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Altron’s Collin Govender looks to sharpen company’s PR

By , Portals editor
Africa , South Africa , 03 Nov 2022
Collin Govender, managing director of Altron Systems Integration.
Collin Govender, managing director of Altron Systems Integration.

Collin Govender recently landed in the driver’s seat at Altron Systems Integration, the ‘engine room’ running the Altron Group. As Managing Director, one of his priorities is to cement the company’s value proposition as a highly differentiated services technology solutions provider and communicate this clearly to the market.

Govender said the company is one of the biggest aggregators of OEM technology in the country and its infrastructure is used to run systems in numerous businesses across several sectors, including healthcare, finance, and retail.

But it has been hesitant in its approach to marketing this achievement.

Govender admits the company’s reticence. “I think to a large degree we have been shy. Largely we are an ambient brand, we’re not this brash ‘in-your-face’ kind of brand. A lot of what we do in the group is exceptional stuff. When you go to the pharmacy and get your prescription, we are running that entire transaction in the background. When you go to the bulk of retailers in the country, and you tap to pay with your card, we put the technology in place that does that – switching as well as the physical devices. If you go to an ATM, there’s a 90% chance you’re going through an ATM managed by us. If you go to a GP practice, there is a 92% chance that you are being transacted through our healthtech platform.”

In fairness, Altron Systems Integration – like other units within the Altron Group - must have felt the ripple effects of several changes to its hierarchy.

Govender’s move notwithstanding, the changes include Mteto Nyati’s exit, Kapp’s appointment, and ex-Mix Telematics COO Grant Fraser hired to head up subsidiary Netstar.

Govender knows the business and has bold ambitions to tweak the company’s take on promoting its technology, skills and capability. He joined Altron in June 2017 as group executive for shared services. He rose to the position of group CIO and was also appointed Managing Director of Altron Karabina in January 2021.

As of October this year, his focus will be split between Altron Karabina and Altron Systems Integration.

‘To-do list’

On the ‘to-do’ list is establishing an operational structure to ensure the continued growth trajectory of the business.

Based on its interim results, it would seem the Altron Group is on this trajectory.

According to the results, revenue was up by 15% to R5.3-billion, operating profit before capital items surged by 57% to R255-million, while headline earnings per share rose by 467% to 34c per share.

The company also declared a gross interim cash dividend of 16c per share (12.8c net of 20% dividend withholding tax).

Govender must feel some sense of confidence in knowing that the group has made it through tough times before.

He recounts how Altron came dangerously close to folding in 2016, but was rescued by, among others, an injection of outside capital, the sale of non-core assets and the Bytes demerger in December 2020.

“The share price at its peak was trading at around 40 or 50-odd Rand and it dropped down to about R5, before Mteto came on board,” noted Govender.

The Karabina business also struggled, but management was able to turn it around as well.

Govender explained: “That business was doing exceptionally well when it came across. Within a few months of joining us, it lost a key customer… lost 30% of our revenue. Unfortunately, that business hobbled along for a couple of years, made some losses. But we were able to change that.”

In the last financial year, the company was up 57% on revenue and up 200% on operating income, he added.

As far as Altron Systems Integration is concerned, Govender believes the company will be able to successfully leverage its in-house technical capability and its experience.

“It’s been an incredibly amazing company. Over the last few years, it has been a little bit lacklustre in performance. For me, what is important is that, yes, you can have your leadership team, your exco team around you, but if you really want to know what’s going on in the business, talk to the people.”

Govender’s assessment of the company currently is that while it has powerful lines of business, with highly experienced and qualified personnel, it also needs to get its narrative together, in terms of what the company stands for and what it wants to be known for.

“What’s happened with people, I think there has been a bit of a loss of the sparkle in their eyes. But people are still as resilient as ever, moving the needle every single day. The organisation has some semblance of togetherness.”

Going forward the company faces a two-pronged challenge, said Govender: one is to take the assets it has, orchestrate them behind the solutions it has and actually tell customers what it does. The second is to improve engagement with customers, explain how the company intends to support their digital journeys and clearly communicate the game plan.

“For the second part, we have such an incredible consultative capability within the business to go to customers and understand their digital transformation journey and how things need to be put together. Again, I think we’ve lost our way a little bit in that we haven’t put that into an aggressive go-to market proposition.”

And that market proposition is to continue to deliver innovation when it matters. Given the growing interest in digital transformation, progress towards 4IR, application of core systems to automate and drive digital business and the economy, it has never mattered more than now.

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