Three things are high on Rob Sussman’s agenda for 2010: entering the public sector, expanding further into Africa with a surprising entrance into Zimbabwe and, for the first time in its nine years of organic growth, making local acquisitions.
In 2001, the Integr8 Group was founded at a time when companies were exiting rather than investing in the African technology sector. Nine years later, the company has grown organically into the largest private ICT company on the continent and co-owner and founder Rob Sussman aims to take the group’s solutions to the public sector.
“The public sector has historically been exposed to very poor service, as opposed to the private sector. We will take our proven performance from the private sector to the public sector. We will be taking hosted services and social media type services into the public sector. There’s no reason why public and private sector should be different.
Our drive has been aggressive and we have already landed some business there. From 2010 to 2012 our focus is on public infrastructure”, said Rob Sussman in an interview with ITNewsAfrica.com.
The group plans to offer hosted services such as cloud computing, XaaS (anything as a service) and Web 2.0 services to the public sector. Other projects in the pipeline include, a shared services nerve center for government with a 24/7 call center, support, uptime, feedback and application monitoring.
Rob attributes Integr8’s success to right timing. “We introduce innovative ICT services when the timing is right, when the market is ready and users are ready to adopt those technologies. Lots of businesses are starting up and they need their free cash to run, balance sheets have been hit hard, so it makes sense for them to rent out. We provide hardware as a service and hosted services in the cloud- which for us is massive as it is annuity based, developed once, deployed once and used many times over. We did it with email archive retention”, explains Rob.
The difference? Integr8 will invest in hosted services on African soil. Currently, most hosted services are provided by American businesses and African players can not compete due to bandwidth constraints. This is set to change with the laying of several fibre optic cables across the continent.
“We will see a flow of revenue coming to SA to pay for those offshore services . Integr8’s objective is actually to provide our hosted services in SA and the rest of Africa, so local companies can use local services, thereby keeping revenues in their country. We will use those hosted services locally to attract international investments. We want international companies to use SA and African hosted services”, comments Sussman.
The Integr8 team sees the African continent as a land of opportunity, a strong statement that is reflected in the company’s expansion strategy which will continue this year.
“Our strategy to expand to the rest of Africa is to go with local equity partners and make empowerment a key component. We’ll generate revenues in those areas, keep them in those areas and we invest back into businesses and people”, said Sussman.
“It’s our objective to have Integr8 partners in every African region. Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana are very exciting regions and again we opened offices with local partners”, said the executive before announcing their next target: Zimbabwe.
“We think Zim is going to be a very good area for us, we are discussing with one of our clients to potentially open offices in Zim and I think the opportunity is great, pretty much what we did in 2001, we opened when everybody else was exiting. Now we want to go into Zim’s ICT industry when everyone else is getting out. We want to buck that trend”, explains Sussman.
Expansion into Africa marks the beginning of a new phase of growth for the company known as one of those “from bedroom to boardroom businesses”.
Since 2001, the company has grown organically without external funding, acquisitions or mergers. Now it seems the time has come to reconsider the organic growth strategy.
“2010 will be the year when we’re going to make one or two strategic acquisitions. The organic growth has been great, what we realize is that to grow at this level in the next 9 years is not fast enough.
The only way we can go further is to look at some acquisitions and we mean strategic niche acquisitions. In fact we are engaging with a couple of companies at the moment from South Africa”, said Rob Sussman, adding that these acquisitions will range from 49% to 100% ownership and most probably, the group will retain their existing owners.
Most recently, Integr8 Group signed a massive $6,8 billion joint venture agreement with Mahindra Satyam, one of the largest ICT companies in India, guaranteeing a strategic partnership in infrastructure and managed services.
When asked to comment on the next big thing in technology, Rob cites as the new trend (not yet in Africa) augumented reality (AR), which marries content on the Internet with the physical world.
Will Integr8 think of bringing this concept to African markets? We sure do believe so, but only when, as Rob likes to put it, the timing is right.
by Denisa Oosthuizen