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Issue Date: November 2007

Q&A: Local software delivers

1 November 2007

While offshoring to India is all the rage, some companies in South Africa are surging ahead with locally developed and supported applications. CBR asked Manny Moreira, MD of Edge Evolve about his company’s software development successes.
Manny Moreira, managing director of Edge Evolve
Manny Moreira, managing director of Edge Evolve
CBR: Who is Edge Evolve?
Moreira: Edge Evolve is a team of people that enable business opportunities by empowering individuals, companies and our customers alike, through sound partnership principles in the ICT sector. We attract and develop quality people through maintaining and enabling a family-like culture.
Our business focuses on the creation of sustainable wealth through the development and delivery of superior business solutions tailored for Africa.
Edge Evolve is black empowered and soon to be black owned.
CBR: Where did the company come from?
Moreira: Our business was born on the back of IT consulting services, enabled through strong relationships which we had in the market-place. The IT consulting service is an offering which we understand very well.
We initially provided niche skills sets into the cellular and government sectors, followed by the retail sector. Most of these niche skill sets were based on solutions developed overseas, which needed local development (localisation), implementation and support. These systems and skills are pivotal to running the various businesses we service.
Our first two customers were the City of Johannesburg, enabled through the Masana Technologies partnership; and Vodacom DRC, enabled through what was the the AST partnership.
Another enabling factor was that we were a black empowered entity from the outset. Needless to say, BEE from a procurement point of view has never been an issue for us.
CBR: What is your reason for existing?
Moreira: We have an intimate understanding of our market space and what it means to build a business within the parameters of empowerment in the South African context. In essence we have created a South African business vehicle that enables and supports the delivery of African business solutions to the market-place. This fact combined with a strong delivery capacity serves us well in creating new partnerships, be it with our customers or complementary business partners in the industry.
To date we have enabled the following organisations through our business model:
Group Member companies
* Edge Consulting.

* Edge TMI.

* Edge Channel.

* Edge Mobile.
External Group Partners
* ICC technologies.

* TMA Systems.

* Unisource.

* Exante Consulting.
CBR: What are your main activities in South Africa?
Moreira: IT consulting services and product development has traditionally been our offering to the South African market-place. As the business matures and stabilises we are looking to our South African-based business to launch into the rest of Africa and ultimately abroad.
Our partner company, Edge Channel, is primarily focused on creating a distribution channel for the products developed in Edge TMI and represented by the group.
CBR: Where else do you operate?
Moreira: Outside of South Africa, we operate through business partners, such as Zelco, Tracknet, TMA Systems and Exante Consulting. Edge Channel is focused on enabling a distribution network for our products and solutions into Africa and abroad.
CBR: Do we need a local development house when there are endless applications being imported from the US and EU?
Moreira: Yes, one often underestimates the amount of locally developed solutions in South Africa. We have a very strong software skills base in this country, with experience specifically tailored to the African market-place. There is a multitude of software offerings in the developed world that do not match what we need on this continent. Furthermore, these solutions are completely out priced due to the exchange rate differential and total cost of ownership. Edge has always followed the strategy of local skills, local pricing and local support when it comes to software development and total cost of ownership.
If one looks at our country’s economic needs from a rand demand point of view, we need to export product as opposed to importing product. Edge plans to export into the African continent and abroad through Edge Channel.
There is a saying that we heard from our Zimbabwean partners, which is, ‘look north not east or west’. This basically means that we should use the resources we have on the African continent to deliver high quality products and services – we need to meet needs.
Often high quality skills and products are imported from the developed world and more recently from the East as well – this is not necessary if these are available to us from just across the border in Africa – as close as Zimbabwe. This country is full of well-educated, highly skilled individuals with a sound work ethic. Hi-tech engineering companies that are waiting for jobs, with a country in dire need of forex, and yet we get our components developed in China.
Edge has created a vehicle that, through the understanding of the benefit of pure partnership, can provide the so-called First World solutions that so many of us are falling over ourselves to get from the rest of the world instead of looking internally for solution delivery.
CBR: How do customers react to SA developed software as opposed to international brands? What is your differentiator?
Moreira: It is true that many corporate customers feel more comfortable with buying their IT solutions offshore, regardless of the cost and quality of service. Thankfully this is changing, as companies are starting to focus on the real value add to their bottom lines.
We have seen a trend developing in Africa, especially in the cellular market-place where network operators are now using locally developed solutions to run critical missions, such as billing solutions.
These companies have identified that the products developed on the African continent are of high quality and value for money from a TCO point of view. Factors such a local skills, local price and local support are starting to make sense in considering the bottom line of these organisations. Needless to say, the in-depth understanding of what solutions are required in Africa often far outweighs the solutions based on the requirements from the developed world.
CBR: What value do you add?
Moreira: We offer our customers a higher quality service due to our intimate understanding of their business, in their sector, in Africa.
To our partner companies we offer an understanding of the true meaning of partnerships, where a win-win philosophy is paramount for the relationships to prosper. Together we can offer a total solution to our common customer; while each partner focuses on their specialised offering. Ultimately the customer wins due to this relationship as the final solutions delivered are of superior quality for true value for money.
CBR: Which companies form part of the Edge group and how do they slot into the whole?
Moreira: As mentioned before we have a long-term focus on creating wealth for all involved. Therefore, sustainability is core to the achievement of this strategy. We strive to attain this sustainability by following a systemic approach to business in the way in which we enable the various companies in the group.
We started with Edge Consulting which in essence sells hours to our customer on the back of overseas products, therefore allowing a great deal of revenue for overseas companies. Realising this we started investing our profits into a software development company called Edge TMI (The Mad Inventors). Once we had developed the product we needed to create a distribution channel to distribute the product we represented in the group, both internal and external products (Edge Channel).
Edge Mobile focuses on what has been termed in our industry as a Mobile Virtual Network Enabler. Its focus is to provide the infrastructure, be it physical infrastructure of hosted applications such as billing solutions to the group and the market-place. We offer connectivity to the three cellular network operators through our partnership with Flash Media, through bulk SMS products such as Mobitxt.
CBR: Are you continuing to incorporate new companies with good ideas for software into the group? What qualifies a company to become part of the group?
Moreira: To date this has generally been more opportunistic than strategic in nature. Therefore, timing plays a great part in what we achieve and when we achieve it. Currently all the partner companies in the group have been created from within the Edge fold. We have merged with other individuals or companies to enable growth and take full advantage of the unique offerings of that particular transaction, be it software products or niche skills sets or business understanding.
We are all in agreement that we now have a vehicle that caters for our current needs and will mean most focus relevant to our business focus. Due to the nature of our business this may change in the future (Evolve). We are currently negotiating a merger deal with a software development company, in the retail space.
For more information contact Manny Moreira, Edge Evolve, +27 (0)11 802 0919.

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