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Mike Luptak Of Dlala Nje On Recasting Business Roles

When he decided to start Dlala Nje, Mike Luptak was venturing far outside his comfort zone. Now he is encouraging other companies to do the same thing, uncovering a goldmine of untapped potential in the process.

GG van Rooyen




Vital Stats

  • Player: Michal Luptak
  • Company: Dlala Nje
  • Established: 2012
  • Contact: 

A few years ago, Michal ‘Loopy’ Luptak was working at one of the most prestigious accounting firms in the country. He was young and driven, but he was struggling to invest fully in his chosen career. It just didn’t feel right.

So, Luptak made the brave decision to change his life. He moved into Ponte Tower and started offering tours of the infamous building and the surrounding Hillbrow area.

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The tour business has been running for almost three years now, and Dlala Nje recently started offering a new kind of tour — one that aims to assist companies in addressing issues within their organisational cultures.

What do you offer companies?

Simply put, we assist companies to alter the entrenched roles and beliefs that so often exist within large organisations.

We’ve assisted Nando’s, for example, in initiating people into the company culture — giving overseas members of the company insight into South Africa and what life is like here.

And how do you do this?

We provide what we call an ‘immersive experience’. We strip a group of company representatives of all their possessions, give them a small amount of money, and send them into the city.

They are then given a list of tasks that they need to complete. For example, they will be dropped off at Bree Street with R9 each, and told to get to Yeoville.

What is the aim of this?


The aim is to take a group of people out of their comfort zones and recast them in different roles. For instance, the MD or CEO of a large company might have no idea how to catch a taxi from Bree Street to Yeoville, but a cleaner or receptionist might know exactly how to do it, since they have to do it daily just to get to work.

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What do participants take away from the experience?

Hopefully, they realise that roles within a company are too tightly defined. Many companies have wonderful resources that they never tap into.

Not only does this sort of experience allow employees to engage on a very different level, but it also reveals those individuals with great potential that isn’t being tapped.

When I worked as an accountant, I wasn’t happy. I’m a people person — I need to interact with people — but my job wasn’t allowing me to do that. I wasn’t given a client-facing role at all.

I just sat behind my desk and worked. Had I been allowed to fulfil a role that was better aligned with my personality and interests, I might not have left that job.

Companies need to make sure that the right people are in the right roles. You could have a wonderful employee with loads of potential who’s not performing for the sole reason that he or she isn’t in the right position. Put people in the right role, and they flourish.

How does the experience change the views of management?

Apart from the above, those in management roles tend to gain a greater understanding of the difficulties that employees have to deal with daily. Many people are ignorant about how public transport works in South Africa. This kind of experience offers some much-needed insight.

It is a humbling experience, spending some time in an area such as Hillbrow. Seeing what people have to go through really fosters compassion.

How does a tour change the employer/employee relationship?


Employees feel much more appreciated after this kind of experience. They feel more like a complete person in the eyes of the employer.

It’s an important lesson for companies: If you truly invest in the lives of employees, you won’t lose them. Employees care about more than money — they want to work for a company that cares about them.

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What are your goals for the future?

We would like to go much larger with the concept. Ideally, Dlala Nje would like to sign up volunteers from all over the world and have them work in Africa.

Volunteer work is important, both for employees and employers.

Young people who are preparing to enter the job market can gain some useful life experience through volunteer work. Prospective employers, meanwhile, can benefit by employing young people who have willingly volunteered for a good cause.

Employing someone who has done volunteer work in a difficult environment is rarely a bad idea.


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