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Updated 29 Sep 2020

How big businesses are embracing entrepreneurial innovation and agility

Winners of The Growth Engines display innovation in cost, value and strategy.

07 July 2015  Share  0 comments  Print

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The spirit of entrepreneurship through the use of rare skills and creating innovative business relationships is alive and well in South Africa.

This is attested to by the winners of South Africa’s unique The Growth Engines TV series, which saw their ability to provide innovative solutions across the ‘big business/SME divide’ win them prizes worth nearly R1 million at a gala event in Sandton on 2 July 2015.

Related: Common financial growth mistakes

Showcasing the innovation driven through collaboration between big and small business,The Growth Enginesfeatured success attained in this light to inspire business and government about a future world of doing business in South Africa and abroad. These actions demonstrated how entrepreneurs are leading our economy through excellence.

Small and big businesses working together

The Standard Bank-supported series underlined the effectiveness of large companies and their SME suppliers working together to deliver specialised skills to meet business and client needs.

It also highlighted the ingenuity and can-do spirit of entrepreneurs posed with challenges to produce world-class solutions for the benefit of South Africans, says Ethel Nyembe, Head of Small Enterprise at Standard Bank.

The series, presented by Pavlo Phitidis on Business Day TV, covered major business sectors, ranging from technology to healthcare, to the hospitality industry, the automotive industry, across to logistics and on to mining. In the process, it uncovered major achievements within the South African economy that have been put in place by large corporations and SMEs working together.

Of the 34 worthy businesses featured in the series, winners in three categories were selected.

In the ‘Innovation and Strategy’ category: GridCars with BMWiBmw -electric -car _innovative -ideas

There is no doubt for BMW South Africa that global warming, greenhouse gases and high costs of fossil fuels will lead to electric or plug in hybrid electrical vehicles becoming standard in an increasingly green world. 

Related: How BMW and GridCars are putting a spark in the electric car industry

The challenge with electrically-driven cars is the power source or charging point, its management and billing.

It is here that unique local SME, GridCars, working with BMW and their new electric ‘i’ offerings, came to the fore with solutions that intersect at the point where cars need to be refuelled. By harnessing IT and their niche expertise they devised an offering which:

  • Alerts a driver to the nearest ‘plug in’ points.
  • Ensures the driver’s place for refuelling, which can take up to four hours, by booking the facility if required.
  • Provides an electronic billing system that consolidates all refuelling stops and presents the driver with an electronically-generated invoice including all costs for a 30-day period.

In the ‘Innovation and Cost’ category: Qrent with the Discovery Group

In a constantly changing business environment, IT upgrades including desktop computers are regarded as an essential part of business. When the economy is slow, competition is tough and margins thin, the costs of keeping pace can be prohibitive.

Qrent refurbishes computers to do much the same job as newer models. The cost is the differential, with a refurbished desktop machine costing about 50% less than a new computer. 

In the case of Discovery, Qrent supplied the group with 4 000 refurbished machines. New machines would have set Discovery back an estimated R28 - R32 million. With the Qrent solution, Discovery has saved more than R14 million with fit-for-purpose equipment. 

In the ‘Innovation and Value’ category: The Bepoke Amenities Co. with the Legacy Hotel Group

In the hospitality sector, a small component of services is often critical to the overall hotel guest experience. A case in point is the provision of soap, shampoo, lotions, robes and slippers for hotel rooms.

The Bespoke Amenities Co. displayed its innovative spirit by manufacturing its own range of products, rather than importing them. By manufacturing in South Africa, import duties are avoided, local prices are paid for rent, and high productivity enables competitive pricing to be maintained. In emergencies, product can be manufactured overnight and delivered immediately.

More important is that the company plans to grow its staff base from 97 to over 300 within the next 18 months. Exports into Africa and beyond are also on the agenda.

The three winning SMEs each walk away with a Business Acceleration Programme to the value of R300 000 from Aurik. The two-year programme includes Aurik working with them to:

  • Provide the businesses with robust foundations through well thought out strategies, comprehensive business systems, reliable and accurate financial management systems, smart deal making structures and enhanced funding prospects.
  • Accelerate the growth and profitability of the businesses with the single purpose of building them into ‘assets of value’.
  • Building the businesses so that the owners spend most of their time growing the businesses and not running them. 

“Standard Bank has always acknowledged the important role that the SME sector has to play as a driving force within the economy and as a creator of opportunities. 

We have been proud to support The Growth Engines as it has inspired entrepreneurs with niche expertise to investigate how to best put this to work. For bigger businesses, it underlines that scarce skills are available in South Africa. If they cannot be found in-house, corporate objectives can be met by outsourcing to innovative SME partners.

Related: External growth strategies

We congratulate not only the winners, but all who featured in the series. Through hard work, exceeding customers’ expectations and delivering quality, innovative solutions, they have built sustainable businesses and partnerships. They are an inspiration to us all,” says Nyembe.

The Growth Engines concludes on Business Day TV (DSTV channel 412) on Tuesday 7 July at 9:30pm, with repeats on Wednesday at 10:00am and Thursday at 2:00pm. To view previous episodes and in-depth articles on themes explored on the programme, log on at or

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