Bringing high-performance telecoms to SA’s remote locations | Fin24
 
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Bringing high-performance telecoms to SA’s remote locations

Nov 17 2016 13:17
Jessica Hubbard

Kliq Holdings, the brainchild of entrepreneurs Erik Oosthuizen and Gareth Farrow, is geared towards providing world-class infrastructure to companies located in remote areas, out of reach of ‘traditional’ telecommuni-cations services. The company, a finalist in the 2016 FNB Business Innovation Awards, constructs remote networks for clients in a high-performance package, thereby connecting major listed companies as well as small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) in far-off locations. Oosthuizen talks about Kliq, sharing his vision for the increasingly Africa-focused tech company…

What did you do prior to starting your own business?

I was born in Windhoek, Namibia. After school and military service in Namibia, I came to South Africa to study a BA and B Divinitatis (theology) degree at the University of Pretoria. I decided to start with my own business as early as possible in order to become financially independent. My business ventures ranged from owning a grocery store to owning Autopage and 

@lantic franchises. By the time I completed my BCompt. degree through Unisa, I had grown my chain stores and sold them to fund the new wireless venture.  

Gareth Farrow started working at a local IT shop doing basic computer repairs and construction. After that, he held various positions that mainly involved government networks and infrastructure, until he discovered that he had a passion for networks. Farrow then joined a company that was attempting to provide long-range wireless to the most remote areas in South Africa. That venture, too, ultimately failed, but he had seen what was possible within budget limitations. Farrow had figured out how to build and manage a network and associated infrastructure in a way that had not yet been done, and it worked well beyond his initial expectations. After 11 years of learning networking, sales and business in a very non-traditional way, he was able to pursue a business he had grown very passionate about.

What was the need/gap you identified?

Connecting our customers’ remote offices to their head office – from areas where no proper telecommunication services are available – with reliable, cost-effective, high-speed services. We wanted to deliver in remote areas with no fibre infrastructure – and to compete one-on-one with fibre.

When did you officially start operating?

In August 2011, the first customers were connected on our link from Johannesburg to Lephalale in Limpopo. Today, Kliq dominates the remote areas around Lephalale, including the Medupi power station, Resgen Boikarabelo mine, Exxaro Grootgeluk mine and the Anglo American mine.

How did you get funding to get started

After selling the Autopage and @lantic franchises, the majority could be financed with our own capital, but we also made use of venture capital provided by business partners.

What have been the three biggest difficulties you've had to overcome?

1. To build the right team and Kliq tradition

2. Capital strain in the first two years

3. International expansions

The biggest lesson learnt?

If you really have to compromise, you can compromise on everything… except customer service.

How tough is competition in your sector, and what differentiates your product/service from others?

The development in wireless technology is so rapid that if a service provider knows what it’s doing, it can compete 100% with fibre on reliability and speed − even over long distances (over 300km) at a fraction of the cost. This then makes more and more service providers start using wireless technology, and increase overall competitiveness. Also, the unique way that we build our network makes it so reliable that we offer the same – if not better – service level agreements (SLAs) than the standard fibre contracts.

How many people do you currently employ?

Twenty-two in South Africa.

What is the best business advice you've ever received?

Treat your employees as an investment, not a liability – because your growth and return on investment depends on them.

What was unexpected?

In spite of a difficult economic and political environment, we could still keep our growth above 60% average compound growth over the past five years and expand our network countrywide in South Africa (and now also into Botswana).

How do you stay motivated?

To see satisfied customers, the growth in the company, in every employee and within myself.

What are your non-work habits that help you with work-life balance?

Maintaining a positive attitude and lookout towards life, my family and country…

What is your three-year goal for your company?

Two international expansions, above 55% compound growth in every country, with a 40% compound growth in employees.

What makes the South African technology environment uniquely exciting and/or challenging?

Due to endless opportunity, it is a brilliant place to build our intellectual property and to build a multi-national company…

Do you have any advice for fellow technology entrepreneurs?

Don’t fight for customers – rather focus on developing better technology and help create a bigger market!

To enter this year’s FNB Business Innovation Awards, visit http://www.fnbbusinessinnovationawards.co.za/

This article originally appeared in the 24 November edition of finweek.Buy and download the magazine here.

 

fnb  |  apps  |  telecoms
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