Chem­i­cals com­pany chief has the for­mula to con­quer the world

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - FEATURES - Luy­olo Mken­tane

The 100 per­cent black-owned out­fit, es­tab­lished in 2014, also wants to in­spire younger gen­er­a­tions.

KEVALI Chem­i­cals chief ex­ec­u­tive Bongu­musa Kunene says the com­pany has set its eyes on con­quer­ing the world.

Kunene says the 100 per­cent black-owned out­fit, which was es­tab­lished in 2014, also wants to in­spire younger gen­er­a­tions.

He says he and a few en­tre­pre­neur­ial friends with vast ex­pe­ri­ence in the chem­i­cal sec­tor started the com­pany for young black kids to see op­por­tu­ni­ties in sci­ence, adding that all the part­ners are in­volved in the day-to-day run­ning of the com­pany.

To­day the com­pany has of­fices and cus­tomers across the coun­try, neigh­bour­ing Zim­babwe, Swazi­land, Namibia, Tan­za­nia and in East­ern Europe in Croa­tia.

“We are very pas­sion­ate about what we do. All of us (co-founders) have been in the in­dus­try for a very long time. We no­ticed that there is a void of black pro­fes­sion­als join­ing or ris­ing within this in­dus­try,” says Kunene.

“We said: ‘Why don’t we cre­ate a plat­form for them to de­velop their skills set and pre­pare them to take over from us?’”

Kunene says Kevali sup­plies chem­i­cal so­lu­tions to a niche mar­ket that in­cludes in­dus­tries such as food and bev­er­age, dairy and poul­try, au­to­mo­tive, petro­chem­i­cals, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, mining, steel and metal, and pub­lic wa­ter, among oth­ers.

Kunene is clear about their in­ten­tions: “We want to be a di­ver­si­fied chem­i­cals com­pany. But we don’t want to be a jack of all trades and master of none. We are very fo­cused on how we roll out our port­fo­lio and ca­pa­bil­i­ties.”

Kunene says they man­aged to make in­roads in some of the sec­tors they are sup­ply­ing from a po­si­tion of strength in tech­ni­cal knowl­edge and ap­pli­ca­tion tech­nolo­gies.

He says that al­lowed them to slowly build up con­fi­dence and rep­u­ta­tion in a com­plex in­dus­try.

“Once we have earned our con­fi­dence, and that par­tic­u­lar port­fo­lio sta­bilises, we move on to the next one.”

De­spite their suc­cesses, how­ever, Kunene feels they are still very much at the be­gin­ning of their jour­ney and are still try­ing to nav­i­gate the ter­rain. “We want them to see a com­pany that is owned by black pro­fes­sion­als suc­ceed­ing and per­form­ing at the top of the in­dus­try in South Africa and be­yond,” he says.

He main­tains that the main rea­son they em­barked on this jour­ney was to make the world see a com­pany that is owned by black peo­ple suc­ceed­ing and per­form­ing at the top of the in­dus­try in South Africa and be­yond.

Hunene holds, among other qual­i­fi­ca­tions, a BSc Hon­our’s de­gree from the Univer­sity of KwaZu­luNatal (UKZN) and diplo­mas in brew­ing from the Institute and Guild of Brew­ing in Lon­don, and busi­ness man­age­ment from UKZN.

“The qual­i­fi­ca­tions I have are more about the knowl­edge that I get, the key is how does one ap­ply what is learned into a busi­ness op­por­tu­nity and treat ev­ery new day, ev­ery new event as a learn­ing oc­ca­sion for some­thing. If ev­ery­one does that we will be a coun­try of se­rial en­trepreneurs.”

He says that the suc­cesses they have achieved over the years would not have been pos­si­ble had it not been for their cus­tomers who lis­tened to their story and gave them a chance, their staff and fam­ily, and lastly the In­dus­trial De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (IDC) in as­so­ci­a­tion with the De­part­ment of Trade and In­dus­try’s (dti) Black In­dus­tri­al­ists In­cen­tive Pro­gramme. Kunene says the dti helped them to un­lock and im­ple­ment their vi­sion.

“Without them we would have still done it but it would have taken us a lot longer.”

He at­tributes the com­pany’s suc­cess to a staff com­ple­ment he says has been loyal from the be­gin­ning.

“Our em­ploy­ees could have cho­sen to work for a com­pany that’s big­ger but they stayed with us. We re­ally ap­pre­cia­tive their com­mit­ment and loy­alty.” Kunene stresses that while they are com­pet­ing for mar­ket share, they should rather stay in their own lane with re­gards to their strat­egy and vi­sion.

Kevali Chem­i­cals is only four years old and Kunene read­ily ad­mits that they still have a lot to learn de­spite their suc­cesses.

“We are a learn­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion be­cause through learn­ing comes in­no­va­tion which opens doors to new mar­kets.”

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