Jonathan Naidoo - "Always maintain a visionary outlook."

Jonathan Naidoo : Chief Executive Officer of SmartXchange
Jonathan Naidoo : Chief Executive Officer of SmartXchange

JONATHAN NAIDOO i s a n e conomics graduate with post-graduate specialisation in research methods, political and economic geography. He was previously COO of Trade and Investment KZN and holds certificates in imports and exports, project financing for public-private partnerships, conflict management, program management, financial modelling. he also holds an estate agents' diploma and an education degree specialising in mathematics.

Jonathan has extensive experience in trade and investment-related activities, having led and accompanied a number of outward and inward business missions. Jonathan's business experiences, coupled with his connectivity, both domestically and internationally has earned him the reputation of an astute "deal maker".

As the CEO of SmartXchange, he is passionate about the work that the business incubator is doing to promote the development of entrepreneurs in the MICTe sector. He is focused on what he wishes the organisation to achieve and always maintains a visionary outlook. This approach is necessary in order to remain relevant in the innovation space. Naidoo maintains that the ongoing exposure to the vibey and fantastic ideas of these young entrepreneurs is very exciting and provides momentum to the management of the day to day business.

Jonathan's entrepreneurial passion resulted in a number of start-ups: Excellent Signs (1985), a 180 seater a la carte restaurant, and a take away and ice cream parlour at the Port Shepstone beachfront (1989), and Excellent Furniture (1992). In 1998 he established a property development company, Jorano Investments. In 2000, Jonathan sold off his three businesses to focus exclusively on property development.

Jonathan is currently appointed onto the Ray Nkonyeni Mayoral Economic Advisory Committee and serves as a Council Member of the KwaZulu-Natal Human Resource Development Council as the lead champion for the ICT sector.

Naidoo says that SmartXchange's success has been made possible through three key elements. Firstly, he has the backing of motivated staff, patrons and a highly supportive board. Secondly, SmartXchange has developed powerful strategic partnerships with government and the private sector. Third is the commitment and dedication of SMMEs which is essential. "If they don't give us good," results then we don't look good, commented Naidoo.

Naidoo's vision would be to see SMMEs moving from business support and reselling to the innovation of great products, which results in high growth companies. SMMEs also need to ensure that they have a broad client base in order to avoid being a high-risk company in the event of the loss of key clients. This is especially apparent when companies are over-dependent on government contracts, which are at times not renewed at the end of the service delivery agreements.

In the future, Naidoo would like to see the SmartXchange model being duplicated as it has the potential to be adopted as a national model. Another of Naidoo's passions is for innovation to contribute to the development of 'Smart African Cities'. He said that South Africa has the potential to be a leader and to have a global footprint. However, innovations in technology are only one aspect of the solution. "We also require people to develop smart attitudes. We need smart minded people who are able to deliver the 'wow' factor. We need those people who are able to give me bad news with a smile and who are able to go the extra mile and make me feel good even if there are challenges.".

In conclusion, said Naidoo, "Incubated SMMEs are a formula for success with guaranteed results on condition that they work hard, have a little bit of luck and faith in God,"

When not at work, Naidoo enjoys the outdoors, including hiking, gardening, golfing and fishing. He says, "Gardening is my therapy. As you would nurture a garden, similarly with entrepreneurs. you would do the same. You plant the seeds, nurture and care for them and watch them grow, blossom and flourish into successful sustainable businesses for all of us to enjoy the fruits of our labour."

Jonathan Naidoo

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