Chemicals company chief has the formula to conquer the world
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.”