It’s been 10 short years since Si­bongile Man­ganyi-Rath, born and raised in Soweto, founded the Indigo Ku­lani Group. To­day it’s mak­ing a big im­pact in con­struc­tion and prop­erty de­vel­op­ment across Africa, writes

CityPress - - Business -


mul­ti­ple roles.


The spa­cious glass-and-chrome head of­fice of the Indigo Ku­lani Group in Bram­ley, Jo­han­nes­burg, with its stun­ning in­te­rior de­sign, is about as far as you can get from the crowded Soweto child­hood of its founder, Si­bongile Man­ganyi-Rath, who is one of 14 sib­lings.

She wel­comes us clad in smart busi­ness at­tire – and takkies. The lat­ter sym­bol­ises her at­ti­tude, for she is a de­ter­mined en­tre­pre­neur who has run at life, suf­fused with en­ergy and verve, leapfrog­ging ob­sta­cles that bring down oth­ers.

In­ter­est­ingly, her goal is not to make money for money’s sake. “I make it to en­able me to carry out my goals, for we are an in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment com­pany and our projects need fund­ing,” she ex­plains.

She points to a model of a mixed-use de­vel­op­ment they will soon be build­ing in Lim­popo. It has, among other things, houses, a shop­ping cen­tre, a po­lice sta­tion and crèches. Indigo Ku­lani is look­ing at build­ing schools in Vuwani, Lim­popo, where so many were re­cently de­stroyed, “and we’re busy speak­ing to the depart­ment of ed­u­ca­tion about this”. The com­pany’s aim is to in­te­grate com­mu­nity needs and the chal­lenges of gov­ern­ment and de­vel­op­ers into “suc­cess­ful, cost-ef­fec­tive, vi­able so­cioe­co­nomic so­lu­tions”, says Man­ganyi-Rath.

The group has an im­pres­sive line-up of ar­chi­tects, en­gi­neers, ur­ban de­sign­ers, quan­tity sur­vey­ors and fi­nan­cial mod­el­ling ex­perts in its ser­vice.

“We un­der­stood early on in our ex­is­tence that gov­ern­ment is the largest as­set owner in the coun­try and that it made sense to col­lab­o­rate with it,” says Man­ganyi-Rath. Just one of the ar­eas she iden­ti­fied was the need for gov­ern­ment de­part­ments to de­velop as­set reg­is­ters and prop­erty val­u­a­tions so they know their worth, where their as­sets are and how they can be used.

“I’ve al­ways wanted to go into en­vi­ron­ments where I can change the dy­nam­ics, break the mould. Change mo­ti­vates me. I thrive on it,” she de­clares in her mu­si­cal, well-mod­u­lated voice.

“Where peo­ple see dif­fi­cul­ties, I have a burn­ing de­sire to sim­plify what­ever it is they find so dif­fi­cult.”

She points out that a school should not take six years to build when a shop­ping cen­tre only takes eight months.

Man­ganyi-Rath is the daugh­ter of two ex­tremely hard-work­ing par­ents, nei­ther of whom went to school.

“I was sell­ing maize for my fa­ther when I was 12 years old. My mother, who looked af­ter us kids, as well as our cousins, in­stilled my sense of phi­lan­thropy.”

She was 15 years old and top of her Mead­ow­lands High School class when she de­cided she needed to at­tend a bet­ter school. She did some re­search and de­cided on a mul­tira­cial school in Bed­ford­view.

Un­ac­com­pa­nied, she caught a taxi and re­ported at the school, but the prin­ci­pal told her that his Grade 10 was full. Un­daunted, she re­turned the fol­low­ing day as­sum­ing that “all black chil­dren looked the same to him and he wouldn’t recog­nise me”.

Clearly im­pressed by her de­ter­mi­na­tion, he told her she would have to re­peat Grade 9 for ad­mit­tance.

There­after, she rose in her fam­ily’s Soweto home at 4am, us­ing three dif­fer­ent modes of trans­port to get to class on time.

Af­ter that, it’s not sur­pris­ing to learn that she held a job while si­mul­ta­ne­ously ob­tain­ing her Na­tional Diploma and bach­e­lor’s de­gree from the Cape Penin­sula Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy.

Work­ing for a pay cheque for top ar­chi­tec­tural com­pa­nies in Cape Town and Jo­han­nes­burg did not ap­peal to the plucky young­ster’s sense of mis­sion and am­bi­tion.

She soon went it alone and in 2006 she founded the Indigo Ku­lani group. To­day it has 85 staffers work­ing in all nine prov­inces. “In Africa, we have es­tab­lished re­la­tion­ships with con­sul­tan­cies that re­quire our skills in Tan­za­nia, Nige­ria, An­gola and Kenya.”

Now the rest­less busi­ness­woman is look­ing at ex­pand her com­pany to Geneva. “I’ll take on the ex­ec­u­tive leader role and my busi­ness part­ner will be­come our CEO.”

She’s been ac­cepted by the In­ter­na­tional In­sti­tute for Man­age­ment De­vel­op­ment in Lau­sanne, Switzer­land, to do her MBA.

She’ll be tak­ing her three-year-old daugh­ter with her. “I de­cided from the start that I wasn’t go­ing to del­e­gate moth­er­ing to any­body. It’s the most im­por­tant job in the world.”

Her pas­sion for chil­dren and their ed­u­ca­tion come to­gether in the Indigo Ku­lani Ed­u­ca­tional Foun­da­tion, which she es­tab­lished in 2012.

“Its pri­mary mis­sion is to pro­vide men­tor­ship and en­cour­age­ment to our coun­try’s youth for their fu­ture ca­reers,” says the woman who did the lat­ter, al­most sin­gle-hand­edly, by her­self.


Al­ways stick to your core value sys­tem.

Richard Bran­son. The few hours it took me to read his book, Screw it, Let’s do It, changed my life.

The Next 100 Years by fu­tur­ist Ge­orge Fried­man. Work­ing moth­ers who jug­gle


Win­ning the 2012 BBQ Busi­ness­woman of the Year award. I have not given the world around me the power to change what I feel and think.

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