COVER STORY: Powered by entrepreneurial energy

Andile Khumalo CA(SA) isn’t easy to categorise;  he wears so many hats. A highly ebullient individual, he likes to gloss over his day job(s) and get to where his real passion is – helping black entrepreneurs

While words like ‘dynamic, ‘enthusiastic’ and ‘energetic’ are often over-used, especially in individuals’ own CVs, Andile Khumalo tends to fill a room with his presence.

Khumalo creates the impression he is capable of doing anything. That’s because he’s done so. When a DJ couldn’t didn’t pitch for his gig on POWER FM one day, Khumalo calmly stepped in to take his place. It takes some nerve to go on air with several hundred thousand listeners – and to be an instantaneous hit.

By most standards he had already achieved a great deal of success. He is Chief Investment Officer of MSG Afrika Group, a business he runs with his partner, Given Mkhari. He is also the Managing Director of POWER 98.7, a talk radio station based in Johannesburg. He presents the daily radio show, POWER Business weekdays between 17:00 and 18:00. MSG has operations in radio, advertising, TV production and corporate communications.

Khumalo has over the years had various other non-executive responsibilities. Just for laughs, for instance, he’s also a former member of the Takeover Regulations Panel, a member of the Financial Services Board’s Directorate of Market Abuse, and a previous director of state-owned airline South African Airways. He also had a stint as president of the Association for the Advancement of Black Accountants of Southern Africa, ABASA.

Khumalo summarises his life: ‘I’m 38 years old, married to the beautiful Mandisa and have two kids, Andisa (10) and Wandile (5). I’m addicted to success, music and football.’

NOT EASILY DEFINED

Khumalo is a CA(SA) but he is certainly not defined by the letters after his name. His qualification is almost incidental to his career, which is more that of an entrepreneur than an accountant. He completed his BCom and Post Grad in Accounting at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and then went on to qualify as a CA(SA) in 2003.

Part of his zest for life is that Khumalo does not compartmentalise his life into work and home. Getting a work–life balance isn’t an issue – whatever he does he does with all his energy.

‘To me, life is all fun.’ Khumalo says he must have a lot of adrenalin running through his system, because otherwise he has no explanation for where he gets his energy from. ‘I even get excited about the things that depress other people, like problems.’

DON’T WASTE THE OPPORTUNITY: THINK BIG

Khumalo’s never had a problem thinking big. He agrees he was in the right place at the right time, and benefited from a bursary. ‘After all the help I’ve enjoyed it would be selfish to think small. I’ve always had the mind set to want to live a fulfilled life and a fulfilling one, not just eking out a comfortable existence on a nice salary, with a car and house. I’ve always wanted to leave my mark on the world,’ he says.

He joined MSG, a firm which started out as an investment holding company, more than a decade ago. Five years ago it switched strategy to become an operations company focused on the media and communications sector.

‘Effectively our job is to use our talents to seek, find and secure opportunities, and work our bottoms off to create value. We do this by partnering with the right managers, funders and clients to achieve common goals.’ It has two radio stations – POWER FM and Capricorn FM – with plans to launch two more during 2017. MSG also owns Quizzical Pictures, a leading TV and Content production company, and The Communications Firm, a top events and public relations agency.

Its businesses have a niche in the middle- to upper-class black consumer segment with both POWER FM and Capricorn FM having a substantial and loyal listener base. This makes it a prime advertising platform for brands wishing to access that sector.

MSG has chosen to focus on the medium of radio, explains Khumalo, because it is a very powerful and relevant broadcasting platform, even in the face of rapid technological advancement.

‘In our continent, radio remains the one of the most widely consumed media and has a reach that requires fairly low infrastructure development and investment. By virtue of the instantaneous nature of radio, it can adapt immediately to any development of any story. Also, the advent of social media has complemented radio as opposed to threatening it. Radio is as live as Twitter and Facebook,’ he explains.

Khumalo thrives on the impact that radio is capable of having in its communities. For instance, in Limpopo, Capricorn FM hosts an annual music festival of A-list performing artists like Caiphas Semenya, Kabelo, Stimela, Lira, and Teargas.

The business reflects the growth of the South African black middle class, one which research has show is the fastest-growing middle class in the world in recent times.

‘We realised we were better operators of our own businesses than hands-off investors. Black economic empowerment (BEE) has been a phenomenal success in South Africa. It gets a lot of criticism for many reasons, some of which are valid, but if one keeps in mind what the original concept was – to find a way for blacks to participate effectively in the South African economy. Today, you would be hard pressed to find a JSE-listed company that does not have a BEE partner. But the next phase for BEE has to be about black people operating their own businesses rather than just investing in white-owned companies and hoping for the best,’ says Khumalo.

‘These are exciting times as I truly believe that the emergence of black businesspeople, not BEE guys, is something that is still at its infancy. More of my peers are redefining the landscape and I am personally very excited to see more Givens and Andiles in other sectors. It inspires me to do even more.’

Nation of entrepreneurs

It was with excitement in mind that Khumalo established his ‘love job’. He is also the founder of I AM AN ENTREPRENEUR, an online platform seeking to galvanise South Africans into becoming a nation of entrepreneurs. He often speaks internationally on entrepreneurship and its potential to build stronger developing economies.

He already was spending much of his time with entrepreneurs and fielding requests for mentorship support and funding. He decided to formalise things by creating the platform. The model was to bring together new and aspiring entrepreneurs in contact with skilled and experienced businesspeople for a ‘group mentorship session’ where guest entrepreneurs share their journey, lessons, successes, failures and in this way practically impart insights that will assist entrepreneurs as they grow their businesses.

The idea is not to set people up in business but to entrench the culture of entrepreneurism. ‘Very often our people start businesses because they can’t find a job. It needs to be a conscious decision not driven by survival but by ambition. Many of the people who attend I AM AN ENTREPRENEUR are already in the system; many have jobs, side businesses or small businesses that have reached a plateau and can’t grow to the next level. Through I AM AN ENTREPRENEUR, we give them insights and unprecedented interaction,’ explains Khumalo.

His involvements with mentoring entrepreneurs and hosting POWER Business, his radio talk show on his station POWER 98.7, led to his appointment as a judge on the prestigious Top-35-Under-35 – a competition of the top 35 CAs(SA) in the country who are under the age of 35.

‘This experience blew me away and was humbling to any presumption I may have had regarding my own achievements. I realised I was never this smart at age 35!’ Contestants came from across the full spectrum – entrepreneurship, the accounting industry and academia.

‘I found it a selfishly inspirational experience – I learned more from them than they probably did from me.’

His fascination with entrepreneurship stems from his own early days. ‘Back in high school, I turned down the opportunity to be head boy so as to establish a school tuck shop I ran and managed by myself – we sold anything our customers wanted!’

His energy level was apparent from the very beginning. Knowing his parents’ salary wouldn’t stretch to university fees, he wrote upwards of 100 letters seeking a bursary, eventually being awarded a full scholarship by Deloitte. After completing his articles with Deloitte and qualifying, he joined Investec Corporate Finance ‘to be taught by the best in the game on investment banking and deal-making’. That two years at Investec was one of the best investments he could have made for his career, he claims, giving him the steepest of learning curves.

‘I got the bug!’

Thereafter he couldn’t resist the itch to establish his own business. He started from scratch thanks to an opportunity he secured from petroleum company BP back in 2005 through a friend. ’I got the entrepreneurship bug and bought into a courier business so we could deliver what was then a flagship initiative by BP, the Fuelmaster Express tag. We ran that contract and many others after that for two years, when I eventually sold back to my business partner. In between, some friends and I started a management consulting firm that was eventually acquired by Deloitte.’

He could have returned to Deloitte and a comfortable existence but at the time he was at a crossroads. Being on his own, he really wanted a step up to something much bigger than he had – and to have fun doing it with like-minded people.

‘I met Given and Simphiwe Mdlalose in June 2006, during a FIFA World Cup match. We got on like a house on fire, teamed up and haven’t looked back since.’

Khumalo attributes much of his journey to his energy. It wasn’t ‘luck’ that brought him interesting jobs while at Deloitte, again at Investec, and opportunities that have come his way since.

‘I am also quite a favoured one by my creator so I am under no illusion that it’s just me at work here. A power much bigger than me is at play.’ says Khumalo

While it is customary for everyone to claim not enough has been done to transform the accounting profession, Khumalo (in his role as past president of ABASA) acknowledges it is just as important to give credit where it is due. ‘The CA profession often gets an unfair portrayal. We’re light years ahead of other professions and you can clearly see the difference between a large audit firm and a large corporate in terms of transformation.

The firms uniformly have 30% to 40% black partners; today they all have black CEOs and even more at executive level. Most importantly, through Thutheka we have a successful model by which to transform the industry year after year – so the system’s all in place.’

One day, he says, when he feels he’s achieved his goals as an entrepreneur he hopes to use that experience to help the developmental agenda of our nation, in whatever capacity that would make sense at the time.

‘For now, we grind,’ says Khumalo.

Author: Eamonn Ryan

Photos: André van der Merwe

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