The mobile transaction landscape tends to be dominated by shooting stars – startups that fade as quickly as they burst onto centre stage. But behind the scenes, one company has been quietly embedding itself deep into South Africa’s payments infrastructure, building a substantial business that touches millions of people every month.
wiGroup processed half a billion Rands’ worth of mobile transactions in the first five months of 2013, says CEO Bevan Ducasse. The company’s systems are available at every till point in two of the country’s biggest FMCG retailers, one of the largest fuel companies, as well as host of the large fast food chains. It employs 40 people, issues over half a million mobile vouchers a month and has grown by over 400% in 12 months, in volume, revenue and profits. Clearly, wiGroup is doing something right.
“Our vision statement says we exist to simplify and add value to people’s lives through mobile transacting, and we truly strive to walk the talk,” says Ducasse, who grew up on a farm in the KwaZulu-Natal and started wiGroup with Basie Kok, a former Stellenbosch University classmate, in 2007. “We’re all genuinely passionate about what we do.”
Ducasse attributes WiGroup’s success so far to two things: Sticking to our vision of adding value and building an exceptional team.
“Through all the pivots the business has gone through our key vision and therefore driver was always to add value to businesses and people, “says Ducasse. “The goal of making a difference, developing a platform, and adding convenience and value to the way people transact is what motivates us and inspires us to innovate, work hard, and keep building technology that leads the market”
“This model also allowed us to keep the team and business lean and be patient while the market was learning about the potential of our technology. No amount of money would have assisted us in fast tracking the market to adopt mobile transacting and understand our platform, and it was therefore this vision that kept us at it”.
The quality of WiGroup’s team is the second major factor in its success, says Ducasse. “We have an incredible group of likeminded but unique people who are passionate about making a difference, and love what we do. I look for people who inspire others, then I feel it’s my role to help them unlock their potential in whatever area of the business they may be in.. Energy breeds energy.”
Maintaining this entrepreneurial culture has sometimes meant fighting hard for wiGroup’s identity, adds Ducasse. “There was a lot of pressure for us to get pulled into a more corporate environments, for example by moving into other company offices,” he says. “But while corporate have a lot of strengths, they can also slow, and bureaucratic. It’s almost impossible to avoid, and therefore we made every effort to nurture our culture. We need an inspiring place to come back to, where we can get excited by the vision again.”
wiGroup is now firmly established – but, acknowledges Ducasse, “anything can happen, and we try keep our feet on the ground understanding that there is always more to do, however the trick is to choose to be excited by and inspired by the potential and unknown rather than daunted by it.”