Entering a mature market already overflowing with existing, large, well-financed players may not seem like a good idea for when you are a small company with no financial backing, but that is how Itec started.
In the words of Itec South Africa's founder and CEO, Jacques Duyver, the company was founded 10 years ago with a desk, chair and phone.
Jacques Duyver, CEO, Itec Group
Back in 1997, Duyver was one of Itec's current competitor's top sales people. He went out and started his own Konica agency. Duyver says he had enough money to buy one copier, sell it and buy another. The rest is history.
Today the company is a billion rand entity, with about 40% of its revenues coming from hardware sales and the rest from services. The company has no gearing and never has. "When we needed it the banks were not interested, and now that we do not need it they are interested," he quips.
The Itec name came about three years ago after the merger of Konica and Minolta. One of Itec's competitors wanted the Konica-Minolta name and Duyver, the constant entrepreneur, decided the company would rebrand and expand its range of solutions to other brands. Itec's business partners today include Konica Minolta, Ericsson, Samsung and OKI.
The decision to expand proved the right one as the company has seen rapid growth over the past three years. Duyver says Itec South Africa is "the fastest growing office automation and hopes to also be the fastest telecommunications solutions provider soon" in the region.
Itec provides office solutions designed for clients' specific needs. In this endeavour, the company integrates a host of software packages to enhance the capabilities of its hardware. Solutions on offer include:
* Office automation solutions, including copiers, printers and fax machines.
* Production printing solutions.
* Telecommunications solutions.
* PBX and call centre solutions.
* Financing solutions.
* FaxMail solutions.
The expansion into the telecoms space with the launch of Itec Telecoms now sees the company also offering telephony solutions from Samsung and Ericsson, as well as a host of value-added services based on IP.
Itec Enterprise Solutions COO, Frank Mullen, says Itec had about 17 000 customers which all needed effective telecommunications services as South Africa's telecoms landscape becomes more open and flexible. Itec was already a trusted name in these companies and extending Itec's services into this new arena of converged communications seemed a logical decision.
While all telecoms work is currently done on the customer's premises in terms of consulting, installation and services, Mullen does not discount the possibility of running some form of hosted application service in the future.
Itec currently has more than 57 branches across South Africa and in Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Namibia. And those numbers are growing.
Independent entrepreneurs run all Itec's branches, but Itec has a financial stake in each. This ensures both parties have a reason to ensure the success of the company. Mullen notes, however that Itec Telecoms has also signed independent resellers that are capable of offering its services to their non-Itec clients (of course, Itec service providers are not limited in terms of who they can sell to).
From the way it was started, to the manner in which it forms branches, to its expansion plans and the constant growth the company experiences, it is clear that entrepreneurial and innovative processes are at the heart of this company. And with that approach, the telecoms expansion and whatever happens thereafter will probably keep Itec growing and annoying its competitors as they constantly play catch-up.