Vodacom’s smooth operator
IN A cutthroat and competitive business environment, where rival companies often poach prodigal leaders, Shameel Joosub is something of an anomaly.
The soft-spoken CEO of Vodacom Group [JSE:VOD] – having taken over from Pieter Uys in September 2012 – has been with the group for a remarkable 18 years. What’s more impressive, however, has been his rapid rise to the C-suite, having joined in 1994 as a senior accountant – a few days before his 23rd birthday.
Joosub explained to Finweek that a major factor in his unique longevity and loyalty to the group has been the constant challenge of new roles to play and different teams to manage: “A big part of it is that my roles have always changed, and I was able to learn about all the different aspects that make up the running of a major mobile operator.”
His adaptability became an asset, and by age 26, Joosub was appointed as the managing director of Vodacom Equipment Company, the former handset distribution company in Vodacom. It wasn’t long before he became responsible for the entire commercial success of the group, helping to establish Vodacom South Africa.
He was formally appointed managing director of Vodacom South Africa in 2005 and also served as a director of the Vodacom board from 2000 until 2010. “I was never in the same role for more than five years, moving from accounting into procurement, then into global purchasing and the service provider side,” Joosub explains.
“Having ‘grown up’ in the company has provided me with a really good learning curve, particularly within the service-provision part, which is really the engine room of the business. I was forced to get into the detail and understand the business.”
Interestingly, he also considers his former boss and previous head of Vodacom, Alan Knott-Craig Snr, as a mentor. “He gave me great opportunities at a really young age and didn’t let the age issue get in the way,” smiles Joosub.
“Alan gave me the freedom to do what I felt was right – he was very good at recognising talent and creating the right environment to nurture it and empower people to get things done.”
Ironically, Knott-Craig has gone from mentor to rival, leading Cell C in his signature bold style.
Joosub, never one to back down from a challenge, says he is enjoying the rivalry. “It’s a lot of fun… I have great respect for [Knott-Craig], and personally we get on very well, but we have to compete.”
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