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MiX Telematics on How to Tap into the Global Market

Top growth lessons from MiX Telematics founder Stefan Joselowitz, who has built a global empire with over R1 billion in annual revenue that continues to capture new international markets.

Paul Smith




Vital stats

  • Players: Brendan Horan, MD, MiX Telematics (Africa) and Stefan Joselowitz, founder
    and CEO
  • Company: MiX Telematics
  • Established: 1996
  • Visit:

Together, the senior management team are focusing on building a global footprint for MiX Telematics, while staying true to local market needs as well.

In Brief

  • International expansion strategies for businesses looking for top line revenue growth
  • How strategic acquisitions can help corporates enter — and understand — new markets
  • Ensuring the products on offer are suited to global expansion.

In 1996, Stefan Joselowitz had the idea to develop a vehicle tracking recovery system that triangulated cell phone tower signals and would help with the recovery of stolen vehicles.

We-recommend-tickWe recommend: Nick Bell: In Search Of A Billion-Rand Business Model

This was long before GPS was available on every smartphone, and there was one glaring problem with his concept: The team of engineers he was working with could only develop a system that could track a vehicle to within a few kilometres.

This narrowed the search, but not enough to be of any real practical value to a company trying to recover a vehicle.

An Unexpected Solution

At a loss for what to do, Joselowitz took time out and went on safari with his family. It would prove to be the spark his business needed. On their first morning at the game lodge, their ranger asked what they most wanted to see. Joselowitz’s answer was simple.

He wanted to see a cheetah. Eager to oblige, their ranger pulled out a satellite-like device that they used to track animals (who had GPS collars) within an area of a few kilometres.

This wasn’t a device that took you to a ball-park area – it was accurate to within a few metres, and gave Joselowitz the vital insight that he needed to get the first version of his product to market.

By combining the system his engineers had built with the device the rangers used, he was able to track vehicles to within a few metres and launch the business, Matrix Vehicle Tracking.

This product would be the first step to building MiX Telematics, a company that now boasts revenues of over R1 billion and tracks over 500 000 vehicles around the world. However, while the South African market was an important foundation for the business, global expansion has been vital to its growth.

Going Global

Starting as a local consumer business in South Africa in 1996, MiX Telematics has grown into one that operates in over 120 countries,with a global footprint that includes owned-businesses, value added resellers and service points spanning six continents. While there have been many lessons along the way, there is no question that Joselowitz and his team have successfully executed a global expansion plan.

Successful international expansion offers a massive opportunity for businesses looking for top line revenue growth, but the international stage is littered with failures, including Barbie’s botched launch into China and Starbucks’ unprofitable move into Australia.

Even some of South Africa’s most successful companies have struggled with international expansion. Discovery posted huge losses when it first tried to enter the US market and Woolworths’ unsuccessful attempt to launch a chain of stores in Nigeria ended with each store closing due to poor performance.

The MiX Telematics story has a few key lessons that can help growing businesses evaluate when and how to expand their companies globally.

We have used the ideas of Anil Gupta, author of The Quest for Global Dominance and one of the world’s leading thinkers on the framework of going global, to evaluate MiX Telematics’ globalisation strategy and how it can help you to grow your business.

Strategic Acquisitions


MiX Telematics’ global expansion began with a merger with OmniBridge, a company that designs and manufactures hardware and software solutions for businesses to better manage their commercial fleets.

At the time, OmniBridge’s customers included fleet management, bus and coach, and logistics companies, and their products were sold in over 75 countries.

A further string of acquisitions, including Tripmaster (US) and SafeDrive International (Australia and UAE) gave MiX Telematics offices in key markets around the world.

Certain industries and products are better suited for globalisation than others. For example, restaurant chains, hair salons and hospitals have a large percentage of market share controlled by local businesses.

This is due to the industry structure: Limited research and development (R&D) intensity, lower economies of scale, a high degree of localisation and the product or service requiring local infrastructure.

Other industries and businesses are better suited to going global. These include pharmaceuticals, mobile phones and semiconductors. These industries tend to have a high R&D intensity, low customisation requirements, multinational customers and large scale advantages.

In its original form, Matrix Vehicle Tracking would have been nearly impossible to take global, as the market need is unique to South Africa. However, fleet management systems are purchased in all markets around the world. In addition, many multinational companies require integrated reporting from their divisions in different countries, giving an advantage to a global player that can service multinationals in all of their markets.

A key lesson is to ensure that the business or product is suited for global expansion. Founders should study their specific industry and business characteristics to decide on the rate and extent of global expansion. In Joselowitz’s case, this required taking an existing product and capabilities, and adjusting them to meet different market requirements.

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Adapting to Markets

A common reason that many companies fail to succeed in foreign markets is that they don’t take into account the unique local operating conditions.

MiX Telematics’ localisation strategy centred on a standardised fleet management system with enough customisation options to meet the needs of clients in different countries, allowing the same product to be deployed and customised without having to do any special integrations.

The company also created unique strategies for different markets. In developed markets with higher levels of competition the team realised the need to focus on a single industry vertical to gain traction.

For example, they focused on bus and coaching companies in the UK and the oil and gas sector in the US. By becoming an expert in a sector, they were able to grow in developed markets.

A degree of localisation is an important consideration in any expansion strategy, but you do need to find a balance. If you totally adapt your product or service to your local market and change everything on offer, you lose any cost or integration savings that you may have. On the other hand, if all services are standardised in every market there’s a high chance that local needs won’t be met.

You need to find the sweet spot. Key areas to research when formulating a localisation strategy include: The needs of the customer, capacity of local suppliers, infrastructure, culture and linguistic differences, and finally government regulation.

Start Small, Learn Fast

MiX Telematics manages the risks of entering new markets with a phased-entry approach. The team first sets up a service point in the country.

If that country is getting traction or is a strategic market, it looks at finding a value-added reseller though a rigorous due diligence process.

This strategy is one that enables MiX Telematics to learn about the market before investing resources. It also helps it to tailor a growth strategy for each specific market based on local knowledge.

Key Lessons

One of the common reasons that international expansion efforts fail is a tendency for companies to enter a new market with a fixed plan and major investment. For example, Intuit failed in its first global expansion plan by expanding too quickly with little knowledge of the different markets it operated in. A better approach is to start small.
A focus on learning and developing a new, market-specific strategy that emerges over time, and is based on real data, will allow the company to determine what works in each market, ensuring sustained success. It also takes less investment, because the growth can be slower and more organic.

MiX Telematics has proven that South Africa has both the talent and skills to build global businesses that can compete and win around the world. With tough local operating conditions, it might be time for your business to start competing on a global stage.

Paul Smith is a writer and startup scientist. He currently manages an accelerator, Ignitor, which helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Ignitor has developed a new model that significantly improves early stage start-ups odds of success. His primary research interests include understanding the behaviours of expert entrepreneurs, as well as, how to most effectively support high potential start-ups. Follow him on Twitter and visit his website.

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Lessons Learnt

Can Being Deceptive Help You Build Your Business? It Worked For These 5 Entrepreneurs

We’ve all told little white lies. But what about the big ones? What if telling them would bring your business success?

Jayson Demers



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We all commit little acts of deception, like saying we got stuck in traffic when we were really late to the meeting because we wanted to watch the last five minutes of a favourite TV show. Little white lies? I’ve told them. You’ve told them.

But what about big lies, the kind truly lacking in integrity – like misrepresenting your sales to a prospective investor?

Obviously, there are often severe consequences to lying. Depending on the context, you could lose the trust of a peer, break a professional relationship or even face legal action. Yet, despite these consequences, lying is more common in the entrepreneurial world than you might think.

Just take as an example these five entrepreneurs, who might not be as well known or successful as they are if it weren’t for some clever acts of deception:

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Lessons Learnt

Three Habits That Underpin Entrepreneurial Success

Here are three powerful habits that will help you stay focused, define your entrepreneurial attitude and take your business from zero to hero.

Nicholas Bell




Successful people and businesses don’t all share the same traits and commitments. Yes they all have managed to break barriers and achieve impressive goals. They’re the leaders, the movers, the shakers and the industry creators. However, not all entrepreneurs are created equal and their recipes for success can differ wildly.

Some swear by a three-hour run every morning followed by a nice salad and the bustle of busy work life. Others need an incredibly early start so they can spend time with their emails and focus on their business. Every entrepreneur has their  own secret tricks that keep them on the straight and successful narrow, but most share a few simple habits that are guaranteed to make a difference.

Here are three habits that will help you become better at business and at leading others towards long-term success:

1. Always be ready to change your assumptions

Many people are unable to change the assumptions they have about their business and its future as it evolves. No business model should be locked in cement and rigidly upheld, it will need to adapt and adjust as it grows and customer needs change. As an entrepreneur you need to understand this concept and be prepared to evolve and change in new directions and markets.

Related: Business Plan Format Guide

This also ties into failure. Do you understand why you failed at something? Are you aware that perhaps your business model is changing? Can you learn from these experiences? Can you adjust your business model, get better research, refine your ideas? If you are ready to take positive value out of these moments and experiences, then you are an agile and inspired entrepreneur.

2. There’s no off switch

Passion and commitment are absolutely key to the success of your business and your own personal growth. You can’t switch off or walk away or just take a sick day because you feel like it, not if you want to stand as an example to your employees or if you want to build a brilliant business.

It may sound trite and tired, but a work ethic is the single most important habit to have as an entrepreneur. You need to always hold yourself to the highest standards, commit to ethical practice and work harder than anyone else.

3. Take it personally

This doesn’t mean gentle sobs in your office when Susan from accounts ridicules your maths skills. If you take your business personally, then you are wrapping the skills learned in points 1 and 2 above into one cohesive whole – you are embedding your passion into every crevice of your company. Care about what you do, be passionate about what it stands for, and be prepared to fight for its life. The route from zero to billion-dollar business isn’t easy. If it was, everyone would be doing it.

Remember, the idea is only 1%. Sweat, work, commitment and focus are the other 99% of the success equation.

Related: 22 Defining Entrepreneur Characteristics

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Lessons Learnt

Head Of Audi South Africa Shares His Top Lessons On Weathering The Storm In Turbulent Times

When the economy isn’t playing ball, it’s time to roll up your sleeves, face your challenges head-on, and get to work, says Head of Audi SA, Trevor Hill.

Nadine Todd




Vital Stats

  • Player: Trevor Hill
  • Position: Head of Audi South Africa
  • Visit: 

“In everything we do, across the organisation, we ask this question: Is it the best? That’s our value proposition. Without it, we don’t have a clear direction for everyone to follow.”

Some of the biggest brands in the world are well-known for keeping things lean. Amazon is a prime example, where even Amazon-branded employee backpacks are reused. Many bloated organisations learnt the hard way in 2008 that if you aren’t efficient and focused on the bottom-line, you’ll struggle to survive in competitive and volatile environments. On the other hand, businesses that were already lean and flexible not only survived the recession — many of them actually thrived, mainly because they were far better equipped to handle new economic realities than their competitors.

According to research conducted by Bain & Co’s authors of The Founder’s Mentality, Chris Zook and James Lane Allen, 85% of the biggest growth challenges large-scale organisations face are internal. This doesn’t mean the economy and competitors don’t matter. But the way leaders and managers of those organisations react to economic and external stimuli does.

Trevor Hill, Head of Audi South Africa, is well-versed on the impact external stimuli can have on a brand — even an established premium brand like Audi South Africa. Economic and political conditions in South Africa have impacted consumer confidence, and the premium vehicle market has experienced year-on-year double digit declines over the past three years. “The premium market is almost half the size it was three years ago in South Africa,” he explains. “Consumer confidence, the high pricing of premium cars, and a general buying down trend have really impacted our market. Three years ago, we were selling close to 20 000 vehicles per year. Today we sell around 10 000 vehicles. You can’t ignore market conditions. You need to face them head on, and do what’s best for your employees, the brand and your consumers.”

Related: 10 Ways To Develop A Success-Oriented Mindset

Here are Trevor’s five lessons for weathering the storm so that your business and brand are well positioned when market recovery begins.

1. Have a clear value proposition that everyone understands and embraces

“We will never be the biggest in the South African market,” says Trevor. “Mercedes-Benz and BMW produce in South Africa and have an advantage over us in terms of export credits. If we can’t be the biggest though, we can focus on being the best. That is entirely within our control.

“Our ‘Best’ strategy says that we want to be the best organisation, have the best product, the best brand and the best customer service. Everything we do must be looked at through this lens – is it the best? If we host an event, have we chosen the best venue, event organisers and caterers? Does the look and feel match our standards? If we can’t be the best — we don’t do it.

“In everything we do, across the organisation, we ask this question: Is it the best? That’s our value proposition. Without it, we don’t have a clear direction for everyone to follow.”

2. Understand what’s in your control and then roll up your sleeves and get it done

The rate cut at the end of 2017 really helped the premium market towards the end of the year. The problem is that there are things you can control — such as running a lean organisation — and things you can’t control, such as whether or not there will be another rate cut. So how do you ensure a proactive culture rather than a defeatist mentality when times are tough?

“The spirit of Audi has always been to challenge boundaries, roll up our sleeves and forge our own future,” says Trevor. “It’s in our ‘Vorsprung’ DNA. This has never been more applicable than when we’re weathering a storm, but it has to be fostered when the waters are calm.”

The theory is straightforward. If an organisation isn’t used to challenging boundaries and being in control of its own destiny, it’s difficult to find those characteristics when they’re really needed. When something is woven into a brand’s DNA, it’s because it’s always there, and the organisation’s entire culture supports it.

Trevor can point to examples everywhere. For example, in the 1980s, Audi was the first car manufacturer to put a five-cylinder engine and four-wheel drive on a rally car, and cleaned up two years in a row as a result.

“The Audi spirit is that you can improve anything. You just need to be willing to put in the work.”

Faced with extremely tough local conditions, the South African team is now doing just that: Rolling up its sleeves and finding solutions.

“This is how we handle the business as a whole. We’ve been completely upfront with head office and our investors about current market conditions, but we aren’t complaining — we’re putting the facts on the table, showing them what we can control, and unpacking how we’re going to see the business rolling forward. Because of that attitude and transparency, we have everyone’s full support.”

3. Never throw money at a problem; smart solutions aren’t necessarily the most expensive


“Spending a fortune on brand campaigns isn’t going to change the reality of the current market conditions,” says Trevor. “It’s easy to throw money at a problem, but then what? We’ve taken a different approach. We’ve selected a number of brand ambassadors whose values really align with our own. These include TBO Touch, Cameron van der Burgh, Wayde van Niekerk and Nomzamo Mbatha. Their followers know what they stand for, and associate Audi with those same values. It’s a much more targeted and niche way to gain awareness for our brand.”

For Trevor, not throwing money at a problem is a value that should be ingrained in an organisation. “We approached 2018 with this value top of mind. At the end of 2017 our management team went away for a strategy session. We collectively took a look at the entire business and asked what we needed to do to drive this business through the stormy waters of 2018.

“Each manager then got a target for their division that was aligned with the other divisions and organisation as a whole. They then conducted individual strategy sessions with their teams. The whole thing was a problem-solving mission: This is the budget we have, this is where our focus needs to be, now how do we go out and deliver the best? What’s our plan?

“These plans were then aligned with each other to ensure everyone was going in the same direction, and we measure everything. My KPIs filter down to the management team, and theirs filter down to their teams. It’s a very inclusive system; everyone can workshop the problem, and in that way we don’t only gather some out-the-box ideas, but we get everyone’s buy-in as well.”

Related: You Need This One Trait To Succeed In Reaching Your Goals

4. Encourage your team to try new things and communicate collaboratively

Very often, individual divisions communicate well together, but the message and camaraderie is lost across divisions, particularly between sales and marketing. “We’ve found two ways to encourage participation and camaraderie across the business,” says Trevor. “The first is that we always encourage new ideas. If something is tried and tested and doing well, especially in marketing, try to own that property. But if something isn’t giving you what you want, change it. We’re often too scared to change things that aren’t working or to try something new. We encourage participation and thinking differently. The bigger your pool of ideas, the more you have to work with.”

The company also has a number of monthly meetings that bring different divisions into the same room for workshop sessions. “We have a lot of field staff who aren’t often in the office. We need to keep communicating with them to pull them into the fold,” explains Trevor. “For example, once a month we have marketing and product meetings. The marketing, product and sales teams all attend. It gives everyone an opportunity to know what’s happening and hash out any questions or issues then and there. The communication between divisions — particularly marketing and sales — is much better as a result.”

5. Keep your core motivated

Like many industries, there’s a lot of employee movement in the consumer and premium brands segment. “People move. That’s the reality of job markets around the world,” says Trevor. But stability is important, and at Audi SA, that means identifying your core employees and keeping them happy.

“We have a very strong core. Within the organisation we’ve identified a core group of employees whom we absolutely need if we’re going to continue to run this business efficiently and successfully. Once you’ve identified your core, you need to keep them happy, and that’s about a lot more than their paycheque.

“Different people want different things — advancement, developing their careers, an opportunity to work abroad or perhaps spend more time with their families at home.”

The lesson? Figure out what’s important to each member of your core and try your best to give it to them. Success is a team sport — you need to keep that core team in your corner.


Trevor Hill began his career with Audi as an area manager in 1989. In 1997 he left South Africa to join Audi’s head office in Germany. Since then he has headed up divisions in Germany, Japan, China, Dubai and South Korea. One of the biggest lessons he’s learnt through his travels is that while there are certain business fundamentals that hold true everywhere, each culture has its own way of doing business, and you need to understand what that is on the ground if you’re going to make an impact and be successful.

“One of the biggest things I’ve had to communicate back to head office is that each territory operates slightly differently,” explains Trevor. “For example, in Germany, you have 100 days in any new job to prove yourself. If you don’t make something happen in those 100 days, you’re not seen to be successful. This is impossible in Asia, where business is all about relationships. You have to develop a relationship based on trust and honesty, and that doesn’t happen overnight. Until you have that trust though, your employees and customers won’t work with you. When you enter a new territory, take your time. The first year is all about understanding the lay of the land. In the second year you can implement your strategy, and in the third year you can start reaping rewards.”

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