Entrepreneur and Business Person of the Year Award

This award is given to an individual who is an entrepreneur and has played a key role in developing their business in the past five years, while contributing to the upliftment of the community.

The finalists for the 2011 Entrepreneur and Business Person of the Year Award are:

  • Advocate Pria (Zakiyya) Hassan — CEO WOA Fuels and Oils
  • Reaaz Ahmed — CEO Good Hope Meat Hyper
  • Farhad Mohamed — CEO R&S Consulting
  • Ahmed Dhai — CEO Phoenix Cash and Carry

Advocate Pria (Zakiyya) Hassan — CEO Women of Africa Fuels and Oils
With a vision to “boldly go where no women have gone before”, advocate Pria (Zakiyya) Hassan established the Women of Africa (WOA) Investment Group in 2005 to enter traditionally male-dominated industry sectors and create the first women’s empowerment group in KwaZulu-Natal. The group enjoyed sustainable growth, diversifying into logistics, pharmaceuticals, engineering, project management and mining sectors.

In 2007, Pria established WOA Fuels and Oils to expand the group’s existing portfolio into the fuels, lubricants, minerals and energy sectors. Specialising in the supply and delivery of petroleum and petroleum-related products nationally and internationally, WOA sources its products from mainstream suppliers within South Africa. The company has been able to negotiate competitive rebates, which are passed on to clients in the transport, logistic and motor vehicle dealership sectors. A large component of the fuel price is the cost of getting the product to the customer. WOA Fuels and Oils is the only company in the sector that holds major rail accounts to move products by rail into Africa. In addition, their partnerships with road transporters offer a one-stop logistics solution to supply and move cargo from source to destination.

Pria describes major challenges as adapting her skills from a logistical legal background to familiarising herself with methods of calculating fuel pricing and understanding the dynamics of the energy sector. She pays tribute to mentors who guided her and shared their expertise generously, enabling her to secure government and parastatal contracts. The group has weathered the current economically unstable period and grown to a formidable force in the industry. Productivity, performance and sustainability are key components of the business success. WOA’s employees are seen as an extension of Pria’s family and enjoy the benefits of a wellness programme, flexibility to manage their time productively, self-growth opportunities and complete trust.

Pria’s list of personal achievements is fascinating and varied. Active in rail, road and sea freight logistics, she is completely up to speed on the importation of cement, the export of mineral commodities such as chrome and manganese and has moved products including lime into the most remote areas of Zambia. She has spent time mining copper in Zambia and travelled through floods into the Democratic Republic of Congo to supply a mine with fuel. Yet, despite these highlights, she is a mother at heart, seeing her children as her major achievement and the most rewarding aspect of her hectic professional career. A challenge facing all women is the need to balance personal and professional roles.

Despite the emotional stress of her husband’s recent illness, Pria has led the group through a financially rewarding year and expanded into the Cape and Gauteng regions. Completely committed to the empowerment and development of women, WOA supports a number of community upliftment programmes focusing on women and child abuse, health and HIV/Aids. The company partners with numerous organisations and has imported rapid HIV confirmatory test kits. There are donated to women encouraging them to know their status and to treat it accordingly. A hallmark of WOA Fuels and Oils staff is their energy. They approach business with a passion which is contagious. They have developed symbiotic relationships with stakeholders and established many joint ventures. The group’s vision is to continue to grow economically and empower and support women throughout Africa.

Reaaz Ahmed — CEO Good Hope Meat Hyper
A pharmacist in the meat industry may seem out of place, but the skills Reaaz Ahmed learned in blending ingredients coupled with stringent health and hygiene ethics, make for an innovative and useful synergy. In 1972 his parents, Dawood and Sharifa Ahmed, started a family business in the heart of the Salt River industrial hub, close to the community they wanted to serve. One of their objectives was to be the leader in the meat industry, offering halaal products but also serving a wider network of consumers. Believing that food has a powerful emotional association, they wanted to develop a strong and trusted brand and offer the best quality products available from spotlessly hygienic premises. A final goal was to empower and train their staff to achieve their potential, both personally and professionally.

Humble in his success, Reaaz, the butcher who cares, stresses that when he lost his father in 2002 and joined his mother, the business had already been established on firm foundations of honesty, integrity, good value and transparent trust. He takes no credit for the business success, attributing it to his mother who remains a central figure, his sisters Naseema, Abeeda and Fayrooz, who are involved in the business, his wife’s support and loyal staff who have been with the hyper for more than 30 years. In the last nine years, the family team has continued to grow the business, increasing their wholesale and retail product range and developing a manufacturing facility which creates halaal alternatives to processed cold meats and Italian and German sausages. The Good Hope Meat Hyper is the national supplier to a number of chain stores, hotels and airlines. During the 2010 World Cup, the FIFA-appointed caterers chose the Hyper as the official supplier to nine of the national stadiums, endorsing its products as tasting authentic.

In 2011, the business obtained its export licence and it is now developing markets in African countries and the Middle East. Reaaz respects the integrity of the produce he sells and remains passionate about quality, hand-picking meat and scrutinising suppliers as well as maintaining the highest internal health and hygiene standards. The Hyper is the only butcher in the Cape which is certified by the Muslim Judicial Council and the Islamic community and endorsed by the South Afican National Halaal Authority. The business established itself as a trustworthy and reliable entity, which led to customers who did not have access to mainstream banking asking the Ahmed family to keep money for them to use at Eid and other celebrations. This was the start of a successful voucher club.

The saving scheme has grown from a paper-based system to an in-store card with an electronic purse. However, the paper-based coupons are still honoured – as a customer discovered recently when he produced a R2 coupon issued in 1991 and was able to redeem it against his purchases. Community involvement is important and the Good Hope Meat Hyper supports many home industry vendors who have become regular suppliers. At weekends the company hosts a flea market in its parking area so that smaller businesses can sell their wares to customers coming to the hyper. Built on high standards, impeccable health and hygiene, innovative products and friendly customer service, Good Hope Meat Hyper has become a household name in the wider Cape community which it serves with gratitude and dedication.

Farhad Mohamed — CEO R&S Consulting
Farhad Mohamed, the co-architect and primary driving force behind the innovative R&S Consulting Group, emphasises that nothing has come his way by chance. He believes that interactions and opportunities which may appear to be coincidence or good timing, result from Allah’s provision and providence. He also says: “I am because of the people around me.” Although he is supported by an incredibly talented and dedicated team and acknowledges a supreme grace which has guided and shaped his life, his intellectual capital and his business acumen, coupled with his generosity of spirit, have played a significant role in his business and personal success.

With a Masters in information systems specialising in complex adaptive systems, his career spanned project and programme management in IT as well as software development for banking and insurance and strategic business consulting. He and his partner established R&S Consulting in 2004 when they won a tender from South Africa’s largest mobile operator to provide mobile data product support for customers. Heading up a talented team, he has developed the unique niche business into a cutting-edge market leader which now enables clients to provide world-class support to customers and comply with legislation protecting consumers.

R&S Consulting is a finalist in the Business Entity of the Year category, testimony to the company’s inspirational track record and innovation. One of Farhad’s greatest strengths is his ability to select and secure uniquely talented people, many of whom have been with him since the company’s inception. His compassion for those enduring challenging times has reaped rewards of unprecedented loyalty and dedication. He recounts a story of how he offered a retrenched colleague, who was selling breadcrumbs to make a living, a half day job at a modest salary. The staff member worked a full day for half the agreed salary and now holds a senior executive position.

Following the partnership with a JSE-listed entity this year, Farhad pledged a portion of the acquisition funds to his staff. Anyone who had been with R&S Consulting for two and a half years, irrespective of position, received a generous gift as a token of his appreciation for their loyalty. This blessing resulted in many heart-warming letters of gratitude from staff overwhelmed by his generosity and inclusive approach to investing in their well-being. Committed to and proud of his Muslim faith, he operates with honesty, sincerity, integrity, diligence and energy, always remembering the times when he was himself in need.

The company he spearheads supports numerous organisations with food and funds, believing that those who have nothing have a God-given right to look to their brother – who is their keeper – for assistance. He pays tribute to his founding partner and long-serving loyal team members for their dedication and to his supportive family, who have mentored and encouraged him and “will continue, with Allah’s grace, to drive R&S Consulting to achieve even greater results”.

Ahmed Dhai — CEO Phoenix Cash and Carry
Although Ahmed Dhai insists the success of his group is “not his work but that of his team”, the fact that he had the vision and foresight to invest in employing professional experts to transform his small trading store into a professional corporate company, deserves some credit. By his own admission, he got into the cash-and-carry business late, at 35 years of age, but he has made up for lost time through determination, dedication and sound business decisions. He has weathered unforeseen challenges and terrible tragedy, but triumphed in the face of disasters which would have deterred anyone with less perseverance, optimism and faith. Like many of his era, he suffered historically, particularly when his small general dealer in Inanda was burned down twice during riots.

In 1994, weeks before the historic election, he purchased a cash-and-carry store in Phoenix with the dream of building a business in a democratic South Africa. In 2002 the tragic death of one of his business partners required him to downsize and rationalise his assets to pay the family’s estate, leaving him to start from scratch once again. Despite these setbacks, Ahmed has built his business from a single general dealer store to a diversified and formidable business empire. With the support of his brother, Ismail, and an innovative business management team, he has established professional procedures and policies, implemented reporting strategies, systems, checks and balances, which transformed an entrepreneurial enterprise into a corporate company.

Ahmed repeatedly pays tribute to having engaged the services of the right people to restructure the group and is now training and mentoring his sons to take over from him and his brother in the next five years. To complement the new management structures, he remains a hands-on leader and can be found on the shop floor interacting with customers and suppliers every day. Modest and humble about his achievements, he believes the secret to his success is his loyal customer base, many of whom travel for hundreds of kilometres, passing competitors along the way, to shop at his Pietermaritzburg store.

He has achieved his goals of being the best in the business and offering outstanding service and cost-effective solutions to his customers. A philanthropist at heart, Ahmed offers much more than just items for purchase and always takes a personal interest in his customers. He willingly assists foreign nationals relocating to Pietermaritzburg if they need guidance and help settling in. He takes his social responsibility seriously, serving as a trustee and fundraiser on the board of four local schools. He recently donated 250 wheelchairs in response to a request from the Department of Social Services.

This article originally appeared in the Mail & Guardian newspaper as an advertorial supplement

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