My task at hand is to help Vodacom realise its purpose, says Joosub

One person that Vodacom Group CEO Shameel Joosub reveres is Nelson Mandela.

“He brought about change, helped transform the country and ensured a smooth transition. The way he reconciled everyone and his ability to make decisions and move things were powerful. Today, we miss him,” Joosub told Sunday World in an interview.

Since 1994, Joosub has held several senior positions, including managing director of Vodacom South Africa, Vodacom Group managing director and Vodafone Spain CEO. His appointment to Vodacom Group CEO in August 2012 marks the pinnacle of his career.

He also sits on the Business Leadership South Africa board.

In addition, he holds an honours degree in accounting science from the University of South Africa and an MBA from the University of Southern Queensland.

Today, he leads a company with over 130 million customers in SA and the rest of Africa.

Joosub said key challenges he faced in his job were typically associated with the government.

“Our biggest challenge is loadshedding in SA, particularly as we have 15 000 sites. Unfortunately we don’t have the luxury to say, ‘it’s loadshedding, there’s no service’.”

Vodacom has spent over R2bn on batteries over the past two-and-a-half years to deal with power cuts – a cost the company continues to incur. The group is also spending money on fuel and generators, costing it over R300-million extra annually.

Joosub said since becoming the group’s boss, one of his favourite achievements was bringing purpose to the company, including the group’s contribution to the Covid-19 pandemic effort.

“Covid-19 is a good example of how that purpose came to life, including the phones we contributed to health workers and the cold storage for vaccines we
provided across all our markets,” he added.

Another high point for Joosub was to join Vodacom at 23 and becoming managing director of one of its companies at 26.

He has also transformed Vodacom from being a predominantly white company. Today 76% of its staff complement is black.

Turning to his leadership style, Joosub said one of his key priorities was setting targets, strategy and communicating them to the staff. He added that the company had to ensure its strategy was appropriately resourced with people and funding once it was in place.

Another crucial part of Joosub’s style is constantly searching for new challenges. “What are the new investments you need to make? Where’s the next opportunity?”

A further aspect of his leadership style is to hold people to account. “Sometimes there is a need for tough love. The staff know they have my support and need to deliver,” he added.

Joosub said fibre was a critical opportunity in South Africa and the continent.

“Africa and South Africa desperately need fibre connectivity. If we don’t have it, this will hold everyone back,” he added.

He also sees an opportunity in financial services.

“We process $366 billion (about R6.5 trillion) a year in transactions across the continent,” Joosub said.

Another area of focus for Joosub is the Internet of Things (IoT).

“We think IoT will play a big role in the telecom sector. For example, putting sensors on buildings can help reduce the power consumption by 20% to 30%,” he said.

One of Joosub’s favourite books is Good To Great by Jim Collins. Outside work, Joosub goes to the gym and spends time with his family. He is passionate about his one-year-old granddaughter. “She just started walking, and I hold her hand and walk,” he said.

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