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Mthombo IT Services (M-IT): Nkosinathi Khumalo

Black IT services company identified opportunity for growth in a time of crisis

Juliet Pitman

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Nkosinathi Khumalo

During 2000, the IT space was not an easy one to operate in. Companies had just experienced the vagaries and expense of Y2K and dot.coms were turning into dot.bombs faster than you could say ‘megabyte’. And yet, Nkosinathi Khumalo, co-founder of Mthombo IT Services (M-IT), his brother Lucky and friend Eben Clynsmith, chose that period to start what is arguably the top BEE IT company in the country.

Launched in Johannesburg with just seven people, today M-IT has a nationwide presence, employs over 280 people and lists SARS, AngloGold, Telkom, HP, the CCMA (Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration) and some of the major casinos as its clients.

It’s an Impumelelo Top 300 Company and in 2004 it was voted the Top Black IT Company. Riding the wave of its success, M-IT last year merged with EOH, one of South Africa’s largest consulting, technology and outsourcing companies listed on the JSE’s software and computer services sector.

The company is proof that, as Nkosinathi Khumalo puts it, “Where there is crisis there is also opportunity.” Making the most of the opportunities that existed meant strategic targeting of services and potential customers. An in-depth analysis of the IT space in 2000 led the founders to focus on meeting the day-to-day servicing needs of clients as a multi-vendor service provider.

“We went for the ‘boring’ services, the ones we knew everyone would need. And we also knew that out of the 250 IT companies registered with the DTI at the time, there were only three black-owned ones in services,” says Khumalo.

“It wasn’t a unique start-up recipe but it was about being in the right place at the right time and understanding what customers had just gone through with Y2K. They’d spent a lot of money on it and wanted someone who could maintain and support the systems they had bought.”

Khumalo says that once M-IT was set up, careful targeting of specific prospects played an important role in getting the right clients; the team knew exactly who they wanted to sell to and went for quality instead of quantity.

“We targeted people who had mission-critical systems and who thus wouldn’t mind paying slightly more for excellent service. Businesses with 1 000 or more users would give us the right size clients and we also wanted those with a national presence as we had developed a nationwide footprint that could offer standardised and centralised servicing in different geographical areas,” explains Khumalo.

As CEO, Khumalo also headed up sales. “Sales is a probability game,” he says. “You need to get out there and talk to people.” Fortunately the people he targeted were experiencing problems with their IT systems and welcomed anyone who could solve their problem.

But where most salespeople do all the talking in meetings, Khumalo sat and listened. “When you’re selling services, the best thing you can do is ask one question about what problems the prospect is experiencing and then keep quiet, listen and take notes.

In the first two meetings, you might not say very much at all about your company but all the while you are gathering information pertinent to that particular client so you can formulate a solution that fixes their problem,” he says.

Targeting these clients was one thing. Signing contracts with them was another. “One of our biggest challenges initially was that we didn’t have a track record,” says Khumalo. But in spite of the challenges, the members managed to get clients to give them a chance.

More than that, they convinced clients to pay them upfront. “Cash is king when you’re small and this was one thing we didn’t budge on. When you’re in services, you need cash to pay salaries and we had to be paid upfront in order to survive,” he says.

It meant that they had to turn away some business, but in the long run the strategy paid off. “We kept good company by affiliating ourselves with credible multi-nationals like HP and Dimension Data and we never, ever compromised on quality,” he adds. “We also stayed focused. Throughout our years of growth, we’ve stuck to what we do best.” Following its recent merger, M-IT looks set for even greater successes.

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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

Live free of the opinion of other, but always in service, is one of the key principles Pat Pillai lives by.

CEOwise

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Pat Pillai, is a social entrepreneur who after being a national news anchor for 15 years, is founder and CEO of LifeCo UnLtd SA, which invests in impact entrepreneurs and impact enterprises. LifeCo UnLtd SA has benefited over 112 000 beneficiaries in SA (5000 are young entrepreneurs; 124 are established adult entrepreneurs, of those 76 are impact/social entrepreneurs).

Related: Mike Sharman Talks About Retroviral’s Successful Campaigns And The Importance Of Social Media In Marketing

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How Mark van Diggelen Pivoted To Create A Global Gaming Platform

“The day you stop getting enquiries about your product, you’re know you’re on the wrong track,” says Mark van Diggelen, CEO of GameZBoost.

CEOwise

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Mark van Diggelen is the CEO of GameZBoost, they created a white label mobile gaming platform that is currently deployed in 45 countries around the world. In addition, Mark’s mobile gaming tournaments have taken the industry by storm.

 

Related: Eben Uys Shares His Concept Behind Mad Giant Brewery And How You Can Make Your Business Stand Out In A Crowd

 

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