When you’re conquering the high seas, you need a good captain and an adept helmsman. The man at Paratus who is set on a course to drive the group’s ambitions over the next five years not only has the experience, know-how and wit to make it happen, but he’s also not remotely intimidated by some of the more daunting tasks he’ll be tackling head on. Meet Schalk Erasmus – Group COO of Paratus and CEO Designate.
Paratus has set some big hairy audacious goals (BHAGs) to double its revenue over the next five years. Just recently, Schalk Erasmus was elected by his peers as Group CEO – effective 1 August 2022. As the group grows and expands at the rate of knots, Erasmus will ensure its smooth sailing. He will help provide the safe harbour environment that is needed when the trade winds blow and when the going gets tough. He is professional, utterly competent, very popular with his colleagues and industry peers … and he’s ready to set sail.
And who better for the job than a man who has not only been with the company for 18 years and has had responsibility for many of the group’s major interventions over the years, but a man who also has the right persona to steer the group to the next level? He’s been at the coalface of operations and, until this recent election, was the group’s Chief Operations Officer. He knows and understands every facet of the business and he is keen to take the business to the next level.
The book that Schalk Erasmus has just finished reading but still referring to is entitled ‘Sales is a life skill’ by Barry Mitchell. Immediately, this gives you an insight into how this man operates. He appreciates that skill is needed at every level and that honing those skills is the key to success. But he knows he can’t succeed alone, realising that leadership is about inspiration and persuasion rather than abject management control. He likes grappling with the nuances of doing business in the best way possible. He enjoys learning and derives as much pleasure in applying this in his daily ‘workout’ at the office. And workout it is too, because his day is disciplined and starts early with all his planning done in a couple of hours before anyone else arrives at the office. The rest of his day is a whirlwind of busy ness, as he turns the plans into action.
As he enters the transition phase in taking over the Group CEO role, he is now working more closely than ever with current Group CEO (and soon to be Executive Chairman), Barney Harmse. Erasmus has always been keen on understanding how to unlock potential in Africa because this underlines the group’s vision to transform Africa through exceptional digital infrastructure and customer service. “Our objective is to double revenue within the next five years”, explains Erasmus. “And our plan is to expand into central and west African countries in order to achieve this.”
From a start-up 20 years ago, Paratus has already achieved its goals and become a major telco player with an impressive footprint in Africa. Owning its own infrastructure, building expert teams in seven southern African countries, and serving customers across the continent with a seamless quality network service – these are the cornerstones of the Paratus group’s success so far.
Through its extended network, the Paratus group also serves customers in over 30 African countries; it is the appointed partner to land the Equiano subsea cable in Namibia; and it has already built four of its own Data Center facilities in three African countries.
Erasmus is one of the most focussed people one could meet, and the man who will ensure consistency and excellence of the product delivery, no matter where that is. Along with his co-directors, he is an absolute stickler for high quality and in not compromising on the Paratus promise to be Africa’s quality network. When questioned whether he will do things differently in his coming role, Erasmus is modest, humble even. “I first want to analyse what’s happening in every corner of the continent where we operate and understand what the perceptions are from inside and outside the business. I will see what needs changing, if anything, and then set about making those changes. That said, I’m pleased to say that our latest audit revealed that the vast majority of our Paratus staff are happy in their work and this is a wonderful foundation from which to start.
“As we push through with our expansion into new territories, I plan to identify and appoint an A-team to be the ‘go to’ people for any given area or expertise. I also want to focus on sharpening internal communications. After all, communication is at the source of everything we do in life and if you can get it right within your own courtyard, you can be confident of the onward ripple effect. We need to consider these things as we grow because our people are the ones who will turn our goals into reality. We need to have everyone onside and elicit their enthusiasm and buy-in for the plan.”
While Erasmus has a keen eye on everything, including his recent projects which include the Equiano landing station, the newest of the Paratus data centers in Windhoek and in unlocking the wholesale channel, he is looking forward all the time. He believes fervently in the internet and is determined that Paratus will help to spearhead the next wave in connectivity whereby people will experience more in their lives; where content is delivered seamlessly and quickly, content that will help transform Africa and inspire its people to live better and more fulfilled lives. “That’s the route we want to navigate”, says Erasmus. “We have such potential here in Africa and, through quality connectivity and delivery, we can help unlock the potential. This is a very exciting prospect for us all.”
Steady, resolute, and dedicated to the cause, Erasmus is set to lead the Paratus group to even greater success in realising the group’s ambitious plans. Who knows, he might even chart a route towards new shores in the future.