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KZN Oils: Rajendran Reddy

Building a dream into a multi-million rand business

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Rajen Reddy of KZN Oils

Hunger for success and self improvement isthe key motivation which drives Rajen Reddy, CEO of KZN Oils. A mere five yearsago, Reddy was involved in a stationery-selling business, but hankered to getback into the mechanical industry. When opportunity presented itself, hegrabbed it with both hands and today is in charge of his own multi-million Randturnover business, supplying fuels and lubricants to Portnet and relatedindustries.Matriculating in 1980, Reddy initiallyentered a family construction business, moving on to establish a servicestation. “Around 1996, an individual in government asked me why I was notlooking at the bigger picture in terms of the oil industry,” says Reddy. “Thatplanted the seed for KZN Oils, although it would be a long time before it cameto fruition.”

The trouble was, he says, that the oilindustry was a closed one. “It’s something of an old boys club; very hard tobreak into and very exclusive. The established players are reluctant to allowentrepreneurs in and can make life a misery.”Reddy is unashamed to say that his dreamscame crashing down. “I’d spent too much time trying to put deals togetherwithout success. I was in a position where I had to pick up the pieces – and soI started a stationery business. That was in 1996; in the first month I soldabout R1 000 worth, and made a profit of about R100,” he relates. These slim pickings didn’t deter adetermined Reddy. “When you’re desperate and hungry, you do what you can to winand retain customers…by 1998, turnover in this business was up to R250 000 amonth,” he explains.Despite initial setbacks, the oil industryheld a persistentfascination for Reddy. “This was a dream Iwas not prepared to give up on,” he declares. “Things were changing for thebetter though; with the introduction of BEE legislation, the industry wascompelled to open up to new entrants; Portnet’s BEE programme was a significantstep forward which gave me the opportunity I was looking for to re-enter theoil industry.”

And so, in 1998, KZN Oils was born. “Weestablished the confidence of customers, primarily Portnet, in our ability toadd value and ensure security of fuel and oil supply,” says Reddy.Funding came from his own resources,supported by the confidence of clients and suppliers. “Banks, I believe, limita lot of entrepreneurship as they are unwilling to assist. I looked to my ownresources and the support of suppliers and clients; this also depended uponcareful and diligent management of cash flow.” Success, for Reddy, is a matter ofconstantly measuring himself and getting as much right as possible. Deadlinesare critical, as is a systematic approach which ensures tasks are completedaccurately and on time. “It’s important to be very clear when expectingsomething; I don’t like generalisation as it leaves room for error,” he says. Motivation and persistence are essential:“I ask myself, ‘what have you achieved today’? I try never to make the samemistakes twice. While I am often disappointed when I feel I could have donebetter, I always remember that it’s a 15-round fight. I may be klapped for oneday, but I’ll be back for more in the next round.”

Without persistence, Reddy says he wouldstill be selling a mere R1 000 worth of products a month. “I don’t know themeaning of ‘no’. In business, if I see an opportunity, I will want to know ‘whynot’, and find the answer to how that opportunity can be realised,” heexplains.His advice to aspirant business owners isnever to underestimate the task which lies ahead. “Understand exactly what isneeded to trade in your company before growth. Focus on yourself as anindividual so you can lead and manage your people effectively; network in theright forums, and above all, eat, sleep and live your business,” he says.Apart from the standard determinants ofsuccess – hard work, determination, commitment – Reddy believes it is largely amatter of the depth of an individual’s hunger. “For me, it comes down to howmuch you really want success. This will determine the extent of your sacrificeand taking the necessary steps to ensure improvement.” Contact: +27 31 570 0550; www.kznoils.co.za

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