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Ngikwazi: Andre Grobler, Elaine Sampson, Jules Newton

Entrepreneurs rely on chutzpah and expertise to land National Lottery contract.

Juliet Pitman

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Andre Grobler & Elaine Sampson of Ngikwazi

Sometimes success is as much about attitude and energy as itis about expertise and business experience. Ask the team at Ngikwazi. The fieldmarketing company, spearheaded by Andre Grobler, Elaine Sampson and JulesNewton, landed the contract to recruit, train, roll-out and support the nationwideretail network for national lottery operator, Gidani. It was a contract theywon on the basis of a great idea, and little else.

“At the time, the company wasn’t formed, we had no offices,no equipment, no staff, no capital just our expertise and a roll-out  model that was nimble, flexible andcost-efficient,” says Grobler. Their expertise was considerable. Grobler hadbeen responsible for the roll-out of the retail network infrastructure forfirst national lottery operator, Uthingo, while Newton and Sampson were training experts atAvocado Vision.But it was the model they proposed that really caughtGidani’s attention and set them apart from the multi-million rand organisationsthat had also tendered. Grobler explains: “We proposed that the work thatneeded to be done be divided into two streams that could be taken care of bytwo different field forces. A part-time, lower-skilled team made up of peopleliving in areas across the country would visit lottery retailers as often asnecessary to conduct simpler tasks such as putting up the relevant posters anddelivering merchandising material.”

It was a model that would save money and increaseefficiency. Because the larger team was made up of people living close to theretail operators, they didn’t need to travel far to deliver merchandise andposters, meaning Ngikwazi could keep vehicle and travel expenses right downwhile still being able to service over 8 600 lottery stores. And because thisteam was employed on a part-time basis, salary costs were kept to a minimum.Having a good idea and proving you can put it into actionare two different things, however, and Ngikwazi knew that the success of theirpitch relied heavily on being able to prove their capacity for roll-out,particularly because of their lack of established infrastructure.“We knew that all the retailers would have to be trained inthe few weeks leading up to the launch of the new lottery. If you do it anyearlier, they forget what they’ve been trained in. So before we pitched, weidentified and booked 110 training venues across the country,” explainsSampson. It was a big risk because they had no guarantee they’d be awarded thecontract, but it made a big impression. “We told Gidani that we’d have to train

30 000 people in just a few weeks, and we told them where and how it could bedone and exactly how much it would cost. Importantly, their proposed paymentmodel was designed to overcome the business’s lack of capital. “We worked thepayment structure out so that we could set up the business and roll it out, andstill be in a cash positive situation,” says Grobler. Being cash positive issomething that the company has managed to maintain. “To this day, we have nooverdraft and no debts,” says Sampson proudly.It would fall to her, a person who had never played thelottery in her life before and had no idea what a play-coupon even looked like,to develop and deliver the training material. “Gidani was going to use newmachines, which meant developing training material based on new, andever-updating software. The night before we rolled out the training, we wereupdating our material.” she recalls.And true to their tender, Ngikwazi delivered. “We trainedclose on 30 000 people from 7 600 stores across the country in just 20 days,”relates Sampson. What’s more, they did it under budget. “In the months prior tothat, we also had to identify, credit and criminal record-check, recruit andsign up all the retail operators, which meant we visited and assessed about 20000 stores in total,” adds Grobler.

But just as they were congratulating themselves on theirmammoth achievement, a legal challenge by Uthingo to the lottery selectionprocess put the entire national lottery on hold for six months. “We had to lookafter the retail network during that time, keep them engaged and interested,and then retrain them all just before the new lottery went live. So we ended updoing it twice,” says Sampson. Grobler believes it’s testament to the solidrelationship on which Ngikwazi’s partnership with Gidani is built, that theoperator kept them on and continued to pay them during the six month wait.Today, Ngikwazi supports an 8 600-strong retail network forGidani and deserves credit for the fact that the national lottery runs soeffectively every week. “I think we had the energy, the attitude and the sheerchutzpah to sell a great idea and then make it happen” Sampson concludes.Contact: www.ngikwazi.co.za

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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