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n 2012, Darren Pillay left a secure and lucrative job at Bidvest Bank to start his own fleet management firm. Having worked in various capacities at Viamax Fleet Solutions (most notably at an in-house fleet services provider to Transnet), McCarthy Fleet Solutions and then Bidvest Bank — Pillay got to experience the organisation from several different perspectives, and gain an intimate understanding of the company’s workings that would later prove invaluable. “All in all I worked in the fleet industry for sixteen years. By virtue of that, I built up very strong relationships, and more importantly, got to understand the world of Transnet,” he says.
f o r wa r d After just three years in business, South African fleet management firm Khula Fleet Solutions is already proving its worth against more established competitors. spoke to managing director and founder, Darren Pillay, to find out how his initial gamble is paying off.
From humble beginnings as a fleet clerk, Pillay climbed his way up the ranks in a relatively short space of time, and when the business was sold to Bidvest in 2007, he worked for a while as sales and marketing director before taking on the role of operations director. “When Transnet decided in 2012 they were going to market for the fleet tender, I saw an opportunity, but there was no guarantee of any business or any degree of success. I backed and believed in myself and stood by my convictions,” he adds.
When Transnet decided in 2012 they were going to market for the fleet tender, I saw an opportunity, but there was no guarantee of any business or any degree of success. I backed and believed in myself and stood by my convictions
“I had a very good career ahead of me that was very progressive and financially lucrative, so in that regard, there was no animosity or anything to say that I needed to change my environment. And I put all of that at risk, including my family. I put my entire life on the line.” Pillay took the decision to resign, and while he was held to his notice period, was given no restriction on trade. “I literally finished the Friday and started Khula Fleet Solutions on
the Monday. Fortunately I have a very loving and supportive wife who stood by me, and that certainly made the weight on my shoulders lighter.” Khula Fleet Solutions ran for around six months before Pillay could afford to employ people. He used this time to build a solid foundation for the business, ensuring that all contracts, procedures and policies were in place before tapping a network of industry contacts and clients for business. “We spent time getting the governance and framework of the organisation sorted, so that if we were to be successful in our tender, we would at least not be starting that process at the last minute,” explains Pillay. “And then Transnet called us in and said ‘Okay, we want to engage with you now, can you do this deal?’ and that was really the springboard of Khula Fleet Solutions. It literally took us from 0 to 100kmh overnight.”
For a completely unknown entity to be awarded the Transnet tender is no small feat. “Everyone was wondering who we were and where we’d come from. It was a springboard for the business and a steppingstone towards the ultimate goal. And the ultimate goal for us is
Everyone was wondering who we were and where we’d come from. It was a springboard for the business and a steppingstone towards the ultimate goal
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to have a long-term relationship with Transnet,” says Pillay. This goal was achieved just last year, when Khula Fleet Solutions secured a five-year contract to serve as Transnet in two regions, supplying around 3000 units over that period. “It’s given us longevity and sustainability. We started capacitating the business to the extent that we were able to attract people because we’ve got a contract, business is growing, and if people are driving they
of Khula Fleet staff were previously unemployed, and 63% are young people can of course create a career in the business by developing themselves. And that’s’ something that is very important to me — creating opportunities, and hiring people who were previously disadvantaged.” 59% of Khula Fleet staff were previously unemployed, and 63% are young people, 92% of staff are people of HDI background.
“I think it’s important to bring an element of young black talent into the industry. And at least 61% of the staff are female, of which 86% are black. It was one of my personal goals and objectives to achieve that,” he tells us. Differentiating themselves from the rest of the market is another business goal for Khula Fleet Solutions. This innovative thinking and use of technology is what helped land Khula a 400 million Rand funding facility just this month.
“For a company that’s been around for three years, and is a standalone business, it’s certainly something that’s a milestone and not just in the fleet industry. We’re going to buy vehicles with that money. We’ll lease them out and make a return on that — it’s what we do best.”
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On a final note, Pillay stresses that it would be “remiss of me to mention the hard work and efforts of each individual” that has contributed to the company’s success since its inception. Instead, he says that “the journey to success has been a collaborated effort by all”.
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