It was a daily bus ride past the building site of the Absa Towers in downtown Johannesburg that got Sibongile Manganyi thinking about her own business. The 31-year-old founder and MD of Indigo Kulani Group noticed that the skyscraper was being built by teams of men in hard hats, with not a single female in sight.
In 2004 she graduated with a degree in architecture. She found employment, but then a friend asked her to help after-hours with a church building project in Soweto. That was in 2006. By the end of the year she had secured a second client.
“I started small and offered services only, so I did not need capital. I developed a good relationship with the Paragon group and when I told them I needed an office, they allowed me to sub-let. All of a sudden people started to take me more seriously because I had a great office.”
Manganyi could not even afford a laptop back then. She had a bulky PC that she unplugged at the end of every day and put into her car boot so that she could work from home. “It was tough, but then I asked a friend to join me. Because he was skilled in the technical aspects of architecture in design, it gave me space to start looking for additional clients.”
Manganyi says there are often disputes in the building industry because of different values and principles. “There are companies that simply don’t deliver and I find that unacceptable. My partner and I started looking at small businesses that did a good job and showed promise. We brought them on board and gave them an opportunity to grow along with us. That has enabled us to build a reputable brand. Our clients know that if we say the job will be done by a certain day, they can bank on that.”
Today the group includes quantity surveyors, engineers, interior designers and space planners, architects and construction teams.
Manganyi says the strength of the business is a result of the partnerships she has built with leading companies, such as engineering specialist Aurecon. “I’m always interested in learning how successful big businesses get to where they are and applying the lessons in my own group.”
She’s looking to grow her team of 20 professionals to about 200 by 2015 through the ongoing acquisition of smaller businesses.
“The business has grown largely from referrals, with clients in one province recommending us to their colleagues in another. There’s nothing like word of mouth when it comes to growing a business.” – MONIQUE VERDUYN
Player: Sibongile Manganyi
Company: Indigo Kulani Group
Contact: +27 (0)11 440 2762