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Young MD saves company from liquidation

By Tshimangadzo Mphaphuli

It is not every day that a company stares at liquidation, and prospects of devastating job losses, but survives to tell the tale. Unidrive Electric Motors Company is receiving a second lease on life, under a new majority black women owned management, following the acquisition of the majority stake in the business by Ayanda at Work Pty LTD.

Between 2012 and 2013, Unidrive went through a struggle as a result of issues resulting from cash flow challenges which pushed the business into a precarious financial position with a possibility of closure. This also led the company to cede its market position in the local armature winding space and gave up business opportunities as clients lost confidence.

Unidrive Managing Director, Theo Mashego, says, “Unidrive is one of the most recognised players in the refurbishment and supply of electric motors and its demise would have been very sad. Also the jobs that were at stake with its closure, and the experience lost, it was unimaginable.”

“We entered into discussion to acquire the majority stake in the business just at the right time, before a decision was taken to pull the plug. Starting a business such as Unidrive afresh – off the ground – can take you between 5 and 10 years. The experience of the workforce will take you forever to build again,” he says.

Unidrive was established in 1984 by the Bibbey Family as a company that would specialise in the repair of electric motors, steel frame special motors, drives, gearboxes and submersible pumps. In 2013, the family sold 90% of the business to Ayanda at Work led by Mashego and with the majority of funding coming from a consortium of black women. The two companies merged and continue trade as Unidrive Electric Motors. The structure means the business is no 70% black woman owned, 20% black youth owned and 10% remains with the old shareholders. The business prides itself in being a truly black women and black youth owned and controlled business that delivers quality of work in a very competitive industry.

Mashego has spent the last two years refocusing Unidrive’s business model and rebuilding business confidence. The company also had to relook at its product and service offering to check if they were compatible to the markets being serviced.

Key among the initial steps to win business was to improve quality of workmanship and secure all necessary standards required to be competitive in the industry. “We are very competitive in the market and we pride ourselves in an impeccable safety record over the past two years. It is very important that we achieve these standards as they give confidence to our clients that their products are in good hands,” says Mashego.

The company is now slowly regaining its glory days, its turnover has grown in double digits between 2015 and 2016, with more positive results expected in 2017.

“We have repositioned ourselves very well with some of key South African brands in major manufacturing sectors,” says Mashego.

The company currently employs almost 20 staff members, majority of whom are skilled in the trade. In the last two years, 3 young black women were taken on a technical internship programme. Unidrive has been verified as level 2 broad-based black economic empowerment (BBBEE) companies under the South African government’s new codes. Even though Mashego is satisfied with this BBBEE level, he says Unidrive will continue to focus on black women youth training, development and employment as part of its socio-economic contribution.

Mashego holds an Information Technology Engineering (IT Eng.) Diploma with CTI (now Pearson Institute of Higher Education) attained in 2006. He has worked for various companies including; Deloitte and Touche, Sun International, Digital Planet and Netsurit where he consulted for companies like TBWA HUNT LASCARIS, NM Rothschild, MDM Engineering and Toga Labs amongst others. In 2014 he left Deloitte and Touche to start Ayanda at Work which later merged with Unidrive Electric Motors.
He has completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Business Management (PDBA) and Management Advancement Programme (MAP) at the Wits Business School, as well as a one year programme in Business Management (PBM) with UNISA amongst other IT management and governance qualifications. Over the years, he gained great experience in IT and has obtained other IT related qualifications (MCP, MCSA, MCTS, MCITP and MCSE (Cloud Solutions)) to compliment his IT Eng. Diploma and experience. He is currently a Master of Business Administration (MBA) candidate at the Wits Business School.

Mashego is the epitome of ‘black excellence’ and an inspiration to us all to raise the bar of excellence in our lives every day, act better than before and grow higher than usual!

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