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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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Colin Timmis Says ‘Position Yourself For Success By Starting With The Numbers’

People pay first who they feel pressure from, so people will pay you when they feel pressure from you.

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Entrepreneur Colin Timmis founded South Africa’s first cloud accounting practice in 2011, Real Time Accounting. Then, a few years after being appointed as South Africa’s first Xero partner Colin became Xero Country Manager South Africa. Xero is the emerging global leader of online accounting software that connects small businesses to their advisors and other services.

Related: Pat Pillai On How He’s Helped Over 5000 Entrepreneurs Using 3 Key Steps

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Two 20 Year Olds Reshape Entrepreneur Landscape With New Social Investment Platform

The Merge vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

Merge Connect

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It’s no secret that finding the right investor for your venture is a challenge that most entrepreneurs face. The current process of finding investment is one that is outdated, and limits entrepreneurs due to a lack of time, and network that is needed to find the right investor. But, this doesn’t have to be the case in today’s digital society, says Zander Matthee and Brandon Bate, co-founders of Merge.

“By making the Internet the middleman, we are able to connect with each other much simpler and faster than before” was Zander’s response. “We have taken advantage of this, and have created a digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors” added Brandon.

Merge is a social platform that connects entrepreneurs and investors. It aims to simplify, refine and accelerate the process of finding investment for entrepreneurs, and the process of finding investment opportunities for investors. From idea to developed, the platform allows entrepreneurs to present a brief outline of their venture to a network of all investor types. While doing this, entrepreneurs are able to browse through, and connect with investor profiles that suit their requirements.

Related: 8 Codes Of Success That Helped Priven Reddy of Kagiso Interactive Media Achieve A Networth Of Over R4 Billion

From Private Investors to Venture Capital, and everything in between, Merge allows all investor types to join. Investors have the opportunity to personalise their feed to suit their investment preferences, and will be able to connect with innovative businesses – that are looking for investment – at their fingertips. Only once there is a mutual interest in each other, are users able to enter a secure private chat where they can discuss further and share documents under the protection of a digital NDA.

The two boys became good friends during their time in high school at St Stithians Boys College. However, it was only in their last year, 2016, that they decided to pursue their dreams and create the platform. They didn’t know how to code, so rather ironically, they needed some form of investment to get the platform off the ground.

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“We knew we had a mountain to climb, but we believed in our vision and that we were really trying to make a difference, and if we could get others to see that, they would be onboard.” said Zander.

Related: Lessons From The Rich And Famous: Manage Your Money Like Oprah To Avoid Going Into Debt Like Nicholas Cage

Chris Peters is one of these individuals that bought into their vision, and became Merge’s first investor. As a successful entrepreneur and part time investor , Chris saw how much value the platform could bring to all entrepreneurs and investors alike. His marketing and strategic background gave him insight into how Merge could play a vital role in a lucrative space, Brand involvement.

“Entrepreneurship and SME development are two key factors that drive economic growth in developing countries like South Africa. That is why brands are currently getting involved, and looking to support entrepreneurs through various means. We have built a platform that allows these brands to successfully market, and execute on the programmes they have created to assist entrepreneurs.” said Chris

Merge was created to assist all entrepreneurs and investors in finding exactly what they are looking for, regardless of age, race, sex, financial position or social status. That is why anybody can sign-up as an entrepreneur. As long as you are determined and willing to work for your dreams. For too long has the investor space been seen as an “elite club for the select few”, and Merge is here to change that. Whether you’ve gotten your bonus at the end of the year and looking for new investment opportunities, or are an active investor, you can sign-up. Whether you’re currently working, or a retired industry leader, you can join as a mentor.

Their vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

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