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Zinandi Communications: Dumisani Nkala

A telecommunications company positions itself for a changing environment early on – and finds success through innovation

Juliet Pitman

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Dumisani Nkala of Zinandi Communications

When the telecommunications industry started talking deregulation early in 2002, Dumisani Nkala saw a big opportunity looming on the horizon. “The law was set to change and we knew that when it did and the telecommunications industry started deregulating, substantial opportunities would arise,” she explains. She and her father, who has 30 years of experience heading up a telecommunications company in Zimbabwe, setup Zinandi Communications with a view to taking advantage of such opportunities.

“Our end-goal was based on a model we had observed, mainly in the United Kingdom, which had a very similar regulatory market to South Africa’s, and which then deregulated. For a short time we had a telecommunications company in the UK and we knew that a host of opportunities opened up for new telecommunications entrants following deregulation, focusing mainly on Voice Over IP (VoIP) as the key technology used for offering internet-based services, ” explains Nkala. She’d learned from past experience how critical it was to grasp these opportunities early.

“In our UK business, we only enjoyed limited success and this is because we came into the market at the tail-end of deregulation. We knew that having a good lead team and getting your foot in the door early provides an enormous advantage to new entrants to the market. It makes a significant difference to your ability to be successful.” So, Nkala set up Zinandi Communications well before the opportunities were realised.

“We had to wait for the environment to become optimal, both in terms of licensing and regulations. When we started, the industry still had to deregulate, but we knew it was coming and we also understood the importance of getting ourselves into position early on.” Nkala adds that the first big challenge for the business was securing interconnection with major industry players such as Telkom, MTN and Vodacom.

Although regulatory body ICASA ruled in 2002 that existing players with 25% market share and above had to interconnect when asked to do so, the big industry players dragged their feet and it took well over a year before Zinandi had secured interconnection contracts with Telkom and Vodacom. “It was a very long and arduous process but because we’d been thinking and planning for so long, as soon as interconnection was mandated, we could make our approaches to the big players,” explains Nkala. While the business waited for the wheels of the law to slowly grind into place,she set up and ran an internet café.

Interconnection in place, Zinandi started offering services to Telkom and Vodacom users who registered on its network, allowing them to call international destinations at the cost of a local call, and generating revenue for the business from an interconnect rebate rate.“Traditionally, international calls in this country have been hugely inflated, so offering international calls at a lower rate gives us a price advantage,”says Nkala. But she quickly adds that she knows this advantage won’t always be there, and as such she already has her eyes on new innovations and service offerings that will help Zinandi retain a competitive edge. “One of our core competencies is developing solutions and we’re continually looking to developnew products that the market will find interesting,” she says.

Gearing the business over the next few years is going to take a considerable capital injection, and although telecommunications is an attractive investment opportunity, it only yields really big returns after seven years. “We have a phased growth plan for the business that includes raising substantial capital and have already had promising conversations with a few potential investors,” Nkala explains. But she’s confident that when the platform goes live, it will attract interest not only from new customers but also from investors. Contact: + 27 11 884 1037; +27 87 830 0012; dnkala@telconet.co.za

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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