Yandisa Sokhanyile has always been an entrepreneur, starting at the age of ten and selling whatever she could get her hands on, including candy, chips, and old newspapers. During the Christmas season, she cooked and sold cakes. She says, “My business instincts have always been present in me. That comes from my father, who from an early age taught us the skill of selling and how to calculate money like a banker.” Yandisa is now the Founder and Chief Digital Officer at KONECTA (PTY) LTD.
Yandisa obtained an Advanced Diploma in Computer Engineering after matric and then went on to study Management Information Systems, but she had a passion for music and marketing. She began working part-time as a brand promoter and quickly fell in love with the job. She launched her first official firm, Vibezone Entertainment, while pursuing her MIS degree, when she was 19 years old. She handled the company until she founded KONECTA in 2017. She says, “It was the most exciting moment of my life, doing what I love and contributing to the success of many South African singers. It was a male-dominated profession at the time, and all I had was my drive and my “duck working mode,” which involved seeming cool and composed on the outside while paddling the hardest.”
Below are highlights of the interview taken between World’s Leaders and Yandisa Sokhanyile:
Describe who you are as a person, inside and outside of the workplace.
I am a highly motivated and inspired individual. I love life, travelling, music, food, and just basking in culture. I am the mother of an amazing daughter who is the greatest blessing of my life. She is my inspiration and gives me more reason to work even harder.
I am very family-oriented. I have a small family, and we are very close. I am very spiritual and grounded. I love engaging in conversations, I am really fascinated by people. I also love my own time and I am very deliberate about spending time by myself. I am very active and I see exercise as “me” time, giving back to myself. Once a week, I take myself out for breakfast. Oh, I love coffee. A cup of strong coffee solves at least a quarter of my daily problems.
At work, I am still a highly motivated person. I always make sure I bring positive energy that inspires others and promotes a good working environment. I understand that each individual is unique, so I learn about people so I am able to deal with them individually. I do the same with clients, I get to understand them better and their business needs so we can be able to deliver the best possible service and service them beyond their expectations. I am a naturally born leader. I am really good with people, and I am able to get the most out of every individual.
Tell us about the inception of the company. How did it all start?
KONECTA started as a dream. I had a dream about WIFI. It was really sketchy in the morning, and the dream bugged me a bit. I checked my emails and the first email I received was an article about how WIFI would impact the world. I did research and more research. At the time, I was happily managing events and artists and had no telecoms knowledge. I plan my life in decades and have this grand plan of being in different industries in each decade. I had exhausted my entertainment era and I knew it was time to start a business that would be more sustainable, more impactful and that could continue to grow even beyond me. I wanted to leave a legacy for my children and also wanted to learn and challenge myself.
Initially, KONECTA was used as a product name for our WIFI product. The goal was to provide WIFI and video-on-demand (VOD) packages, and we had our target market clearly defined. I had intensive brand, marketing, and consumer engagement knowledge but no technical expertise. I had a partner who was more technical. I learnt more about telecoms during this time and this was the most expensive school fee. We had a product and a market, but we lacked backhaul with the capacity to service our customers. It took me almost five years to regroup and restructure the business. I did a lot of research, attended workshops and seminars, and engaged with a lot of people in the industry. In 2017, I registered KONECTA as a Technology, Media and Telecoms(TMT) company . This time around, it is backed with lessons, courage, and a zeal to succeed. We are doing incredibly work with a goal of being the biggest WIFI aggregator in Africa and offering the biggest WIFI Advertising reach.
What are the most important aspects of a company’s culture? What principles do you believe in and how do you build this culture?
I firmly believe in Connectedness. Many organizations struggle to forge forward or even deliver due to silo’s and silo behavior. Once the teams are connected, that escalates to clients and customers. It requires everyone to dig deeper, be more interested in others, and it promotes empathy. If this is transferred to clients as well, it makes it easier to deliver the right product or service. You build this culture by including everyone in brainstorming or innovation sessions. Everyone’s input is just as important, and it makes everyone feel like they are part of the team and are also part of the success.
What is the significance of innovative ideas in the company?
We live in an innovation era. Innovation is the lifeline of business now, and collaboration is the new innovation. Industries are being disrupted by startups that are not even in the sector but whose products meet customer needs. Companies need to be investing more in their R & D. They need to be able to think and forecast where their industry will be in 10–20 years’ time and start working on ideas to disrupt themselves and their industry. In 2021, I completed my Post-Grad Diploma in Innovation and Design Thinking with Emeritus, which has really helped me with the innovation process. I understand the importance of company innovation; I had to ensure that I gained knowledge and insights from global institutions like MIT, Columbia Business School, and Tuck.
Give us your opinion on whether organizations rely heavily on individual heroics or team processes.
In my opinion, individual heroics should not exist in any organization. That poses a high risk to the organization. It might be easy to have a stellar performer who knows something extremely well, but fatigue, accidents, and sometimes people do leave the organization. It is important to have team processes so the organization can function like a well-oiled machine. It is easy to notice when there is a gap, and it makes it easier for the team to step in.
Appraisal of high-performance individuals is also important to inspire and motivate teams to perform, but it does not replace team processes.
What are your responsibilities as the founder of the company? What is the happiest part of your daily routine?
The responsibility is to keep the vision alive and to ensure that the business remains intact and working towards the goals. The duty never ends, from ensuring that you have the right team, partners, client relationships, and funding for the business. My happiest moment is when I have my cup of coffee and ideas are flowing. This is usually in the morning as we start our morning idea sessions. It sets the tone for the rest of the day. Some days, I am the happiest when I arrive at home after a long hectic day, once I take off my shoes and probably have another cup of coffee.
What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?
Keep your eye on the goal! The road is never easy, it is challenging yet fulfilling. Do not take everything to heart, it is just business. Be flexible and be willing to adapt to changes.
Leave a Reply