BEE, Standard Bank means it.

Post freedom in 1994, South Africa took several measures to ensure previously disadvantaged communities got opportunity & a definite road to be part of the local business community. Hence business programmes like BEE (Black Empowerment Entrepreneurship), BWO (Black Women Owned Business) were launched to give these businesses preferential opportunities.

After 8 years of successful business in South Africa; Vindhya Systems decided to give back to the South Africa community it had adopted, so in 2012, we launched VPS Africa, Vindhya Professional Services (Pty) Ltd, a Black Women Owned empowerment initiative. With the black women business cards in our pocket we slept innocently dreaming that life was to change at the next dawn. It almost did; We got our first meeting in a heartbeat and a coffee as well. Kind looks followed in plenty too. We patiently heard the stories of the past and the vision the country should have for BEE companies. We too smiled back till our teeth fell off its corners. However there is always a slip between the cup & the lip.

The vendor list was opening only after 2 years & so nice to know you ladies but right now nothing can be done. Almost every door closed with the same excuse. After 48 calls (yes we counted them) when we could not even reach the procurement department of a big communications giant our BEE dream seemed drowning in our clients coffee cup.

So when we got this call from Mpumi Mthimunye of Standard Bank’s Procurement division advising that VPS Africa had been shortlisted to attend a Vendor Connect Workshop, we were unaware we were going to be part of an outstanding initiative the bank is implementing to assist its BEE vendors to build their businesses. This is a first of its kind initiative by a South African Corporate where the shortlisted BEE vendors (after preliminary screening) were educated on what it takes to do business with the bank. How these small entrepreneurs will now have a chance to move to the second stage & be able to respond to a RFP. There was a detailed explanation by Ms. Nikeziwe Nzimande and Ms.Sipokazi Dipholo on what the Vendor Connect Workshop was set up to achieve and on how the documents for RFP’s needed to be completed. Something important that got emphasized was that just being a BEE or BWO was not enough, it had to be combined with competent delivery and relevant products / services.

The session opened with Nick Geimer, Group Head, Planning & Implementation at Standard Bank, followed by a personal journey of BEE success shared by Mr. Trevor Naidoo, MD at DG Store. Mr. Naidoo shared his inspiring story of moving from a SMME to a ME, thanks to the help and support received from Standard Bank. Leora Rajak from Enterprise Room informed us of the new BEE score card ratings and how this can be leveraged to assist BEE Vendors; she also gave us some insightful information on the challenges faced by BEE vendors and clients who cannot find credible BEE vendors to do business with. This was followed by Dylan Baxter from Raizcorp very effectively covered packaging your product/service & presenting one’s offering to end of this very informative workshop.

So kudos to Standard Bank’s Vendor Management team. Here is a powerful female team that’s on a mission, clearly. They have not only spent time in understanding the issues smaller companies face to get into big businesses, but they have stepped it up with significant action. They have taken it upon themselves to educate and bring capable BEE companies to a level that allows them to compete with big businesses.

The vendor management team members Ms. Nini (Nikeziwe) Nzimande, Head of Vendor Management, along with Mpho Ratshikhopha,Vendor Manager, Sipokazi Dipholo , Vendor Sourcing & Wendy Naidoo, Vendor Manager, have most certainly taken the very definition of Vendor Management to a new level. This is true leadership.