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Neo Africa: Vivien Natasan

In five short years an ex-consultant builds a company that transforms almost every sector it enters.

Juliet Pitman

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Vivien Natasen

Vivien Natasan marches to the beat of his own drum. He takes opportunities where he sees them and has become an expert not only at identifying and filling market gaps, but at being a leader in whatever sector he turns his hand to. At a time when “best practice” dictates that companies focus on core business and unbundle, he appears to have gone in the opposite direction.

Originally started as a platform for people with a flair for innovative business solutions, today Neo Africa includes a consulting and IT division, and a lifestyle segment complete with aviation, concierge and events divisions. But while consulting might sound like a world away from aviation pilots, acting as a concierge or taking care of VIPs, all these developments have taken place naturally and organically.

“When we started to service national projects and needed to be in four different cities on one day, we bought a jet. Then we saw there was a gap in the aviation market so we carved out a niche for ourselves with a pilot training school and aviation charter business. Similarly, we were running projects with government and they’d outsource the launch to an external company. We realised we could do it better so we launched an events management operation. That’s how the business grew – we saw gaps where we could improve and we took them,” says Natasan.

Proof of success

What’s most surprising is not that a business can expand so rapidly in so many sectors in five short years, but that it has been so successful in each one of its growth areas. It has managed to develop the specialist expertise of niche players and is recognised as a thought leader and transformer of the sectors in which it operates.

Well known and respected for its consulting work and ability to put together powerful public-private partnerships, Neo Africa’s successes include designing a corruption-proof learners’ and drivers’ license testing system, rolling out mobile offices for the Department of Home Affairs and heading up a consortium to handle the scrapping of taxis as part of the Taxi Recapita-lisation Plan. On the strength of its lifestyle division’s track record, Neo Africa was recently chosen as one of five official National Supporters of the FIFA World Cup – one of the youngest companies ever to be awarded this position in the history of the tournament.

All eyes on Africa

“Neo Africa will be providing VIP logistics and lifestyle services for the World Cup. In return, we’ll be getting our logo on every ticket, ad campaigns, the FIFA website, posters and LED displays. Our logo will be seen by 22 billion people worldwide for three minutes during each game,” says Natasan proudly. Apart from lending the company powerful credentials (many large listed companies didn’t come through the FIFA audit successfully), it’s an enormous branding opportunity for a company that’s only five years old, and one that Natasan plans to leverage in order to roll out his plan of revolutionising Africa. “Our Africa expansion is underway and this platform, being chosen as a young up-and-coming African company for the World Cup, will help us tremendously in achieving our vision for growth,” he says.

Staying focused

And although the company’s diverse service offering may appear haphazard and disconnected from the outside, Natasan says all acquisitions and growth have been part of the broader plan for the Neo Africa brand. “There is a common thread that underpins all our divisions and ties together everything that we do,” he adds. And where others might lose focus leading such a diverse and rapidly growing company, Natasan remains cool-headed. Softly-spoken and composed, he’s able to clearly articulate the reasons behind his decisions, and outline an unambiguous vision for the way forward. Just like Neo from the movie The Matrix (who provided partial inspiration for the company name), Natasan has a knack for seeing things not only for what they are, but for what they could be. “We try to epitomise the change we are striving to achieve, not just for the continent, but globally,” he says.

Neo Africa
Player: Vivien Natasan
Est. 2004
Contact: +27 11 484 2833
www.neoafrica.com

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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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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Watch List: 50 Top SA Small Businesses To Watch

Keep your finger on the pulse of the start-up space by using our comprehensive list of SA small business to watch.

Nicole Crampton

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Entrepreneurship in South Africa is at an all-time high. According to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), total early-stage entrepreneurial activity has increased by 4.1% to 11% in 2017/2018. This means numerous new, exciting and promising small businesses are launching and growing.

To ensure you know who the innovative trailblazers are in the start-up and small business space, here are 50 of South Africa’s top establishing companies to watch, in no particular order:

  1. Livestock Wealth
  2. The Lazy Makoti
  3. Aerobuddies
  4. Mimi Women
  5. i-Pay
  6. AfriTorch Digital
  7. Akili Labs
  8. Native Décor
  9. Aerobotics
  10. Quality Solutions
  11. EM Guidance
  12. Kahvé Road
  13. HSE Matters
  14. VA Virtual Assistant
  15. Famram Solutions and Famram Foundation
  16. BioTech Africa
  17. Brand LAIKI
  18. Plus Fab
  19. LifeQ
  20. Organico
  21. 10dot
  22. Lenoma Legal
  23. Nkukhu-Box
  24. Benji + Moon
  25. Beonics
  26. Brett Naicker Wines
  27. Khalala
  28. Legal Legends
  29. The Power Woman Project
  30. Aviro Health
  31. AnaStellar Brands
  32. Data Innovator
  33. Fo-Sho
  34. Oolala Collection Club
  35. Recomed
  36. VoiceMap
  37. ClockWork
  38. Empty Trips
  39. Vula Mobile
  40. SwiitchBeauty
  41. Pineapple
  42. The Katy Valentine Collection
  43. OfferZen
  44. KHULA
  45. Incitech
  46. Pimp my Book
  47. ART Technologies and ART Call Management
  48. Prosperiprop
  49. WAXIT
  50. The Sun Exchange
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