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Maxxor Business Solutions: Mustapha Baboo

IT solutions provider says winners must have initiative to defy the odds

Juliet Pitman

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Mustapha Baboo

Statistics regarding business start-ups in South Africa are sobering. International failure rates sit at around 60%; South African failure rates are pegged as high as 80%.It’s a wonder anyone ever leaves the comfort of salaried employment. The chance of success decreases with lack of start-up capital and if you are entering an industry that is experiencing a glut of operators hawking the same service or product as you are.

Against all these odds, people like Mustapha Baboo, director of Maxxor Business Solutions, still make it. Baboo launched Maxxor into the oversubscribed IT services industry in 2004, without any external funding. Today, the company lists MWeb, the Provincial Government of the Western Cape’s Centre for e-Innovation and the Cape Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry among its 110 clients.

Maxxor was the overall national winner of the 2005 SAB Kick-Start Competition and has also been nominated as one of South Africa’s Top 300 Emerging Empowerment Companies in the Software sector by Impumelelo. When Baboo left employment after ten years in the IT services sector, he had big dreams, but if he thought that success would come easy, he was in for a surprise.

“I had what I thought was an awesome business plan and I took it to a number of funding agencies but they all rejected it. I got the same response from all of them: it was too generic; there were too many lone IT consultants out there; they couldn’t see how I was going to differentiate myself.” Baboo took what lessons he could from the experience. He changed the business plan, put his savings together and started knocking on doors to drum up clients. “Every day I heard a resounding ‘no’,” he says.

When someone eventually said “yes”, Baboo became yet another among thousands of other independent IT consultants. His challenge now lay in growing something that would go beyond what he could offer as a single operator.

“I quickly realised there was no way I could build the business I wanted on my own so I set about trying to find other like-minded people to join me. The trick was selling them the idea that it’s better to own a smaller part of something big than to own a large piece of something small,” he says. Raj Moodaley and Shana Kassiem joined as partners, each bringing a unique core competency to the business.

Staying very close to clients was an important part of the team’s early success and perhaps a key differentiator is the fact that the company sees its core competency not in technology itself, but in the application of technology to satisfy business needs and solve business problems.

This means the focus remains clearly fixed on what the client needs. Technology is merely the tool used to meet those needs. “Most IT projects fail,” says Baboo, “but professional service, together with highly skilled technical people, have ensured we don’t drop the ball.” “You can’t compete in this industry if you don’t innovate,” he adds.

“Part of that is ensuring you are continually learning. I want our people to learn one new thing every day.” Learning and mentorship are strongly entrenched in the company with project teams made up of highly skilled senior people and juniors who have potential.

He is passionate about developing people, but Baboo has little time for those who expect success to come knocking. “I find it worrying when people who claim to want to run their own businesses start off by asking what everyone else can do for them. You have to start by asking what you can do for yourself,” he says.

“People complain that nothing is being done to help entrepreneurs, but it’s just because they don’t make the effort to find out what’s there and make use of it.” He’s hit on an important point and one that perhaps goes some way to explaining why he has been successful when so many others have failed.

There is simply no substitute for being proactive and taking the initiative. Skills and contacts can only take you so far – what sets the winners apart from the losers is an ability to self-start.

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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25 Of The Most Successful Business Ideas In South Africa

Find out who’s making waves in numerous industries and how they managed to differentiate themselves in local and international industries.

Nicole Crampton

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“Disruption is all about risk-taking, trusting your intuition, and rejecting the way things are supposed to be. Disruption goes way beyond advertising, it forces you to think about where you want your brand to go and how to get there,” says Richard Branson.

South Africa has its fair share of innovative and disruptive businesses taking both local and international industries by storm. From cutting edge space technology to reimagined logistics, and innovative business models, here are 25 of the most successful business ideas in South Africa:

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27 Of The Richest People In South Africa

Here are 27 of South Africa’s richest people, but how did they achieve this level of wealth? Find out here.

Nicole Crampton

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Learn the secrets of SA’s most successful business people, here is the list of the 27 richest people in South Africa:

In a world with growing entrepreneurship success stories, victory is often measured in terms of money. The feat of achieving a place on this list is, however, years of hard work, determination and persistence. “One has to set high standards… I can never be happy with mediocre performance,” advises Patrice Motsepe.

From the individuals that made the 27 of the richest people in South Africa list, actual entrepreneurs and self-made business people dominate the list; while those who inherited their fortunes have gone on to do even bigger and better things with their wealth. Over the years, some have slipped off the list, while others continue to climb higher and higher each year.

  1. Elisabeth Bradley
  2. Sharon Wapnick
  3. Bridgette Radebe
  4. Irene Charnley
  5. Wendy Ackerman
  6. Paul Harris
  7. Wendy Appelbaum
  8. Mark Shuttleworth
  9. Desmond Sacco
  10. Giovanni Ravazzotti
  11. Markus Jooste
  12. Gus Attridge
  13. Gerrit Thomas Ferreira
  14. Cyril Ramaphosa
  15. Adrian Gore
  16. Raymond Ackerman
  17. Michiel Le Roux
  18. Lauritz Dippenaar
  19. Jannie Mouton
  20. Stephen Saad
  21. Patrice Motsepe
  22. Allan Gray
  23. Koos Bekker
  24. Ivan Glasenberg
  25. Christoffel Wiese
  26. Johann Rupert
  27. Nicky Oppenheimer
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Watch List: 50 Top SA Black Entrepreneurs To Watch

South Africa needs more entrepreneurs to build businesses that can make a positive impact on the economy. These up-and-coming black entrepreneurs are showing how it can be done.

Nicole Crampton

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Early-stage South African entrepreneurial activity is at an all-time high of 11%, according to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, and entrepreneurial intentions have also increased to 11.7%. With both activity and intentions growing significantly year-on-year, there are more businesses opening up around South Africa than ever before.

The increase in entrepreneurship has seen the rise of more black entrepreneurs across numerous sectors. From beauty brands to legal services and even tech start-ups, these are 50 top black entrepreneurs to watch:

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