Clever en­gi­neers UNITE

CityPress - - Tenders - CAIPHUS KGOSANA busi­ness@city­press.co.za

The story of how F&K En­gi­neer­ing and Hlakani En­gi­neer­ing came to­gether is in­spi­ra­tional.

A vet­eran of 29 years in the en­gi­neer­ing in­dus­try, F&K is leg­endary in the Mid­dle­burg and greater Mpumalanga area for its work­man­ship and de­liv­ery.

When Hlakani was started in 2009 by me­dia per­son­al­ity turned en­tre­pre­neur Quereshini Naidoo and her busi­ness part­ner Ger­hard Holt­shauzen, F&K of­fered them of­fice space to launch their new ven­ture. Hlakani was not asked to pay rent, but to rather con­trib­ute to a char­ity of F&K founder Frans Stapel­berg’s choice.

Over the next eight years, the young com­pany grew so fast that, when Stapel­berg and his busi­ness part­ner Kevin Thring de­cided to call it a day, there was only one buyer to con­sider – Hlakani.

The deal to ac­quire F&K En­gi­neer­ing was fi­nalised in June and was funded by the In­dus­trial Devel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (IDC), which is now a strate­gic part­ner in the ex­panded com­pany.

The takeover makes per­fect sense as the skills of the two com­pa­nies com­ple­ment each other. Hlakani is a weld­ing spe­cial­ist whose clients in­clude Eskom, as well as size­able con­struc­tion and man­u­fac­tur­ing firms. F&K does fab­ri­ca­tions, ma­chin­ing and site ser­vices at a num­ber of mines. F&K also brings with it its range of so­phis­ti­cated ma­chin­ery, in­clud­ing a large Mi­max milling ma­chine, one of only three in the coun­try.

An ec­static Naidoo said the ac­qui­si­tion of F&K en­gi­neer­ing by Hlakani had made them into a for­mi­da­ble com­pany. It has grown from just un­der 100 em­ploy­ees to 390 work­ers, in­clud­ing 110 red-seal cer­ti­fied steel ar­ti­sans.

“We are able to of­fer turnkey so­lu­tions. From start to fin­ish, we can do it in the com­pany; we don’t need to sub­con­tract any service,” she said.

Naidoo said the IDC was im­me­di­ately in­ter­ested in the trans­ac­tion be­cause it in­volved an in­dus­try that it was fo­cus­ing on. It also had an ex­cel­lent re­la­tion­ship with Hlakani, hav­ing fi­nanced two of the com­pany’s ex­pan­sions.

“Sus­tain­able in­dus­trial devel­op­ment and job cre­ation are cru­cial for us, mainly as [they] en­sure our con­tin­u­a­tion and abil­ity to meet the ex­act­ing de­mands of in­dus­trial clients,” she said.

The name Hlakani is a clever play on the words ‘hlaka­niphile’ and ‘hlanganani’, which are isiZulu for the words ‘clever’ and ‘unite’, re­spec­tively

.

Naidoo ad­mits that she knew very lit­tle about en­gi­neer­ing be­fore en­ter­ing into a part­ner­ship with Holt­shauzen and Her­mann Brum­mer. She at­tributes her suc­cess in run­ning this op­er­a­tion to her re­fusal to take no for an an­swer.

“I drove 1 000km a week from power sta­tion to power sta­tion look­ing for busi­ness. I’m not an en­gi­neer. I’m mar­ket­ing, ad­min, hu­man re­sources and client li­ai­son. I went out there and I just knocked on doors and said: ‘Lis­ten, give me a chance.’ It took wear­ing them down … I said give me some­thing small so we can prove that we can do it.”

Naidoo, who used to host a Sun­day morn­ing show on Gaut­eng­based talk sta­tion 702, uses a video record­ing ma­chine anal­ogy to de­scribe her re­la­tion­ship with her busi­ness part­ners and how their in­di­vid­ual strengths work to­gether.

“If a video recorder ar­rives in Her­man’s hands with a man­ual, he opens the man­ual, sits for five hours, reads the man­ual cover to cover and makes the video work.

“If the same video recorder ar­rives in Ger­hard’s hands. He gets it, looks at the man­ual, tosses the man­ual away, takes the whole thing apart and makes it work.

“If it ar­rives in my hands, I look at the ma­chine, I look at the man­ual, I pick up the phone and say, ‘Dar­ling, I’ll buy you lunch, come show me how the whole thing works.’ That’s how we are, and that’s how we fit,” she said.

PHOTO: EU­GENE GOD­DARD

THE VI­SION Quereshini Naidoo

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