision avoidance systems in the mining industry, not to mention the vast potential of India, which has about 400 million vehicles on its roads.
As the saying goes: Success is not a path you find but a
trail you blaze.
Winner of the Innovation Concept award for 2018, category
for small enterprises
Biometrics that’s user-friendly yet a state of the art
Picture the scene: You’re at the airport waiting to board an
overseas flight when a frantic call comes in from the office. The server you
run for your biggest and most important client needs urgent attention but the
only people who have access to the server room, yourself included, are out of
the office. Your customer service team is panicking.
You whip out your laptop and, right there in the airport coffee
shop, grant your trouble-shooters one-time, time-limited access to the server
room. Emergency defused, you head for the boarding gate.
“As long as you have an internet connection, you can manage your
access control from an airport coffee shop, a hotel room, your home – from
anywhere in the world,” says Francois van Loggerenberg, Lead Developer and
Project Manager at iPulse Systems, designers and makers of biometrics systems.
“Our systems give clients the most granular level of control,” he
says. “You can decide exactly who, when, where, for how long and for what
reason a person should have access to a particular space. If someone who does
not have authority attempts to enter that area, the system will deny them access
and report the attempt.”
While protecting clients from intrusions, the systems also protect
the privacy of the people whose fingerprints it records. “People rightly want
the assurance that their fingerprint is protected and won’t be shared with
someone else,” says Francois. “So we do not store the image of the fingerprint
and only extract the identifying data.”
iPulse’s systems are of course smart enough to verify that the
fingerprint matches the person’s identity, using an encrypted connection and
application programming interfaces (APIs) to request validation from either
their own product, BIOVAULT, or from Home Affairs for high level security
State of the art all this certainly is, but it’s also extremely
user-friendly, Francois says. “Users are mostly receptionists and security
officers with little software experience, so we have cut down on the processes
that can cause complications and taken the user experience to the simplest
For example, the fingerprint imaging device automatically
interacts with the user to get the best possible image, guarding against blurry
images and smudged fingerprints.
It’s clear as day why this small South African enterprise has
succeeded in stamping its name so firmly on the fiercely competitive biometrics
market. It’s going places where others can’t.
Winner of the Innovation
Concept award for 2018, category for emerging enterprises
what SA needs are more ideas like MobeeWash
about an incredible business and job creation opportunity, and little or no
competition to worry about. There are 14 million passenger cars and light
commercial vehicles in South Africa’s 10 major cities, a serious shortage of
professional car-cleaning garages and an abundance of unemployed or
unemployable people who could be trained in “detailing” (the proper term to describe
top-notch car cleaners).
a market just begging to be disrupted and that’s what MobeeWash has in mind.
of queueing to have your car washed, you book a time via the MobeeWash app and
either arrive and find us waiting for you, or we come to you. I’m still tickled
pink when my doorbell rings and its MobeeWash,” says Sean O’Connell, founder of
MobeeWash and group CEO of its parent company, Bumblebee Consulting.
vehicle owners like to drop off their cars while they go to the gym or a quick
meeting, knowing that their pride and joy will be gleaming and spotless within
an hour. (Note that only waterless, eco-friendly products and steam are used,
so there’s no water wasted or messy runoff.)
has taken MobeeWash less than two years to attract 5 000 users in Cape
Town, and now to enter the Gauteng market, Roodepoort having recently become
the first city in the province to have a MobeeWash operator.
part that probably makes Sean and his business partners proudest is that so
far, MobeeWash has created jobs for 60 people who were unemployed and in some
cases unemployable, whether through lack of skills, illiteracy or age.
“MobeeWash was born out of a dream to get South Africa working by embracing the concepts of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and disruptive business philosophies,” he says, explaining that it uses NGOs and youth programmes to find the most suitable candidates – all unemployed or unemployable.
“We provide full training and mentoring and an initial three-month contract. If a person performs, they become permanent.” Background checks are done on all candidates before joining the MobeeWash family.
for the MobeeWash app, which is downloadable from the Google and Apple stores,
Sean says: “I can’t claim to be completely unique because Uber and AirBnB
thought of it first. But we believe there are massive opportunities in car wash
markets locally and internationally. It would take 58 000 teams 30 days to
wash every car in South Africa. Were we to seek to address just 3%
of this market initially, we would create employment for 10 500 people.”
Winner of the Sustainability Award
for 2018, category for large enterprises
To be sustainable, differentiate yourself
About six years ago, SVA Holdings looked to the future and predicted that conventional security services would no longer form part of its strategic framework… Its response was to completely reinvent itself. The SVA of today has transformed into a Technology-based, Risk management and Asset Protection enabler and bears little resemblance to the company it used to be.
“We transformed from a
conventional South African security business that only did physical guarding to
a technology-based business with intellectual property that is patented in 43
countries,” says Derick Deyzel, Chief Commercial Officer.
It was a shift that was necessary
to ensure the company’s longevity, he says. “To be sustainable, we had to
differentiate ourselves from everyone else. As a technology-based risk
management company that owns and controls our own IP, we have been able to do
One of the company’s biggest
strengths is through the application of its patented platform, Infoman, to help
its clients identify, evaluate and mitigate through tangible corrective actions
shortcomings and/or deficiencies within their supply chains and improve their
legal and risk compliance.
For example, a major retail client was using manual inventory processes in all its stores, which was time-consuming and prone to error, not to mention fraud. “We forklifted their manual processes and automated them, speeding up the processes 10-fold and giving the entire line management “near “real-time visibility,” Derick says. The refined process created the operational visibility, allocated ownership and accountability but also empowered the client to test and measure the effectiveness of operational supply chain decision making, which was evidenced by analytical, source-based risk data.
SVA has mastered the art of
analysing risk-related data to identify trends and weaknesses for clients to
act on – and in some cases, make uncannily accurate predictions, he says. Today,
certain of our clients have been able to predict shrink 2 years ahead with 99%
This is no idle claim: the financial
statements of some of its clients for the past 4 years show that the stock
level shrink predictions calculated through SVA’s Infoman platform have turned
out to be precise.
While SVA’s transformation has clearly worked for its clients, and itself, there’ll be no resting on its laurels, Derick says. “To stay relevant, you’ve got to be dynamic. That’s one of the advantages of our technology platform. If we start with a process and close the loopholes, we swiftly move on to the next shortcoming within the supply chain and in so doing able to ensure Infoman’s relevance in years to come, as it may be today.
Winner of the Sustainability Award for 2018, category for medium
The perils of
depending on the next sale
Sign a new deal today; move on to the next deal tomorrow.
The incessant search for the next sale keeps many business owners awake at
night – and so it should. As long as the focus is on finding the next house to
build, the next passenger to fly or the next restaurant meal to serve,
sustainability will probably remain elusive.
Prospects for such businesses start looking even more
precarious in a higher risk environment of the VUCA variety – volatility, uncertainty,
complexity and ambiguity – like the one in which South Africa now finds itself.
“Right now, how do you run a business that can withstand the
ups and downs? One way is to make sure that your income is not entirely dependent
on new sales. To be a sustainable business, you need a stable line of income,”
says Teryl Schroenn, CEO of payroll and HR software company Accsys.
For Accsys, which has been in business since 1981 (and a
tt100 finalist and winner every year since 2006), that stable line of income comes
from its ability to retain customers beyond the short term and so earn a mix of
annuity and contract income.
“Why do people use companies like ourselves? Because our
promise is that we’re going to keep you up to date with statutory requirements.
Every time the Budget comes out, our clients have to comply with a new Tax Act,
and they rely on our software to do that.”
Bear in mind that Accsys has clients in 19 African
countries, which means keeping abreast of the tax and other payroll changes in
all those countries.
“If we were not a sustainable business with a stable line of
income – annuity income – it would be very difficult to keep on developing new
stuff all the time while remaining financially stable.”
Sustainability is not, of course, just about the financial bottom
line. “The triple bottom line is always important,” says Teryl. “You really
cannot be an island. You do need to be part of an economic tribe and a social
tribe. In Accsys’s case, this includes training and skills development for a
wider circle than itself, while moving towards paperless operations and doing
Such projects need not break the company budget, she adds.
“If you can’t do the big things, do small things – everywhere.”
Winner of the 2018 award for Sustainability, category for
with making changes – big and small
From behaviour change as small as putting on a jersey instead of switching on a heater to making design changes to the aerodynamics (and therefore energy efficiency) of its products, sustainability is a subject that comes naturally to engineering firm Air Blow Fans.
“A reduction in energy has a direct link to CO²,
as well as savings from lower power usage, and we have a history of energy
efficiency,” says Gavin Ratner, the company’s managing member. “Much of our
product range (of industrial-scale fans) is generally refurbished many times
before they are beyond economic repair and the material is scrapped and sent
back to steel manufacturers for inclusion as scrap materials into their
Through effective engineering, it’s possible to
significantly reduce energy consumed, and therefore operating costs, he says. ”Using
rotor designs that are more aerodynamic, we can improve the fan’s operating
point on its fan curve to better suit the required system flows and pressures.”
These benefits appeal to many users of industrial fans – but
by no means all.
“People tend not to like change and some are more risk averse
than others. Mostly, when clients become conscious of the positive implications
of the recommended change, such as greater energy efficiency and lower costs,
they make the only decision that should be made – they change,” says Gavin. “Others
will resist and want things left the way they are”
Flexibility and the willingness to explore and experiment are
key in driving greater efficiency, which almost always means using resources
more sustainably. This comes easily at Air Blow Fans. “I’m the quintessential
engineer who loves tinkering,” says Gavin. “I’m not scared of change or the
unknown; I enjoy pushing boundaries and trying new things.”
Where he has become something of a stickler is in
discouraging energy-wasting practices such as keeping the heater on when you
really don’t need it. “Put on a jersey,” says Gavin. “It sounds like a small
thing that won’t make a great difference, but change starts with us. If more
people started thinking along the same lines about how we use energy, it would
make a difference.” Small things count!
Winner of the Sustainability award for 2018, category for
sustainability from yesterday, today and tomorrow
Learn from what happened yesterday but don’t use your
rear-view mirror as the driving force.
Constantly check where you are on the S-Curve pattern of
innovation and if your products are mostly approaching the top, make sure you
are already starting again at the bottom with new ones.
Hire young, extremely talented, out-of-the box thinkers to
turn your specifications into real, sellable products, and manage these young
people extremely well.
These are some of the learnings that SVA Innovate has
embedded in its business, enabling it to feed a steady stream of fresh, innovative
and affordable new products and services to its parent company, SVA Holdings.
Armed with these, SVA Holdings (itself a tt100 winner for Sustainability in
2018) can maintain the competitive edge it has in the governance and risk
“Business sustainability means not sitting on our laurels
and expecting what we did yesterday to be good enough for today,” says Lee
McFadyen, group technology executive at SVA Innovate. “At any given time, we
have at least five new products in development.”
This is not simply a case of churning out new products but
about delivering products that disrupt the market, Lee says.
An example is SVA Innovate’s stocktaking solution, which can
predict stock take results two years ahead, with 99% accuracy. “Walmart came
back to us and said we were spot on,” says Lee.
One of the five or so new products that the company is currently
working on is a new technology solution for retail stores battling to deal with
in-store crime. The physical presence of security guards is no longer enough of
a deterrent and smart technology is increasingly filling the gap.
“All businesses say they want to use technology but having a
computer is one thing; employing technology is another,” says Lee, adding that
many companies see technology as a “forced purchase” instead of a tool that can
significantly improve their risk and governance processes – affordably.
“We don’t spend a lot on developing our solutions; actually, we operate on a limited budget and deliver products at very reasonable prices, having developed a stable framework over the past 4 years helps us in achieving this,” he says. To a large extent, this is possible because the company makes a point of hiring people with a can-do attitude who don’t demand expensive equipment to deliver. “They don’t have an 8-to-5 mindset and lack of technology is not an obstacle to them; they think differently and find a way to make it happen.”
Winner of the Excellence in the Management of Systems award
for 2018, category for medium enterprises
Our adjudicator Marilze Schwar shares with us their experience of Accsys.
How to keep your
thinking at the cutting edge
When you’re good at what you do and it’s working well, why
change? That attitude is called complacency and it doesn’t go down well at
payroll and HR software solutions company Accsys.
“We’re constantly reinvestigating our systems and processes
as if we had just bought the company and were walking in cold,” says CEO Teryl
Schroenn, who has regular conversations with fellow executives and other
employees to check what’s still working and what’s not.
Such discussions can lead to interesting solutions in unexpected
aspects of the business. “This morning, feedback received from some of our
staff is that diversity is a major issue,” Teryl says. “One of the things we
came up with is that for the next year, we will focus on one of the South
African languages so that we can all at least greet each other in it.”
Age diversity also helps keep the company’s thinking fresh and creative, she says. “The youngest people here are interns straight out of school. The oldest person is 72. This cross-generational mix is important because it provides a blend of stability and new ideas.” When some people are risk-averse, others risk-tolerant and the rest somewhere in between, the results are more likely to be working than if one or the other dominates.
And results says Teryl, are what count. “The implementation of any technology or system should be designed around outcomes and not the method. The question we ask is: What results do we require?”
That might seem like common sense but a surprising number of
companies focus on method rather than results. For example, some businesses
will automate their payroll systems but keep the old Excel spreadsheet system
just in case.
“The one system checks the other,” she says, adding that
this might sound like a good idea until you consider that it not only costs
more to run two parallel systems but it is also time-consuming – so there go
any time-saving efficiencies management might have been hoping for. “Don’t just
do old things in a new way. You’ve got to shift your thinking.”
Something else to be on the lookout for is processes and
systems that employees are supposed to be following or using but aren’t, Teryl
says. “Ensure that what you think is happening is actually happening. People
don’t like change and old habits die hard. If you change something and no one
is really watching, people will fall back into their old ways.”
Then there is the not-so-old cliché about fixing things that
aren’t broken. “Sometimes it is tempting to change something to make your own
life easier but, in the process, you might be making life more difficult for 10
other people. You have to keep on asking yourself and others: Is this really
going to drive the business forward?”
So there you have it: Go to work every day
looking at your company as if you have just bought it and are walking through
the door for the first time. What would you change and what would you keep, and
what results do you seek?
The Innovation League is a study that explores the innovation landscape in South Africa and Africa. It is the only awards programme in the country that focuses on innovation as a strategic capability and has been running since 2015. The Innovation League is executed by Innocentrix in partnership with varies stakeholders, including the prestigious tt100 Business Innovation Awards and Milpark Business School. It celebrates innovation excellence while helping organisations in Africa better understand their innovation maturity. It also provides excellent insights into the African innovation context and supports innovation capability building.
The aim is to help organisations to innovate better and to specifically write up case studies on innovation excellence in Africa. Results are unpacked and the winners recognised at an annual Innovation Conference in collaboration with partners and friends of the Innovation League.
Based on INSEAD’s Innovation Readiness Model, upon completion of the survey participants will receive a short feedback report at no cost, explaining their innovation maturity score. The report will present a snapshot of your organisation’s innovation strengths and weaknesses, great insights on what your organisation is already doing to be at the leading edge of innovation and a view of what you can improve upon.
The Innovation League Survey takes only 15-20 minutes to complete. It does not ask for detailed information and there are no costs involved! We are looking forward to meeting you at the award ceremony later this year!
If you have any questions please contact Henra Mayer by sending an email or alternatively get hold of Zander Powell by clicking here. The competition closes on 15 October 2019.