Young Busi­ness Lead­ers


Destiny Man - - CONTENTS -

SA’s staid mar­itime eco­nomic sec­tor has re­mained re­sis­tant to change, with a dearth of di­ver­sity in terms of own­er­ship. With this in mind, gov­ern­ment in­tro­duced a slew of new leg­is­la­tion ear­lier this year with aim of catalysing trans­for­ma­tion in the sec­tor and cre­at­ing space for the par­tic­i­pa­tion of all South Africans, while at­tract­ing new and ex­panded in­vest­ment and cre­at­ing much-needed jobs.

This in­ter­ven­tion has al­ready borne fruit, with the land­mark sale of Grindrod’s bunker divi­sion, Uni­corn Bunker Ser­vices, for an undis­closed amount to new co-own­ers Women in Oil & En­ergy SA (Woesa) and Lin­sen Nambi, cre­at­ing the first 100% black ship-own­ers’ group in the coun­try.

Naidoo and Mhlambi (both 33) are the own­ers of Lin­sen Nambi, a com­pany they started in 2012. It’s since ex­panded

its ser­vices be­yond ship­broking, ma­rine sur­vey­ing and con­sult­ing ser­vices to in­clude in­land haulage, ware­hous­ing, sup­ply chain man­age­ment and dis­tri­bu­tion.

“Trans­for­ma­tion of the mar­itime sec­tor has been a key fo­cus of Lin­sen Nambi for many years. This deal is the first of its kind in SA, but hope­fully not the last,” says Mhlambi.

The pair have been bo­som bud­dies since they were in pri­mary school in Dur­ban.

Like other chil­dren, they walked home from school ev­ery day fan­ta­sis­ing about how rich they’d be, the cars they’d drive, the many busi­nesses they’d own and how they’d help other poor chil­dren. Af­ter ma­tric­u­lat­ing, how­ever, Naidoo and Mhlambi opted for dif­fer­ent courses of study at the Uni­ver­sity of KwaZulu-Natal. Naidoo went on to be­come a qual­i­fied ship­bro­ker and was an award­win­ning stu­dent, while Mhlambi grad­u­ated with a BCom Hon­ours in ac­count­ing and

com­pleted his ar­ti­cles at KPMG.

As a young pro­fes­sional work­ing for mar­itime com­pa­nies, Naidoo ob­served that there were only a hand­ful of blacks in po­si­tions with de­ci­sion-mak­ing author­ity. “I knew I wouldn’t be able to ful­fil my am­bi­tions work­ing for a ship­ping com­pany. In 2012, I pro­posed to Thuso that we start our own one,” he re­calls.

At the time, Mhlambi was in a cor­po­rate en­vi­ron­ment as a fi­nan­cial man­ager. “Given my long child­hood friend­ship with Du­rand, it was a quick de­ci­sion for me to join him as his ac­coun­tant,” he smiles.

Hav­ing tran­si­tioned from a ser­vice­fo­cused, pan-African en­ter­prise to an as­set-based ven­ture, Lin­sen Nambi is now a 100% black youth-owned ship­ping com­pany with highly skilled mar­itime pro­fes­sion­als, strong cus­tomer re­la­tion­ships and, cru­cially, its own ves­sel. “Most black peo­ple have never con­sid­ered work­ing at sea be­cause such po­si­tions usu­ally aren’t ad­ver­tised in SA,” says Mhlambi.

Naidoo says Grindrod In­dus­trial De­vel­op­ment Com­pany sold its bunker divi­sion, Uni­corn Bunker Ser­vices, for an undis­closed amount to the com­pany ear­lier this year. It was es­tab­lished in 2006 and op­er­ates three mod­ern bunker tankers in the ports of Dur­ban and Cape Town un­der con­tract to oil ma­jors BP, En­gen and Chevron. In lay­man’s terms, Lin­sen Nambi is the petrol at­ten­dant of the sea. Fi­nanced through the In­dus­trial De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion, it se­lected Woesa as a part­ner on this deal be­cause – by dint of both their colour and their gen­der – black women have been dou­bly marginalised in the South African econ­omy.

Mhlambi’s proud of their trans­for­ma­tion suc­cesses. “Seven out of 12 Masters are black, as are all 12 Chief Of­fi­cers and all 12 Chief Engi­neers in the com­pany,” he says, adding that it al­ready em­ploys 110 peo­ple, a com­ple­ment it hopes to in­crease sig­nif­i­cantly as the busi­ness grows.

Both he and Mhlambi ad­mit that their busi­ness hasn’t yet made re­mark­able prof­its, but they’re fo­cused on a higher pur­pose: the de­vel­op­ment of com­mu­ni­ties where they op­er­ate.

“To­day our heads are less in the clouds. We know how dif­fi­cult it is to run a start-up as en­trepreneurs and we owe our suc­cess

to God’s bless­ing in our lives. The oceans can feed us and pro­vide us with a liveli­hood, yet it has high bar­ri­ers of en­try to new en­trants in this in­dus­try,” says Mhlambi. He ex­plains that ef­forts are be­ing made to change this, in­clud­ing gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tives such as Op­er­a­tion Phak­isa, aimed at kick-start­ing the mar­itime econ­omy. It’s es­ti­mated that the oceans could con­trib­ute R177 bil­lion to SA’s GDP.

Both Naidoo and Mhlambi be­lieve they’re in a strong po­si­tion to pro­mote the ben­e­fi­ci­a­tion of SA’s long coast­line and be­come the con­ti­nent’s pre­mier ship­ping group.

They want to cap­i­talise on the trans­port op­por­tu­ni­ties pre­sented by Dur­ban and Richards Bay, the busi­est con­tainer port in Africa and the busi­est coal ter­mi­nal in the world re­spec­tively, while grab­bing mar­ket share from for­eign-owned ri­vals and mak­ing a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to the coun­try’s GDP.

“Our com­pany’s well placed for strate­gic ac­qui­si­tions and or­ganic growth to de­velop our in­fra­struc­ture fur­ther,” says Mhlambi.

“Most black peo­ple have never con­sid­ered work­ing at sea be­cause such po­si­tions usu­ally aren’t ad­ver­tised in SA.”

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