Hello South Africa!
- By Richard Branson -
- Feb 28, 2013
Jam-packed day in South Africa meeting scores of people from inside and outside our businesses, from entrepreneurs at the Branson Centre to Chad and Bert Le Clos, to the teams at Virgin Money, Virgin Mobile and Virgin Active.
The first port of call was to go straight from the airport to the Branson Centre. Met lots of delightful young entrepreneurs who were being given guidance on how to grow their businesses. They had a whole range of different ideas, including Keith Bete's beautiful t-shirts with the word Ubuntuism written on them. It means "oneness, love, truth, peace and happiness" - I gladly tried one on for size and kept it!
Another great idea was Reel Gardening, who have developed vegetable seeds in paper tape. They have a little bit of string sticking out of the soil, so they can be watered in a more environmentally-friendly way and grow faster too. There are so many heart-warming stories from the young entrepreneurs it is hard to single them out - SA's future is in safe hands!
Then quite excitingly, we launched a new life insurance product with Virgin Money. My initial reaction was to ask the team how we could do it differently - and better - than our competitors. They said they had looked at the business and found it can be cruel to people. For instance, many companies in South Africa demand a full blood test before granting life insurance, which was putting a large number of people off getting covered. Virgin worked out a quick and easy alternative with no brokers, no lengthy paperwork, and no medical tests, plus great value fixed premiums. We also announced new funding of the Branson Centre's "accounting comes alive" course, helping give entrepreneurs the vital skill of being money-savvy.
Next we went on to meet the wonderful staff at Virgin Mobile, honouring the stars who have been recognised by their peers for going the extra mile. We have found South Africa quite a tough mobile market but are getting right back on track. We now have over 300,000 customers in SA and a brilliant, spirited team of people.
Then we visited Virgin Active, the business where it all started for us in South Africa when yours truly took a call from Nelson Mandela. It has grown into an enormously successful brand in SA, where over 700,000 people go to get fit, socialise and have fun.
I went to see the Alice Lane site of our stunning new Premier Classic Club in the heart of the city. Had the privilege of meeting Olympic swimming hero Chad Le Clos and his father Bert. Virgin Active spotted Chad as a great brand ambassador even before his Olympic fame. He's been very good to Virgin and SA, so it was great to finally meet. Can see why the world fell in love with Bert too, he's a great character!
At the end of the day we took entrepreneurs from the UK to see some of the projects that Virgin Unite are working on in SA - more on that soon. It's fantastic to be back in South Africa. If you're in the country do say hello if we cross paths - if not, keep up with our progress online.
By Richard Branson. Founder of Virgin Group