Business / Business News

Tumisang Ndlovu
10 minute read
14 Jan 2016
12:58 pm

First African agency set to go global

Tumisang Ndlovu

And ‘build a better future for SA’ by teaching entrepreneurship and wealth creation to communities.

Tebogo Ditshego, CEO of Ditshego Media.

TUMISANG NDLOVU: In this week’s SME Feature we speak to Tebogo Ditshego, CEO of Ditshego Media. Tebogo, take us through the services under Ditshego Media.

TEBOGO DITSHEGO: Some of the services that we offer include public relations, which is reputation management, so we deal with internal and external communication of an organisation. Why is this important? Well, to build solid relationships with your customers, your clientele and some of your staff members, and also investor relations, you need to have communication. If there’s no communication in a relationship, then you don’t have a relationship. So we are the foundation of relationships and that is why we are very important and play a very important role in any organisation. So as a specialist we will be able to create a media relations strategy, an internal stakeholders’ strategy, investor relations and also social media management because new media is really huge right now. We can assist you, not only with crisis communication, but with a strategy that will help you to be proactive in your approach to communications, so that you can reach your communications objectives and build long-lasting relationships with your customers.

TUMISANG NDLOVU: Where did it all begin?

TEBOGO DITSHEGO: Well, my journey as an entrepreneur was very interesting, it started in primary school and the seed was planted by one of my teachers, I can’t remember her name, I’d love to give her the credit that she deserves, but she said to me that it’s important for you guys to think about becoming entrepreneurs, so that you can create opportunities, as opposed to just looking for opportunities. That was in grade five and by grade seven, when I was 12 years old, my mother gave me money to start a business of selling sweets to primary school students and that’s where I learnt about cash flow and taking stock, a little bit of marketing your business, being at the right place at the right time, attracting customers. I also extended it to the household, where I grew up in Kagiso, where I would just stand outside on the stoep, on the porch, of the house and I would sell sweets there. Slowly but surely that entrepreneurship spirit stayed inside me. My mother tells me that I started making money when I was eight years old as a baseball ball boy and she said I’d bring a lot of money to the household. I was a little bit chubby, so I had a lot of hotdogs, when I was a bit younger, from my own money. So it grew from there. When I was in high school, one of my teachers, Mrs Steele, called me outside of class and she said, Tebogo, you’ve got the gift of public speaking and I think you should enter the speech competition at school. I took her advice and that year I won the impromptu speech competition and throughout the years I was amongst the winners. In matric I came first place for public speaking at school and that is why I decided to invest in that because it was one of my innate qualities and talents. I did public relations at the University of Johannesburg, I did my honours degree and while I was studying I wrote for several publications like Business Day, Sunday Times, the Sowetan, when I was 24 the Sowetan named me one of the leading thinkers in the country for one of their columns called Frank Talk, because of the research that I did and the commentary that I had on various issues. That is when I went into the industry and at some point then in 2011 I registered Ditshego Media and the rest is history.

TUMISANG NDLOVU: The media communications space is quite contested, how do you find relevance and staying power in this industry as a young business?

TEBOGO DITSHEGO: When I started the company I had a lot of experience, my writing was polished, I had written already for the President of the American Chamber of Commerce, I was writing his speeches. I had experience in the industry, I had the educational background but I didn’t have experience running a business and so it failed because I only had approximately R7 000 to start off the business. So what we did was we changed our approach, as opposed to using the traditional sense of running a public relations company, we started to have tailor-made solutions. So you’ll see all the clients on our website, we’ve done different things for each client because we look at your organization and say here are your unique objectives, your unique challenges and how do we come up with communications solutions to help you to execute your communications strategy. That is how we stay unique in our particular industry. Also I think what makes us unique is our expertise in social media management, we did some research and we found that we are one of the top ten most followed public relations agencies in the world, if you put together all of the social media accounts that we own. So we’re sitting at over 52 000 followers combined, competing with global agencies like Magna Carta and partnering with some of these agencies. Another thing that we’ve done is we visited agencies in the US, some advertising agencies, to find out what is it that they’re doing so that we can benchmark our service offering with some agencies and first world countries. We’ve also cross pollinated, so they’ve also learnt some of the strategies that we’ve implemented and that is what keeps us ahead of the game.

TUMISANG NDLOVU: What are some of the challenges that you’ve faced in this journey so far?

TEBOGO DITSHEGO: We’ve faced a lot of challenges, firstly, managing your finances is very difficult if there are no finances coming in. So finding clients is difficult. As skilled as you might think you are in the industry, because you don’t have a track record you need to learn how to build credibility. Building credibility is very important, it can be one of the life bloods of any organisation, it is very essential. So how do you build credibility? Well, word of mouth is very important, so if you’re doing a good job for any client that you get, they will tell somebody else and they will be happy to punt your name. From our perspective we’ve been able to do that quite effectively. So finding clients, keeping clients is a bit easier than finding clients but then what’s even more difficult is scaling up. So you don’t want to just play with the small boys in your industry or the small players in your industry, you want to be playing with the big boys and the big girls in your industry, so you need to scale up. So you need to figure out how is it that you’re going to scale up. Scaling up means increasing the pool in which you’re able to service, so increasing your market share, you double, you triple it. From 2013 to 2014 we tripled our revenue but then you have to keep scaling up each and every year. So now we’ve got representation in different African countries like Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya. Now we’re able to service clients in those countries. So if there are companies from any country in the world trying to enter those markets we are able to service them and they’ll find us there.

TUMISANG NDLOVU: Having said that, what are your views on the current entrepreneurial space in South Africa, do SMEs or entrepreneurs have enough support, in your view?

TEBOGO DITSHEGO: Oh, definitely not. We haven’t created an ecosystem, which is friendly for upcoming entrepreneurs. That’s why a lot of people are comfortable with just earning a salary. From my perspective we need to create an ecosystem that is very aggressive, very friendly and easy to register your business and to operate. We also need to change our mentality, firstly our investors’ mentality and the mentality of corporate South Africa of working with startups. Corporate South Africa needs to understand the role that they’re playing in developing our country, by giving startups and new operations an opportunity to be a part of the supply chain. I spoke about scaling up, that’s one of the most important elements of scaling up, being a part of the supply chain of various organisations. I spoke to one of the executives who started Standard Charted Bank, in South Africa, at the New York Africa Forum in Gabon in August 2015, and he spoke about the importance of including startups in the supply chain of organisations. That is how you are going to scale up, by getting more business and if you’re not able to do that and if you don’t understand the role that you’re playing in creating jobs, in skills development and building prosperity for our country as a corporate entity in South Africa, then you will not be a part of the development of our country. I think every company in South Africa should think differently when it comes to supporting small businesses and small-sized entities.

TUMISANG NDLOVU: Lastly, where to for Ditshego Media in the future?

TEBOGO DITSHEGO: Well, Ditshego Media has grand plans, I think we want to become the first African agency that goes global. We should be available in each and every continent in the world, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t because we offer world class service, second to none in the world, we can compete with the best in the world and, therefore, we want to be everywhere in the world. From my perspective, as an entrepreneur, I’m looking also to broaden my scope, to also invest in start-ups with high growth potential, so I can also play my role in building a better future for South Africa. We’ve started Ditshego Investment Group, which was created for that purpose and our slogan is moving Africa forward. So I will be going into various industries, I have already started by investing in companies on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, I will going around in various communities teaching young people about entrepreneurship and also how to build wealth, as opposed to just becoming rich. Another thing that we do for the community is encourage a culture of reading books for leisure, we started Read a Book Sa on Twitter, it’s @readabooksa and it’s going to become the biggest African book club on the continent, one of the top ten book clubs in the world in terms of followers. So we’ve got 34 100 followers onTwitter and the engagement is very high. Young people are now starting to understand that reading books for leisure is not something that you do to please your parents but it is something that you do to develop yourself and we want to promote that. We’ve taken up a challenge from Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, where he endorsed us and congratulated us last year for starting Read a Book SA and he challenged me to read one book a week. So I’ve already read three books this year, I’m on my fourth book by Panashe Chigumadzi, called Sweet Medicine, I’m not really into fiction but Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Panashe Chigumadzi make me realise how important fiction is and the social issues that they tackle, learning about the cultures of other African countries like Zimbabwe and Nigeria. I was actually interested in Half of a Yellow Sun, where the master said that we need to change what’s happening in South Africa and he was concerned about Sharpeville and it would really help our youth to see how supportive other African countries were during our liberation struggle and so it could tackle issues like xenophobia. So that is how reading books for leisure can help you but for me, as an entrepreneur, it helps me to be ahead of my competition because I know more and because I know more I can do more.

TUMISANG NDLOVU: That was Tebogo Ditshego, the founder and CEO of Ditshego Media.

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