Servicing South Africa in finance, logistics and ICT

In 2006, electrical engineer and serial entrepreneur Tebogo Mogashoa decided to capitalise his own resources to launch Tebfin Limited, a 100 per cent black-owned and managed financial services provider focusing on the small, medium and micro enterprise market (SMME) as well as emerging entrepreneurs across South Africa. In the same year, he also launched two subsidiaries: Fleetmatics VMS, a managed logistics leasing company, as well as Cloudseed, a technology company offering specialised services in the Information Communications Technology (ICT) sector, all with the goal of helping South Africans grow and reach their next levels of success.

Tebfin Limited, which is a 100 per cent black-owned and managed level 2 BEE contributor, provides invoice discounting and similar debt factoring solutions, asset based finance as well as supply chain finance solutions, in an effort to help SMME’s grow and compete in The Rainbow Nation’s vibrant economy.

“It was an idea that was born out of understanding the plights of the SMME and the challenges small companies face; it was a space that was completely unoccupied in the South African financial services sector,” explains Mogashoa, founder and chairman of Tebfin.

Typically, large banks have stringent lending criteria and provide finance based on security packages that many smaller companies cannot fulfill, making it difficult for these businesses to get the funding they need to expand and profit.

What Tebfin does is provide these customers with short-term funding so they are able to “bridge the funding gap”. It provides funds based on creditworthiness of a company’s clients rather than the creditworthiness of the company itself. What this does is open up the SMME’s working capital cash flow as well as enables them to focus on core business issues like sales, marketing, production and administration.

“Our funding is structured along the lines of invoice discounting and factoring as well as discounting of rental agreements. So effectively we shorten the wait of our client for collecting their accounts,” explains Mogashoa. “There is usually a 30 to 60 day a waiting period for an invoice to be converted to cash. What our company does is we buy the invoice and convert it to cash within 48 hours so the client can have access to it. We saw that small businesses were cash hungry.”

However, Tebfin does this with some necessary safeguards in place as well. On average it takes a week to sign up a new client and get them approved once the background checks on the validity of the contracts and feasibility of the claims come clean.

“We can fund literally anyone on the street as long as they have a tight contract that we can execute against and we fund them without asking too many questions,” adds Mogashoa.

In today’s business landscape, there is a growing emphasis on considering the socio-economic development of a community as well and Tebfin is heavily involved in this aspect.

Tebfin proudly supports various initiatives country-wide ranging from orphanages to schools, old age homes and sports developmental programmes, as well as organisations supporting the mentally and physically handicapped. Groups that have benefitted include: Boitumelo Home, Diepsloot Primary, the Hamlet Foundation, Phutaditjaba Old Age & Disabled Care Centre and the African All Stars Football Club.

“We understand that government cannot fight the social ills of inequality on its own, so we try to support in any way we can, as a corporate citizen of South Africa,” says Mogashoa. “As much as it is something that is mandatory for every business, we try to go a little further than is required by law so we are able to assist in the social development of the communities that are in need.”

He adds that Tebfin invests a lot of money training its own staff as part of the skills development happening in-house as well.

Tebfin has been providing a much-needed service in the South African landscape and looking to the next five to 10 years, Mogashoa hopes Tebfin will have emerged as a market leader in the trade finance arena and will continue to fund SMME’s and emerging entrepreneurs nationwide.

Fleetmatics VMS

Originally named SMM Telematics, this subsidiary of Tebfin was created by Mogashoa in 2006 and the focus at the time was telemetry technology, or vehicle tracking technology. Over the years, Mogashoa and his team identified a gap in the market for a fully-fledged black-owned fleet management company and changed the company’s focus to a fleet leasing service with its competitive tracking technology as a value-add.

Keeping that shift in mind, in 2011 the company rebranded to Fleetmatics “so our clients and competitors would know that this is what we’re here to do; not just tracking but a full range of products related to fleet management,” explains Aneesa David, chief executive officer of Fleetmatics.

Today, Fleetmatics offers cutting-edge services in the fields of full-maintenance leasing, telematics, asset management, accident management solutions, vehicle monitoring and recovering, tracking solutions as well as total fleet management. The range of vehicles available spans from day-to-day passenger vehicles to bigger trucks like refuse and crane trucks as well as “yellow equipment” like bulldozers and tractors.

What’s clever about Fleetmatics’ solution is that a client simply pays for the usage of the vehicle, not the ownership, taking usual auto-related risks, like maintenance, insurance or disposal, completely out of the client’s hands.

Currently Fleetmatics’ predominant client base comes from within South Africa’s government. In 2009, Fleetmatics financed about 1,500 vehicles to the government, which were spread across the country for various provincial and national departments. Fleetmatics provided the day-to-day management for this fleet, which included scheduling of vehicle services and processing insurance claims.

“If a vehicle is in an accident, we provide a call center service that can help them with a tow truck. We get the vehicle repaired, assessed and returned in the quickest possible time. If a number plate falls off, they contact us to request a new one. If the license needs to be renewed, we do that. We do the entire administration of it,” explains David.

The company was also re-awarded a contract with the provincial government in late 2012 to provide an advanced solution of the telemetric technology for approximately 7,000 vehicles.

Looking to the future, Fleetmatics has ambitious goals to transcend into the private sector. “It’s a different dynamic that would really put us in the forefront of the market because we already have extensive experience in the government space; having that experience in corporate would offer us such an advantage,” she says.

In terms of the technology, David says they are currently in talks to expand the tracking solution to the retail space by aligning themselves with insurance companies so that “the man on the street” can get the solution in their vehicles as well.

“In the short space of time we’ve been in existence, we’ve achieved quite a lot. It’s an exciting industry to be in and we’re always looking to evolve and keep ourselves at the forefront at all times; have that competitive edge. I think that’s what keeps us going. The future looks very optimistic for us,” says David.

Cloudseed

Formerly known as SMMT Online, Cloudseed was founded in 2006 by Mogashoa and offers a comprehensive end-to-end suite of connectivity and cloud offerings that will solve the needs of the smallest SMEs to large enterprise clients, at compelling value and unsurpassed quality of experience.

As the economy grows and business needs become more complex, so too do their ICT requirements. This need is punctuated by the fact that end-users across the country are logging on and relying on the Internet for their day-to-day needs more than ever. According to statistics, at the end of 2012, South Africa reported 8.5 million Internet users.

In a report called The New Wave – who uses the Internet in South Africa, where they use it and what they use it for, Wits University researcher Indra de Lanerolle found – in a survey of 1,589 South African adults across rural and urban areas – that one in three adults now used the Internet, almost 75 per cent used their mobile phones to go online and if the Internet kept growing at the same rate it has done over the last four years, then more than 50 per cent of adults in South Africa would be Internet users by 2014.

Perhaps most striking was that de Lanerolle was able to put a face to what the next wave of Internet users would look like: young, black and living on less than R1,500 a month.

“Our research indicates that ordinary South Africans are now finding social and economic benefits from going online. But in order for most South Africans get access to the Internet we need to increase the availability of facilities at Internet cafes, libraries, schools and colleges and we need to reduce prices of mobile data,” said de Lanerolle in a news statement.

Cloudseed believes that everyone should demand no-nonsense, hassle-free, enterprise connectivity and cloud solutions, which is why its network-independent, business intelligence applications and collaboration tools – provided in a single unified offering – is both disruptive and accessible to all.

In essence, Cloudseed offers a comprehensive connectivity and cloud solution flexible enough for an emerging tech start-up to a well-established consulting firm.

Besides providing the enterprise network and the physical data centres, Cloudseed is able to provide a holistic cloud services solution ranging from: Single-Sign-On (SSO), Invoicing and Billing, Service Monitoring, Internet, Email, VoIP, Storage, Documents, Hosting, Procurement, HR Management, Membership Management, Mobile Device Management as well as Disaster Recovery Programs. These services are customisable to allow a bespoke solution for each client.

Cloudseed has been involved in a number of major projects since its inception, notably The Gauteng Online Project, which aims to provide every public school in Gauteng with a specialised computer laboratory connected to a central network. To date, this project has brought 1,557 schools online (70 per cent of township schools), 1.5 million learners have been empowered with access to the Internet as well as 2 million end users (learners and teachers).

This network amounts to Cloudseed operating the largest open source network of its kind globally.

“We help produce citizens who enter the work space to be fluent in a technology that has, at its core, principles of freedom and accessibility to cutting-edge technology without lock in,” said Cloudseed’s chief executive officer, James Ainslie, about the milestone project.

The company also worked to empower women and girls in ICT at the World Telecommunications and Information Society Day in Botswana where Cloudseed provided the exhibition with full Internet and VOIP connectivity over the three days and left a Cloudstem (WAN node) installed to provide continued connectivity to the village of Mabule (which, ironically, now has Internet connectivity but no running water!).

In addition the business committed to donating a laboratory to the village to ensure that the futures of the children are enhanced with knowledge through technology. This laboratory was installed and launched in March of this year.

Considering 66 per cent of South Africans are still not online, with half of these non-users saying they don’t even know what the Internet is, companies like Cloudseed have a tremendous opportunity to help bring Internet connectivity, and thus social and economic benefits, to millions of end users.