Interview with Gysbert Kappers, CEO of Wyzetalk

Gys’s enterprising technology spirit was clearly evident at a young age when in his 20’s he started an online and offline transaction platform company that was eventually sold to SourceCom when the family business beckoned.  What followed was a highly successful 18 years career in building the largest privately owned Concrete Masonry Business in South Africa. At its peak, the business consisted of 19 factories across the country with a staff complement in excess of 600 people and a production capacity of more than 600,000 tons per annum. In a multi-million rand buyout in 2008 Gys sold the company to a JSE listed group and after seeing his three years earn-out through it was time to take a break.  Hesitant to jump into another commercial venture straight away, Gys decided to further his studies at UCT’s GSB by entering into an Executive MBA Programme (EMBA) which he graduated from in 2012.

It could’ve been the dynamic learning environment or perhaps a chance to encounter with a fellow student that prompted the next dramatic shift in focus for him; whatever the story, this maverick is well on his way to leading SA’s first social business software and collaboration company—Wyzetalk.  Not to be outdone by the academics or the techies that wax lyrical on the subject, Gys wrote his MBA thesis on the “delay of social business software adoption in the enterprise and its effects”, and is already gaining widespread international appeal for his opinion and leading approach that could see local companies outpacing their international counterparts when it comes to adopting social business software to achieve collaboration, open innovation and communication objectives.

Africa month—Africa Business magazine

Gysbert Kappers, CEO of Wyzetalk

Q: What enterprise social networking services does your company offer to African countries?

A: Wyzetalk is the leading enterprise social software and workforce engagement company in Africa. Our world class communication, collaboration and mass workforce software solutions and consulting services keep people in communities, SME’s, large enterprises and multinational companies connected, aligned, focused, informed and productive all in one central place from anywhere in the world. Our focus in Africa has led us to create an innovative and unrivaled mobile solution aligned to the needs of organisations in emerging markets. If you need to communicate and connect better with a mass distributed workforce our dynamic high impact employee engagement solution will help you rebuild trust and put real-time information at your fingertips to help you make better decisions.

Q: What are the benefits for African companies and organisations after implementation?

A: As companies and organisations transform into more dynamic, lean and agile environment with greater transparency, connectivity and alignment between employees and their understanding of the business purpose, strategies and drivers they will find ways to unlock barriers that for years they’ve struggled to overcome. This is the ultimate goal of the social enterprise and future-proof organisations.

Enterprise social networking and workforce engagement encourages companies to make the paradigm shift towards transparent communication, engagement and collaboration with staff and customers by mirroring the natural way social platforms work but in a business context. This new way of working allows businesses to collaborate more, discover new ways of doing business, discover new opportunities, address issues of talent attraction and retention, be cost saving as there’s a shift in mobile worker policies that don’t compromise on productivity and shorter routes to new markets in a new way. One of the profound benefits is the ability for companies to ask a question, receive feedback and have that information interpreted and delivered into a single platform to the relevant people to discuss and collaborate on with a view to gaining a better understanding and becoming more responsive in their decision-making abilities. With integration capabilities an enterprise social strategy could finally become the one place office or knowledge workers go to everyday for everything they need, while the mobile equivalent provides the same for workers that are shift based, dispersed, mobile and who are only contactable via a feature or smartphone.

Q: Can you give an example of successful implementation of your innovation in Africa?

A: We have been in business since 2011 and to date have worked with leading brands in the hospitality, retail, construction, mining, insurance and others. We’re particularly proud of our mining installation where within the first month of implementing our enterprise social and workforce engagement solution the client had a direct connection that was opt-in from the employees establishing for the first time ever a channel for communication and feedback from half of their workforce, over 12,000+ people. And to think that we started with cellphone numbers for 400 of them. Since then the channel has been used successfully to send and receive messages, keep their employees informed and motivated, reward behaviour that supports their strategic objectives and send feedback to mine management.

Another case study is Cash Crusaders—a major retailer of new and quality second-hand goods operating via 154 outlets countrywide. Cash Crusaders chose the Wyzetalk platform for enterprise-wide knowledge sharing and collaboration. Franchisees have good ideas that are not easily shared across the group unless they use a platform like Wyzetalk. Innovative ideas raised by franchisees on the forum included a method to prevent credit card fraud and obtaining individual tax rebates by combining franchisee companies into a single entity. Wyzetalk also enabled sharing of training material, and sales data which are regularly disseminated and discussed. Cash Crusaders is also using it to manage franchisee performance enhanced by the external triggers from customer service platforms like Hellopeter. Cost-saving and efficiency-producing ideas suggested by staff that they have implemented were also great for rewarding staff which resulted in improved morale. Currently, Cash Crusaders uses Wyzetalk’s native mobile apps, which has seen the company benefit from continuous enhancements to the graphical user interface and functionality. The apps allow easier content sharing, for instance uploading photos for group discussion from anywhere in the world—a useful capability in retail.

Q: What are the challenges your company faced in African countries?

A: We’re pioneering a new market in Africa; enterprise social networking is more commonly understood in the USA but not in Africa and other emerging markets. Companies here still operate as silos and are quite hierarchical in their structures. We’re talking about a change in how companies operate and view their employees and mass workforces. By enabling a connection between company and worker, establishing a trusted relationship where contributions are valued we’re absolutely convinced of the benefits that companies will start seeing in overall productivity and results which could be the start of the turnaround Africa’s economy needs.

Q: What African countries are the most interesting investment targets for your company?

A: Our enterprise social software solution is globally relevant but our unique differentiator is that we’ve expanded our solution to help companies and organisations connect with their mass workforces using mobile technology including feature phones. Other solutions ignore this about Africa and other emerging markets, mobile and feature phones specifically are still the only, in some cases the best and most cost effective way to speak to these valuable workers. Our expansion strategy will follow countries that are connected and where mobile penetration is high.

Q: What are the prospects for the development of Wyzetalk on the African continent?

A: We’re highly ambitious and have the support of an active group of global investors and advisors that share our vision and are spreading the word. We’re going global but we’re starting with Africa through South Africa even though our enterprise social software solution is being used by overseas companies already. Our change management work and consulting on organizational transformation are rooted in Africa and experiences that are familiar to companies in emerging markets. Our software solution has been developed from the ground up by a group of South African technologists and is on par with what is available from other global vendors but surpasses capabilities through our ability to connect with workers at any level. The market loves a solid SA success story and we’re proudly flying the flag.

Q: How will enterprise social software technologies impact African economies in 5 years, for example?

A: There is a definite change in thinking when it comes to how businesses see themselves in the future. This transformation is being driven by a number of factors including technology that has closed time and space between work and play, a younger generation moving into the workforce, the need to become more competitive and globally relevant, leaner and to use more agile models, the ‘psychological contract’ between employer and employee is changing and it no longer means lifelong jobs and job security high on the employee agenda, a change in organization structure and relationships to one that’s more collaborative and engaging, and a higher resilience to constant change including reorganizing and restructuring. We believe that be building a more connected organization where trust levels are high and contributions are valued you will bring about the productivity changes that organisations are desperate for and which will in turn have a positive impact on Africa economies.

Why Enterprise Social Works?

37% Increase in collaboration and productivity

34% Decrease in time taken to find information and experts

32% Increase in ideas generated within the company

27% Decrease in emails within the enterprise

23% Increase in client win rates

25% Decrease in time taken to onboard new employees

42% Increase in communication within the enterprise

26% Decrease in time needed for meetings

30% Increase in employee satisfaction

27% Decrease in duplicated tasks

©McKinsey 2013

Attributes of highly engaged businesses:

37 % lower absenteeism

25 % lower staff turnover (compared to high turnover organisations)

28% less shrinkage

48% fewer employee safety incidents

41% fewer patient safety incidents

41% fewer quality incidents or defects

10% higher customer loyalty / engagement

21% high productivity

22% higher profitability


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