JOHANNESBURG – Vodacom Group’s commitment to South Africa’s transformation agenda and to grow the pool of Small, Medium and Micro-sized Enterprises in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector locally is yielding positive results.
In 2014, Vodacom made a bold move to make a significant investment to impact on developing SMME businesses in the country. The result was the formation of the Innovator Trust – an ambitious Enterprise Development programme created specifically for the ICT sector, delivering quality and results specifically designed business development programmes, aimed at facilitating growth of SMME businesses.
Vodacom granted the Innovator Trust, an independent organisation, a R750 million loan facility to invest in equity structures that yield positive dividends and interest such that they are able to finance the enterprise development programme. To date, the trust has drawn on R600 million of the facility. The Innovator Trust primarily uses share dividends and interest earned to fund the trust administration and the various incubation hubs and Business school programmes to support established small businesses in the ICT sector to grow both in turnover and job creation numbers.
Shameel Joosub, Chief Executive Officer of Vodacom Group commented:
“A focus on enterprise creation and development is key to the country’s ICT sector and to this end; we established the Innovator Trust with a clear mandate to accelerate transformation in the sector through the development of Black owned ICT businesses. We have made solid gains to date and while much has been achieved, a lot of work still lies ahead. Vodacom remains committed to investing in the development of SMME businesses in South Africa.”
The Innovator Trust has grown from supporting 18 SMME’s in its first year (2014) to 53 as at 31 March 2017, a substantial growth of 200% over a period of three years. The turnovers of the SMMEs participating in the programme also increased during the 2016/2017 financial period, while the permanent staff employment numbers increased by 71% during the same period.
“We have seen significant growth since our inception and we are currently consolidating our gains. The impact has been meaningful as most businesses in our programme have improved their operations, gained valuable knowledge and skills and are employing more people than they used to before we partnered with them,” says Tashline Jooste, Innovator Trust CEO.
The Innovator Trust works with businesses in Gauteng, KwaZulu Natal, Eastern Cape and Western Cape provinces that operate in a number of upstream and downstream ICT industries. Through training, mentorship, networking and infrastructure support, the Innovator Trust is helping to create ICT leaders of the future who can grow their profit margins, improve business performance and create more job opportunities. The Innovator Trust offers a bouquet of tailored development programmes which includes a gap analysis, to help the SMMEs identify opportunities to maximize on potential growth areas. To this end, business mentors are appointed to advise, guide and equip the small business owner with the correct tools and skills needed to work towards success.
The programme also offers entrepreneurs bespoke training and development programmes through reputable business institutions such as the Gordon Institute of Business Science. In addition, the Innovator Trust works with SMMEs to achieve certain important accreditations and capabilities that provide them greater access to markets.
Mark Ahjam, owner of Billionetworks, based in Cape Town and focusing on cabling, ICT Infrastructure and support services, is one of the top performers in the programme.
“My company was exploding and sales were growing dramatically. I realised that although I was highly skilled technically, I lacked all the other aspects of running a business. Since linking up with the Innovator Trust Business Enterprise Development programme; I haven’t looked back. Participation in a series of workshops such as financial management, marketing, contract law, supply chain management and HR has helped me change existing management systems to be much more manageable and efficient. Implementation of new HR processes assisted immeasurably in managing my workforce which grew 400% in three years,” Ahjam concluded.