Bhana beat the odds to be­come force in IT sec­tor

Heart now set on R200m ‘Dis­ney Tar­get

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

YASHMITA Bhana has beaten many odds to be­come a cru­cial player in the male-dom­i­nated tech in­dus­try.

The award-win­ning Joburg busi­ness­woman rose from a cor­rupted com­pany and al­most be­ing home­less into found­ing the Nihka Technology Group, which she started in 2008. Bhana is the com­pany’s chief ex­ec­u­tive.

Re­cently Nihka Technology signed a R16 mil­lion deal with a South African fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tion.

Bhana, 47, says her group aims to ex­pand its reach be­yond South Africa’s borders.

She says it is cur­rently in talks with the Mau­ri­tian gov­ern­ment.

“We want to use that coun­try as a base to ex­pand to the rest of the world. Mau­ri­tius has very good trade re­la­tions with the rest of the world,” she says.

“The gov­ern­ment have in­vited us to come and set up base in Mau­ri­tius be­cause they mostly fo­cus on tourism and hospi­tal and now want to grow their IT (in­for­ma­tion technology) sec­tor.”

Bhana, who once ran a flour­ish­ing IT con­sul­tancy firm with a busi­ness part­ner, has faced some tough times.

She says the com­pany went from promi­nence to col­lapse when she re­turned to work from ma­ter­nity leave in 2007, with no money and mount­ing debts that al­most forced her fam­ily on to the streets.

Bhana blames her fel­low direc­tor of the com­pany, who she claims was dis­hon­est and re­spon­si­ble for the dis­ap­pear­ance of the money.

A year ear­lier Bhana had been crowned the En­tre­pre­neur of the Year by the Busi­ness­women’s As­so­ci­a­tion of South Africa.

She says she re­signed in frus­tra­tion and joined the army of un­em­ployed for a while.

This, she claims, led to fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties for her and her fam­ily.

“We had lots of debts. My hus­band and I were al­most out on the streets with our two kids.” Bhana

Busi­ness­woman is driven by the need to em­power women and show they can do well in the male-dom­i­nated world of technology

notes, how­ever, that she was “quite sell-able” and had re­ceived numer­ous job of­fers be­cause of her im­pres­sive ed­u­ca­tional qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

After all, she has an MBA from the Gor­don In­sti­tute of Busi­ness Sci­ence, a Master’s de­gree in engi­neer­ing from Wits Univer­sity and a BSc in civil engi­neer­ing from the same in­sti­tu­tion, as well as a pro­ject man­age­ment cer­tifi­cate from Unisa.

How­ever, she turned down numer­ous en­tic­ing job of­fers to start from scratch.

“I’m too much of an en­tre­pre­neur and a risk-taker as well. In 2008, I started my cur­rent com­pany as a con­sult­ing firm. It has now grown into a fully-fledged IT firm,” says Bhana, who re­cently re­turned from a technology con­fer­ence in Dubai in the United Arab Emi­rates.

The group’s long list of clients in­clude Eskom, City Power, Stan­dard Bank, Absa, Hol­lard, the Depart­ment of Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion and the Air­ports Com­pany of SA.

Iron­i­cally, Bhana once worked for Eskom as a civil and build­ing man­ager where she won numer­ous awards for ex­celling in her job.

“The head of Eskom’s IT asked me if I could do to the IT depart­ment what I had done for the engi­neer­ing depart­ment.

“So, I moved to the IT depart­ment and started do­ing IT projects. That’s where I got my pas­sion,” re­veals Bhana, who left the power util­ity in 2004.

The busi­ness­woman says her com­pany has part­nered with lead­ing technology so­lu­tions com­pany Huawei. “They have a Smart City pro­ject that they are look­ing to take to that coun­try,” she re­veals guard­edly.

When asked what her fu­ture plans are for the com­pany, Bhana says: “We’ve got what we call the Dis­ney Tar­get, which is val­ued at R200m. We call it the Dis­ney Tar­get be­cause if we should reach it we are tak­ing our fam­i­lies to Dis­ney World.”

Bhana says she is driven by the need to em­power women and 68 per­cent of her staff are black women.

“I ag­gres­sively go out and look for black women. I want to show that women can also do well in this male-dom­i­nated tech in­dus­try,” says the en­tre­pre­neur, who sum­mited Mount Kil­i­man­jaro while preg­nant in 2011 and raised more than R500 000 for a chil­dren’s home.

“As a black wo­man you still need to prove your­self in this male-dom­i­nated in­dus­try,” re­minds Bhana.

She is chair­per­son of the Quant Ed­u­ca­tion Fund which helps women in engi­neer­ing, and also runs the Dhiya De­vel­op­ment Foun­da­tion which fa­cil­i­tates the train­ing of youth in the technology in­dus­try.

“When I wake up in the morn­ing, my mantra in the shower is the greater my suc­cess, the greater my abil­ity to help oth­ers.

“I’m keen on mak­ing a dif­fer­ence in un­em­ploy­ment in this coun­try,” she adds.

It is im­por­tant to do the val­u­a­tion at least four to five years in, whether as part of the plan to sell the op­er­a­tion or if the owner plans to re­tire at a set date. This not only pro­vides a clear idea of what to ex­pect but can also help in iden­ti­fy­ing po­ten­tial buy­ers. Own­ers can choose to price the busi­ness ac­cord­ing to the cost of cre­at­ing a sim­i­lar op­er­a­tion dur­ing the time of sale (en­try cost method), the re­turn on in­vest­ment ex­pected (cap­i­talised earn­ings), its an­nual earn­ings (net profit mul­ti­plier), or ac­cord­ing to its prof­its (price earn­ings ra­tio).

It is im­por­tant to know when it’s the best time to sell for max­i­mum profit. If chang­ing mar­ket con­di­tions cause the value to rocket, or if the owner is in dan­ger of un­der­selling, keep­ing track of the com­pany’s year-on-year changes could help the owner make a de­ci­sion to sell or to de­lay the plans un­til the mar­ket re­cov­ers.

Ma­jor com­pa­nies are con­stantly on the look­out and the most at­trac­tive busi­nesses are able to present po­ten­tial buy­ers with an ac­cu­rate value, the com­pany’s as­sets, growth through­out the life cy­cle and the po­ten­tial growth ex­pec­ta­tions into the fu­ture.

Large com­pa­nies also at­tempt to ac­quire busi­nesses for as lit­tle as pos­si­ble, which is why it is im­por­tant

One of the ma­jor risks for small and medium busi­nesses is the sud­den death of an owner or part­ner which de­mands an ac­cu­rate val­u­a­tion to form a part of any suc­ces­sion plan. In or­der to de­cide on whether the busi­ness needs to be sold on short no­tice or com­pletely dis­solved, there is a need to not only have the open mar­ket value avail­able, but also a re­cent val­u­a­tion of the re­sale value of the com­pany’s tan­gi­ble as­sets (net as­set value), as well as its liq­ui­da­tion value.

It is also im­por­tant to have an ac­cu­rate view of the re­place­ment cost of the as­sets when in­sur­ing busi­nesses. This is es­pe­cially true in in­stances where as­sets were ac­quired over a long times­pan as the cost of re­plac­ing all of the as­sets at once may be sub­stan­tially dif­fer­ent from their ini­tial value.

Tim­ing

Ac­qui­si­tion

Mar­ket

While most busi­nesses un­der­stand the mar­ket forces that af­fect their com­pany’s value and fu­ture growth, it may not be im­me­di­ately clear what the im­pact of each strate­gic de­ci­sion taken by the owner will have on the value of a busi­ness. Keep­ing track of the trends in the mar­ket will help the com­pany’s growth in value over its life cy­cle as well.

Own­ers will also be able to make more in­formed de­ci­sions on growth tar­gets and fu­ture de­ci­sions.

In con­clu­sion, it needs to be said that valu­ing any busi­ness is a sub­jec­tive sci­ence, as one is essen­tially try­ing to of­fer po­ten­tial buy­ers and in­vestors a glimpse into the value that they will get in fu­ture. This is why en­list­ing the ser­vices of con­sul­tants who are not only rep­utable but recog­nised ex­perts in a spe­cific in­dus­try is a cru­cial com­po­nent to mak­ing the most ac­cu­rate as­sess­ment pos­si­ble.

Ben Bier­man is the man­ag­ing direc­tor of Busi­ness Part­ners Lim­ited.

En­tre­pre­neur Yashmita Bhana is founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Nihka Technology Group.

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