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Market Stifled? Create Your Own

Escape economic doldrums and achieve maximum business growth.

Pavlo Phitidis




In the days of wind powered seafarers, the true skill of a ship’s captain was measured by those who traversed the Atlantic and the Pacific. What made these journeys so treacherous were the doldrums, spaces and places of no wind.

Not a breath sometimes for days on end. Caused by the centrifugal forces of the earth’s spin, the doldrums claimed many pioneering and ambitious captains, crews, the ships they sailed in and ultimately, the investors who lost all but their lives.

The strategy adopted by smart captains was this: Acknowledge that you’re in the doldrums and then act. Get your crew on deck to take up oars and paddle to where the headwinds are blowing. Those that sat and prayed for an end to the doldrums often perished.

Related: Thriving in a Downturn

Paddling a seafaring ship is no mean feat. It’s hard. The ship was designed to be powered by wind, not grumpy sailors. The smartest captains would even offload hard-won cargo into the seas to lighten the load since they knew it was a race against time and resources – water and food!

The South African Doldrum

Today, I believe that South Africa is in the doldrums. The rand has collapsed, our recent credit rating places us just above junk status, the impasse between labour and business deepens and that between business and government is at an all-time low.

Ambivalent economic direction and leadership suggests the doldrums are here to stay for a while. Any prediction of when they will end will make one look like a fool or a genius. Either way, it’s too risky to bet, and good entrepreneurs are risk averse.

At Aurik Business Accelerator we’ve conducted 22 000 entrepreneur assessments, and the best performing entrepreneurs have a number of things in common, one being a low tolerance for risk, and a habit of only moving once the downside risk has been capped.

The best way to alleviate the worry of the doldrums is to act. Paddle towards the headwinds. Make changes in your business model, strategy and perhaps life.

The big benefit today is that we have  many radars pointing clearly to where the headwinds are blowing. As a South African entrepreneur, when I look into this radar I see a weak currency that seems intent on depreciating further as long as current conditions hold.

I also see a distinct and unique heritage, English as the language of business, a collection of excellent trade agreements such as the African Growth and Opportunity Act allowing exports into the US to be duty free, the source of raw materials and brainpower.

When I shift the radar further afield, I see flat, soft economies globally, intense competition, humility brought on by tough times, and the need to innovate to sustain and build business. In one word, the appetite for change in foreign markets is greater than it’s ever been, and with change, the appetite to accommodate new ideas has grown remarkably.

The starting point is always to work with what you’ve got. Looking at the radar of three entrepreneurs that I work with can provide some inspiration, insight and ideas on what we could do.

Related: How to Survive – and Grow – in Tough Times

The Biker Fashionista

Preston has always had a natural talent for fashion and making any item of clothing look edgy and sexy. 20 years back he created a brand called Rip Torn that targeted urban, hip, edgy young professionals. It was a hit.

Recently he became interested in biking and noticed that the protective clothing that bikers wore was, well, very functional. It made a biker look ridiculous and overweight with a contorted body made up of knobbly knees and a big bum.

Within a short period, Preston came out with a range of bikers’ wear that challenges the edgy, sexy clothing ranges of Diesel, True Religion and the like, but with all the functional features of traditional bikers’ wear.

The jeans were Teflon coated inside, had removable knee guards inside the leg, gauzes to increase airflow and reflector tags in all the right places.

The range got launched and the business is being built. Preston’s radar points his ship towards an obvious set of headwinds.  Niched customer segments, such as bikers amongst others, are easy to find and reach globally.

Bikers cliques are serviced by passionate, biking retailers that are easy to locate globally. On the back of his unique, edgy fashion biker wear, a number of models would see Preston leveraging his fashion range here in South Africa into the same market abroad.

His choice of country must capitalise on trade agreements, the weak rand, his unique designs, and the fact that a retailer in that foreign market will want a point of difference.

That retailer is hungry for something that will set his outlet apart from other competitors in his market. Preston’s strategy for entry could be through an agent, distributor or direct, but this is another discussion. His radar is clearly indicating which direction he needs to paddle his ship to catch some very fruitful headwinds.

The Leather Lord

As a second generation entrepreneur, Thomas’ taxidermy business is built on one of South Africa’s most sustainable natural resources: The hunting industry. Popular or not, it brings in over R1,6 billion of foreign revenue and employs well over 400 000 people.

Foreign hunters pay fortunes to spend a week on a hunting trip and leave with a trophy. The skills of a good taxidermist include the tanning of skins which allows for the manipulation of the leather into shapes and creates a smooth feel.

His greatest competition comes from US taxidermists who also target American hunters. They claim that South African taxidermists cannot be trusted to turn a hunt into a trophy; that they’re poorly skilled and unreliable, and a hunter can ill afford to take chances. It’s problematic for Thomas.

The creation of a hunting trophy has a number of stages and each stage adds tremendous value in the process. Ideally, Thomas, and South Africa, want the complete trophy to be made here.

Thomas’s radar is spinning hard and never before has timing been so good to paddle towards headwinds blowing in the faces of his competitors. In the niched taxidermy industry, American competitors who are at a cost disadvantage serving the same market will find relief in having a significant portion of the taxidermy process done locally where the cost of labour is lower, the advanced process of value dropping the shipping costs further and no need to use preservative chemical for the hide.

The competitive price advantage for a taxidermist in the US using Thomas for this purpose would provide an undeniable competitive advantage.

Related: Disrupt Your Thinking, Transform Your Business

The Dignified Driver

Martin had a terrible accident at the age of 26. On a weekend away with friends, he jumped into the Vaal River from the same spot as the day before and hit a sandbank, which left him paralysed, unable to move his hands or legs. Many of us would have resigned our lives at this misfortune. Martin did otherwise. He went on to build one of the world’s best 4×4 electric wheelchair manufacturing businesses, selling wheelchairs locally and globally today.

Most disabilities occur at a time in one’s life where you don’t know what you don’t know and so the purchase of a wheelchair is a tricky business. Martin’s wheelchairs have the benefit of being designed by someone who knows what your life will be like.

I understand that a great frustration is the complete loss of independence, having to rely on people for almost everything. In addition, it’s likely you use a catheter. Catheters that aren’t managed and not emptied can cause fatal infections. Martin’s experience in this field led to him designing a number of useful elements to his wheelchairs.

The most recent has been a solenoid that Martin designed to allow the user of the wheelchair to independently void the catheter. You simply drive out the room, find a tree, park under it and release the contents of the catheter with a wisp of your breath: A completely independent solution avoiding an embarrassing request for help, and potentially fatal outcome for inaction.

Similar to Preston and Thomas, Martin’s radar is pointing to strong headwinds. A niche market, proprietary design, local manufacture using many local parts, a weak currency lowering his final costs, and a trade agreement.

Sourcing and finding other manufacturers and licensing the solenoid or supplying it for their use on their products is in itself a significant business. What makes it even easier for Martin is the fact that he has an international reputation both as a motivator, inspiring all who have the benefit of meeting him, but also as a user.

There is undoubted sincerity in his presentation of the product. Imagine his story in the US!

So, to all entrepreneurial captains out there, look at what you have, combine it with what we have in South Africa, and begin paddling to the headwinds. It may take time but when your spinnaker fills with wind, you may wonder why you never did it before.

Your first step is acknowledging

Admit you’re stuck in a doldrum, then act accordingly. Those who do nothing will perish.

Plot your direction

Shift your radar for headwinds or market opportunities, then paddle if you have to, to get there.

Related: Silent Killers of Great Businesses and How to Avoid Them

Pavlo Phitidis is the CEO of Aurik Business Incubator, an organisation that works with entrepreneurs to build their businesses into valuable assets. Pavlo is a regular commentator on entrepreneurship on 702 Talk Radio and 567 Cape Talk Radio. He can be contacted at

Company Posts

How TomTom Telematics Can Keep Your Business Moving Forward

Successful businesses need to find ways to improve their margins while still delivering excellent and efficient customer service. VDM’s CEO, Deon van der Merwe, explains why this wouldn’t be possible in his business without TomTom Telematics’ solutions.

TomTom Telematics



TomTom telematics

When TomTom Telematics entered the South African market in 2010, the local team took a deep dive into the different industry verticals they were servicing.

The more they got to know their customers, the more they realised a different solution was needed to address local conditions, and a subscription model was introduced whereby customers didn’t need to invest a large capital outlay into TomTom Telematics’ technology, but would receive the tech and software, including installation, at no extra cost, in exchange for a monthly subscription fee.

This model gives SMEs affordable access to TomTom Telematics’ solutions, but it’s had another benefit as well: As TomTom Telematics introduces new innovations, existing customers can benefit — without the costs associated with replacing all of their existing technology themselves.

An indispensable tool

For a transport and logistics business like VDM Group, which has more than 160 vehicles on the road, this means they have access to incredible new offerings, without needing to replace their TomTom units themselves.

“TomTom plays a critical role in our business,” says Deon van der Merwe, CEO of VDM Group. “It’s an indispensable tool in ensuring quality customer feedback and the management of KPIs for all supply chain stakeholders.

“Earlier this year, TomTom Telematics launched their New WEBFLEET product. We were very satisfied with what we had, and yet they still approached us and offered to replace all our existing units with new tablets, and they’re covering the installation costs,” explains Deon.

Related: Driving Your Business Growth Towards More Customers

“New WEBFLEET is the result of TomTom innovating their product based on customer feedback from around the world, and the local team wanted to ensure we had access to the additional functionality and innovations that had been introduced.”

Seamless integration with your network

According to Deon, the new TomTom PRO 8275 units seamlessly integrate VDM’s fleet scheduling software with information they extract from TomTom, including individual vehicles’ standing time and arrival notifications.

“The software from TomTom is open API, which means that all our various applications can communicate and interact with each other,” he explains. “From a productivity perspective, we no longer need to manually capture any trip information.

In addition, we have every conceivable piece of data available that will assist us to run a leaner, more cost-effective fleet, enabling us to ensure that we are delivering on all our KPIs — particularly with regards to meeting our customers’ needs.”

Related: Changing The Shape Of What’s Possible

VDM is a large transport business, but Deon believes the benefits for SMEs are as great, if not more so. “Many SMEs don’t have the back-office support that we do. The ability to capture and use this information without a team of admin specialists at your disposal is a huge competitive advantage for smaller businesses,” he says.

Offering you the competitive edge

VDM offers a specialised logistics service that creates custom-made options for clients. In order to ensure the most optimal and cost-effective solutions, while still ensuring top quality delivery, they need to consider special and complex individual customer requirements, from the point of origin to the point of destination, before finalising a customer-specific solution.

“We take into account a host of factors, including inventory carrying costs, volume requirements, product specific factors and route to market,” explains Deon.

“Road transport significantly impacts total supply chain costs, and if not managed properly, can have a severe impact on the sustainability of any particular channel. We try and manage this risk by continuously improving our service through innovative logistical solutions, the use of advanced technology, vertical integration and a team of passionate and talented experts.

TomTom assists in creating differentiators

“This focus has helped us to develop a market offering that includes dedicated and completely flexible inter-modal solutions, which is a big differentiator for us. TomTom Telematics plays a key role in our total productivity, helping us measure the performance of road transport across our supply chain.”

Deon believes that what you don’t measure you won’t know.

“TomTom provides updated fleet statistics that allow us to constantly benchmark our fleet against pre-defined route surveys and, in so doing, enables massive savings in fuel and total turnaround time.

Communicating via the WEBFLEET platform also helps us save time and creates a formal trail of correspondence with our drivers. I don’t believe it’s possible to successfully run a business like ours without a solution like this.”

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Company Posts

Sasfin Continues To Support SME Growth

Sasfin’s equity stake in fintech lender Payabill set to enhance SME growth.






In another major step forward in supporting growth in SMEs, Sasfin today announced that it has acquired a strategic stake in fast-growing fintech lender Payabill.

Payabill, a 100% digital lending business, provides working capital and/or trade finance to small businesses. The collaboration between Sasfin and Payabill accelerates financing opportunities for customers.

Sasfin, South Africa’s leading business challenger bank, last year successfully launched its digital platform, B\\YOND, for SMEs.

“Sasfin has been investing in fintechs, building digital capabilities (such as B\\YOND) and working with third parties (such as XERO Accounting) for a number of years with the aim of adding value to our business and wealth clients. Payabill has made huge strides in giving businesses access to digital finance and we are thrilled to announce this investment,” says Sasfin CEO Michael Sassoon.

Payabill CEO Eli Michal launched the pioneering fintech start up in SA in 2017. Payabill settles suppliers directly for its clients and allows clients to select their own extended payment terms. “We are incredibly excited by the opportunity afforded to Payabill by having Sasfin as an equity and debt partner. Sasfin will provide access to new channels and much needed funding that enables us to support the growth of small business finance in South Africa,” says Michal.

Michal started the fintech as he “wanted to enhance access to finance for small businesses in South Africa. We all know that boosting small business creates jobs and enables growth. Traditional lenders have neglected this segment of the market due to the high costs associated with on-boarding and assessing these customers, as well as managing their credit risk. It made no sense to us that a retail consumer could get multiple forms of credit, almost instantly via electronic channels, but small businesses could not. They were being neglected. With this in mind, we set out to build a completely paperless, digital solution to address this market’s unique requirements.”

Currently, Payabill offers loans of up to R150 000 to businesses. The intention is that with the investment made by Sasfin, Payabill will be able to offer larger loans to SMEs in the near future.

The alignment of Payabill’s aims and Sasfin’s long-term focus on small business in SA made for an ideal partnership. “SMEs can now borrow digitally, via Payabill, and bank via B\\YOND from Sasfin – reducing admin and costs which often stifles small business growth. Both B\\YOND and Payabill are gaining meaningful traction in the SME market and there are a host of additional digital initiatives that we are working on to further help small businesses thrive,” says Sassoon.

“While Sasfin has always offered a trade and debtor finance solution, this was largely for more established businesses. The new offering speaks to smaller businesses that are passionate about growth, and our larger Trade and Debtor Finance offering will be there to support businesses that reach the next phase in their development,” says Sassoon.

Sasfin Holdings Limited (“Sasfin” or “the Group” or “the Company”) is a bank-controlling company listed in the “Financials: Investment Services” sector of the JSE Limited (“the JSE”).  Sasfin and its subsidiaries provide a wide range of complementary banking, financial and related services.

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Company Posts

Driving Your Business Growth Towards More Customers

Designed to help its customers get the most from their businesses through the right telematics solution, New WEBFLEET can help you reach your customers quicker, get more done, improve efficiencies, save costs and boost your revenues.

TomTom Telematics




Europe’s highly regulated operating environment has made telematics ubiquitous in business. On the one hand, this means industries across the spectrum have become safer, more efficient and highly productive across the EU. On the other, it’s much harder to stand out from the crowd when everyone follows the same best practice standards.

“We don’t have those same stringent regulations in place,” says Justin Manson, Sales Director, Africa at TomTom Telematics. “Our clients have realised what a huge competitive advantage this actually offers them though.

“Locally, everyone understands the role that telematics plays in tracking what your drivers are doing right and wrong, and use it as a tool for encouraging good driving practices, but there’s so much more to this solution, and we’re making it our mission to help business owners really use it to their benefit.

“When deployed across the organisation to its full capabilities, a telematics system can radically improve productivity and workflow. Done correctly, a business can save up to 10% on its bottom line, and redeploy that cash into the company’s growth, thanks to drivers reaching customers quicker and getting more done. The right data also increases productivity and ensures better turnaround times.”

Thomas Schmidt, MD of TomTom Telematics, loves visiting South Africa for this very reason. “Because so many business owners aren’t using telematics to their full extent, there’s such a huge opportunity for us to assist businesses in their growth here,” he says. “We deliver a high-value stack of products that can change the way companies operate, and most importantly help them save money and make money. The challenge for us is educating our customers so that they understand what our solutions offer, and the incredible impact they can have on a business. We consistently improve these solutions based on customer feedback as well, making them very much from customers for customers.

Related: Why Your Fleet Management Plays a Pivotal Role In Your Business

“Anyone can buy a map for less than R100. Why invest in such expensive devices? The answer is because we’ve developed solutions that change lives. With the right data — and access to that data — you increase safety, simplify your business, drive efficiencies, increase your output and customer service, and ensure you are always productive and reliable — across the organisation. And that impact can be measured, and given a real ROI value.

“Imagine the impression companies that operate at that level make on their industries. They stand out from their competitors. There is so much room for growth in South Africa as we deploy these solutions.”

Game-changing solutions

As an organisation, TomTom Telematics is focused on continuous growth and innovation as well, constantly learning from market conditions, its customers and industry needs to improve its product offerings.

The result is the launch of New WEBFLEET in February 2018. “We’ve increased the value we offer our customers,” says Thomas. “We’ve collated data from hundreds of thousands of customers around the world who gave us their feedback through surveys, and New WEBFLEET is a window into easy-to-use, smart fleet management that is a game changer for companies.”

“TomTom Telematics is in the business of helping businesses,” agrees Justin. “Our goal is help our customers master their challenges. The right data at your fingertips will help you change the way you operate. That’s our goal. How much cash is being left on the table in an organisation because of inefficiencies?”

Introducing New Webfleet

The smartest way to manage your vehicles and mobile workforce

tomtom-telematicsTomTom Telematics’ state of the art Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) fleet management solution, with best-in-class user interface, is inspired by two decades of working together with customers to achieve more for better fleet management. New WEBFLEET is everything you need to manage your vehicles in the cloud, in real time. It allows you to monitor reports and dashboards, manage orders/workflow, and improve driving behaviour, safety and service, helping you save fuel and reduce costs.

Best-in-class user interface

  • A future-proof platform with a completely renewed interface, based on the latest HTML5 technology and driven by continuous innovation.
  • Simple and clean interface, with minimised clicks for faster working.
  • Intuitive functionality, means it is more accessible for greater impact across your business.
  • User rights management and state-of-the-art data handing ensures the highest level of data privacy and data security.
  • Fast access to the right information.

Related: Fleet Tools Will Help You Get More Done In Less Time

Map view

Know where your vehicles are and where they have been. Different map options such as Google, Google Street View or satellite map are enriched with traffic information, giving you a more detailed view on what’s happening on the roads. Toggle between different types of information on the map such as traffic, addresses and areas and create specific views, so you only see the information you need.


New WEBFLEET’s dashboard gives an overview of performance at a glance. Up to 27 KPIs can be used to track the performance of vehicles, individuals, benchmark teams or give a simple overview. This helps you to track real-time performance against your pre-defined KPIs.


New WEBFLEET gives you instant access to the information that matters, meaning you can spot trends over time and use real-time information to make smarter and more informed decisions. You can instantly download or schedule reports to help you stay on top of everything — from fuel efficiency and legal compliance to quality of service.

Manage on the move

New WEBFLEET is optimised so you can manage your fleet on any device by entering WEBFLEET through a web browser or by downloading the WEBFLEET Mobile app on your smartphone.

Send routes direct to drivers

  • Plan accurate routes in New WEBFLEET by adjusting multiple variables such as location, time of departure/arrival, traffic and vehicle type.
  • Get a choice of alternative routes, as well as suggested fastest route with traffic.
  • Customise your route by simply adding new waypoints, or dragging and dropping existing waypoints on a route. Then choose from guided or forced route* options.
  • Send planned routes directly to a TomTom PRO driver terminal to keep your drivers on the right track.

Related: Time Is Money And It’s Time You Saved Both When Running Your Fleet

Personalised Map views*

  • Create your own saved map view to reach information you need fast.
  • Switch between vehicle groups or areas, without needing to adjust the map filters and zoom levels. n


Many ways to customise WEBFLEET to suit individual requirements from personalised views to adding information to make what you see more informative on one page.

Plan a route the way you want it

Use multiple variables (including waypoints) to give fastest or most efficient routes.


Across different device types, allowing you to always stay on top of business.

Simple, clean and easy to administer

Toggle between views to get the right information to focus on the task in hand. Get the right information to the right people at the right time, keep data secure and in the right hands.

Send routes to driver terminals

In real time, ensure drivers follow or avoid specific routes.

Visit and follow us on Twitter @TomTomWEBFLEET

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