‘KK’ Combi, a giant of our times

GUGULETHU multi-millionaire entrepreneur Zitulele Luke ‘KK’ Combi has come a long way.

Born in Retreat of Cape Town, Mr. Combi is one the people who has proven that we can all achieve greatness through perseverance.

And at the height of Apartheid after the hated Group Areas Act of the 1950s came into being (the Act forced non-whites away from affluent areas of South Africa into under-serviced townships), KK and his family were forcibly removed from Retreat to the township of Gugulethu in Cape Town where he grew up.

Without warning, they and their household goods were unceremoniously loaded onto a flat bed truck and dumped in Gugulethu. This experience was common to other non-whites throughout South Africa.

Mr. Combi’s determined spirit manifested itself early on when his admittedly autocratic leadership of the school debating team earned him the nickname “KK” after the flamboyant but autocratic former Zambian president, Kenneth Kaunda. The name has stuck with him.

Another well-known South African business guru named after an African leader is Patrice Motsepe. His father named him Patrice after Patrice Lumumba, an African independence leader and the first Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Being prone to superstition, I could suggest that if you want your child to be wealthy one day, you could name him or her after an African leader. Just a thought.

And for his tertiary education, Mr. Combi went to the Damelin College where he studied Public Relations & Career History.

Mr. Combi worked at Old Mutual for a year, where he was awarded Salesman of the Year. After this, he decided to follow his dreams.

He then opened a self service café in Gugulethu, which was forced to close in 1985 due to unrest in the township as delivery trucks couldn’t access the café.

In 1989, he developed the first service station in Guguletu.

And then in 1994, he developed the R45 million Nyanga Junction Development. A business complex that continues to serve many areas of Cape Town and elsewhere.

This was followed by a R20 million Ultra City Engen One Stop he developed in King Williamstown in 1995.

Also, in 1995 he started Master Currency with 2 branches.

Still in 1995, Mr. Combi traveled to the United Kingdom in search of ideas. While visiting a London foreign exchange bureau, it occurred to him that hordes of tourists would be flocking to see the miracle nation, South Africa. They would all need the services of a foreign exchange bureau. For the next couple of days he stood by the doorway of a London exchange bureau to observe proceedings. It wasn’t long before the bureau manager spotted him and called him in.

On discovering that he was from South Africa. The manager wanted news on South Africa’s smooth transition to democracy and Combi offered to give it to him in exchange for an insight into the world of foreign exchange transactions. “It wasn’t easy to comprehend initially,” Combi admits. However, a week later he got the hang of the business.

The company now employs 250 people at 20 branches in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban. With a gross annual turnover of R2 billion, it is ranked third in the industry and commands 12% market share. “Look out for opportunities, they are always there waiting to be discovered,” says Combi.

Combi is also said to be a man of firsts. He was the first person in South Africa to be granted a foreign exchange licence; the first black South African to win the local Ernst & Young World Entrepreneur award in 2000; the first South African to be crowned World Entrepreneur for Managing Change in 2001 in Monte Carlo; and the first black South African appointed as a judge for the World Entrepreneur Competition in 2002.

His Awards and Achievements include the SA Entrepreneur of the Year in 2000,    World Entrepreneur for Managing Change in 2001, Judge at the Ernst and Young’s World Entrepreneur of the Year Competition in Monte Carloin June 2002,   2001 Cape Times Business Personality of the Year Award, Entrepreneurship Award 2001 by the Southern African Enterprise Network.

Others include the 2001 Institute of Marketing Management Award for Recognition of Outstanding Achievement in Marketing, SABC 2 Tribute Magazine Achievers Award in the Business Category in May 2003 Directorships.

Combi is also a Director on the Main Board of Massmart,   Chairman  of Sustainability Committee at Massmart, Regional Board of ABSA (Western Cape),  Master Coin (Pty) Ltd,  Vat Refund Administrators, Combi & Co. (Pty) Ltd,  Member of SA Institute of Directors,  Member of the World Entrepreneur Academy, Member of World CEO Organisation.

His community involvement has seen him building a school including community outreach programmes, among others.

Photo source: http://whoswho.co.za/zitulele-combi-4199

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