The Man Behind The Vision

Zunaid Moti, Group Chairman of the Moti Group, sat down with Leadership Magazine


Zunaid Moti, Group Chairman of the Moti Group, sat down with Leadership Magazine to discuss his views on Zimbabwe, how to effectively manage a large group of businesses, as well as his vision for the Moti Group

Meeting Moti in his lavish boardroom at the Head Quarters of the Moti Group, Sandton Johannesburg, the impression of him is one of style and openness. Moti is approachable and has a fantastic sense of humour, which comes through during the interview.

Moti started his first business, just out of High School. Future Seal provided waterproofing solutions to commercial properties. Once he had sold this business, he moved into filling station operations. It was here that he learnt the most valuable business lesson which is now a basic principle held throughout the Moti Group. Seeing money flowing into the business, it became easy to forget about the cost of sales, and from there he realised it is always all about the cashflow of a business. It is, in Moti’s view, the only way in which success can be measured. “If you can’t turn your business into cash, you aren’t making it”, says Moti.

Moti’s passion for fast, luxury cars led to another venture, Future Exotics Lifestyle Emporium. Future Exotics, the showroom based at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town, was the go-to place for the higher echelons of society looking for luxury cars, motor yachts, and jets. He has since moved into the vintage car industry, placing these cars on consignment to some of the top dealerships.

Moti is without a doubt a dedicated family man. He beams when talking about his family. About his father, Moti says, “My father is my best friend, he is solid in every way. He is so oblivious to money, and that keeps him grounded when making decisions.” According to Moti, his father has taught him that the basic premise for business is to retain the relationship, elaborating the personal relationships are the cornerstone for any business transaction.

There is no doubt that Moti is a financial success story, but what matter most to him at this point in his life is the freedom that financial security allows. He is able to fetch his children from school, he loves seeing their faces light up when they see him. This is not to be confused and create the impression that the business takes a backseat, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Moti attributes his success largely to the hands-on approach of management. He has a hand in every hire for the Moti Group, which totals close to 1 500 people. Spending every moment he can on-site talking to the staff and developing solutions with them is part of the ethos for the entire group.

Zimbabwe: A risky decision or a fertile business landscape?

The Moti Group owns a group of companies across a broad spectrum of industries, from the retreatment of platinum group metals all the way through to, as mentioned above, vintage cars. The majority of the businesses operate from Zimbabwe, which at first glance appears to be a risky environment in which to conduct business, especially of this magnitude.

The Moti Group has been operating from Zimbabwe for the last three years, and Moti admits in the beginning, it may have been a risky decision, but one that has paid off in the long run. In a mere three years, the threat of expropriation of assets and the previous inconsistencies in the investment policy have all but disappeared.

Under the leadership of President Mnangagwa, the country, according to Moti, is safe, has little to no pollution, there is an innate respect for the law, and under the new regime, the onerous ownership issues which plagued ex-President Mugabe’s rule have been eradicated. In fact, President Mnangagwa was quoted earlier in 2018 as saying: “Zimbabwe is open for business.” This quote, as well as his own experience, seemingly emphasises Moti’s optimism for future growth in Direct Foreign Investment in the country.

An example of how the business platform has evolved in Zimbabwe is an anecdotal story Moti related to Leadership Magazine. In previous years, whilst attending an unnamed mining conference at the Meikles Hotel in Harare, was so empty he could hear his own footsteps. The last conference, held in the past few months, was the polar opposite. Moti explained that all he could hear was chattering and laughing. In fact, the hotel manager even told Moti that, for the first time in years, they were booked to capacity and the ”glory days” of old were back.

Moti is the kind of businessman who doesn’t step away from a challenge, in fact it seems he relishes the challenge. The recent appointment of Lord Peter Gerald Hain to the board of the Moti Group caused some stir in the media. Moti explains the decision to make the appointment, he says that Lord Hain is a stalwart of activism as well as business. The value Lord Hain brings to the Moti Group is immeasurable, he has an old-school dedication and focus to the task at hand, he has years of experience, and is able to tell directors in an eloquent matter when they are incorrect in a decision or behaviour. Moti smiles when he says this, and backs that smile up by saying: “In our position, you don’t want to be told that you are wrong.” It appears Lord Hain’s appointment will provide a balance to the board.

Chrome, Diamonds and Employment

African Chrome Fields (Pty) Ltd, the alluvial chromite ore processing and mining company within the Moti Group, is located in the Great Dyke region, which according to Moti is possibly one of the poorest areas of Zimbabwe. The company has contributed to the employment of over 1 200 people. This initiative is ahead of all targets, and by the end of 2019, the expected production output will be between 600 000 tonnes and 1 million tonnes.

A diamond polishing facility is next on the list of transactions, creating value for Zimbabwe by further employment opportunities for the people. This is a sector in which, under ex-President Mugabe’s regime, the Zimbabwean government hasn’t paid too much attention, but it has the potential to bring in a great deal for the country. Another avenue the Moti Group uplifting the people through is by providing education and equipment to small-scale mining groups. These could be families who have, for years, been mining in their area without the correct safety gear and the right advice. Support for these groups will be both financial and academic, and the Moti Group will help these miners get to market sooner and ensure they receive the best price for their goods.

Affordable Medicine

The Moti Group’s pharmaceutical manufacturing plant in Zimbabwe will be up and running in 2019/2020. The vision for the plant is to manufacture generic medications for the continent. Moti explains the strategy by saying that most of the existing pharmaceutical majors spend copious amounts of money on pharmaceutical trials, and that cost is then passed down to the patient. By establishing a generic medicine manufacturing plant, the company improves its bottom line, but more importantly to Moti, the people of Zimbabwe have access to lower cost, correct medication whilst boosting the job market.

Farming and Fertiliser Partners

Illustrating further support of the Zimbabwean nation’s well-being, the Moti Group is assisting President Mnangagwa is forging ahead with the Command Agriculture programme. This programme is based on private sector-backed subsidy of fertiliser, seed, fuel, and required chemicals to farmers in an effort to re-establish Zimbabwe as a farming nation. Zimbabwe has, in recent year, experienced food shortages because of the damaging land reformation acts under ex-President Mugabe’s reign. Moti is optimistic that, with this programme and the consistent rainfall experienced over the last few years, the days of food shortages are over. Another upside to this programme is that, if all estimations are correct, by the end of 2018, Zimbabwe will be a net exporter of grain, which will again, boost employment as well as the economy, making Zimbabwe an even greater location for foreign investment.

Fuelling the Fires of Development

In a country with an extremely weakened currency, any tradeable commodity, such as fuel, becomes a viable substitute. At the moment, the Moti Group is on the wholesale side of fuel trading but are looking to expand into the retail market.

And on home soil

Ferrochrome Furnaces (Pty) Ltd, located in Rustenburg, holds a proprietary technology in the beneficiation process and utilising this technology, the Moti Group aims at restarting the smelter on the site within the next year. Moti says that the volatility of the chrome market was, as a junior miner, quite a daunting lesson, but with the right partner and some time, the lesson has been learnt and stopgaps put in place.

Pro Roof, a steel merchant business in operation for over two decades, is held through Andulela, a listed entity on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, could be perceived as a dull business in which to be. Moti though sees it as an opportunity to constantly manage risks in an environment fraught with them.

The other business in the Andulela stable is Kilken Platinum, which was founded in the early 2000’s. This enterprise is a tailings retreatment plant in Rustenburg, which is known as the platinum belt.

The Sky and beyond

The fleet of aircraft and choppers owned by the Moti Group recently came under fire in the media, when news hit that South African President Cyril Rampahosa had used one of the aeroplanes on an official trip. Moti is genuinely surprised at the backlash as their planes have been used to fly presidents from many African countries. The fleet is managed by a local company specialising in chartered flights.

Not one to be kept back because of a bad experience, Moti explains his sortie into the property development market wasn’t all smooth sailing, but he adds: ‘There is always good that comes out of every bad”. His relationship with Investec Bank is evidence of this, as he describes Investec as a truly entrepreneurial financial institution, open to new and creative ideas.

Beneficiation and the Moti Group

In a continued effort to assist with creating employment and an improved life for the Zimbabweans, the Moti Group’s beneficiation in its mining division is a focal point. In Zimbabwe, the aim is to utilise the existing high levels of raw material in order to further boost employment. Moti says that although there are certain elements required in the process, such as electricity, which are in short demand, the more Foreign Direct Investment is gained, the greater the beneficiation process.

The long term vision is to create sustainable jobs, improve the economy, the global perception of the country, as well as boost the export market.

Giving Back

Corporate Social Investment is not a topic Moti is comfortable discussing, he believes that what you do for the good of society, you do because you want to and not for publicity. Yet, business is about more than the bottom line, Moti therefore conceded and walked us through some of the projects in which the Moti Group are involved.

In the KweKwe region of Zimbabwe, the area surrounding the African Chrome Fields plant, the Moti Group is building a school for up to 250 pupils, and will be made using defunct freight containers. This has the added benefit of being environmentally friendly, about which is a topic the Zimbabwean government has stringent views. These classrooms will be fully equipped with computers, and this project is being completed in conjunction with the Department of Education.

Two women’s clinics have been established, with more planned in the future. These clinics provide much needed medical and educational support to the women in the areas in which the operate. A staggeringly large number of girls and women are absent from work and school due to a lack of sanity products, these are available at the clinics. In addition, the women are able to get proper gynaecological and sexual health help.

In part response to Zimbabwe’s strict views on environmental issues, and Moti’s believe in teaching a man to fish, fish farms will be set up in defunct mining pits. Instead of raping and pillaging the world’s natural resources, and merely moving on, the aim of this programme is to re-vegetate the area and use the pits as dams. The dams will be filled with fish, and this will then create a new industry of fish farming. Once again, job creation and improved lives are the end goal. Moti says that although they would like to hire everyone at once, this isn’t possible, and as such smaller industries should be developed, the correct training provided, and the people will then because self-sufficient.

Small-scale mining groups abound in Zimbabwe, and in an effort to train and support them, the Moti Group, through Zimbabwe Motivation Mining, provides mentoring as well as the equipment required for these small groups to increase not only the level of production, but the quality of the materials too. Zimbabwe Motivation Mining will aide these groups in going to market, and with training and mentorship, ensure they are given fair value for their metals.

Human Capital, says Moti, is the most important asset within any business. This is true for countries too, developing the education system and providing the infrastructure in which skills transfer becomes easier is the only way for development to be successful. Among the Moti Group employees, furthering education is encouraged by providing financial support. There are two conditions, they need to sign a contract which in effect guarantees their jobs for a set amount of time, and they are expected, on the return to work, to present what they have learnt to the rest of their team. Another example of the dedication to skills transfer held by the Moti Group, is that in three years whilst in Zimbabwe, there has been a staggering drop in the number of ex-pats holding positions which are now held by Zimbabweans. This, believes Moti, is the only way for true and pure empowerment to occur.

Surrounding yourself with amazing people and developing long-term relationships with all of them is a key to success, according to Moti. He, unlike a number of Chairmen and Chairwomen, is directly involved in the hiring of each member of staff. When visiting the various sites of his numerous businesses, Moti says he takes the time to greet the employees by name and involving them in solution development creates a sense of team which couldn’t be achieved with a rigid corporate hierarchy.

Moti is by no means fooled into thinking that if people feel special they will stay at a company. A non-negotiable for Moti is to pay his employees properly, and further incentivise them with project-based bonuses, education for their children, and providing the chance for them to climb the proverbial corporate ladder. Moti attributes this kind of leadership to a very low staff turnover, as well as inviting the best candidates to apply for positions.

Leadership positions can be trying, both emotionally and spiritually, in the past Moti quite candidly explains that he would make purely business decisions. But that has changed with maturity, he says he now feels guilt when, as sometimes is required in business, there need to be causalities for a multitude of reasons. For this reason, one of the toughest elements of being ‘the man in charge’ is knowing that many people, and their families, are reliant of him making the correct decisions, at the correct times.

Yet, over and above this, Moti believes in translating the principle of giving as opposed to receiving in his business dealings. One for anecdotes, Moti relates the story of him talking at a wedding and telling the Bride and Groom that if they were poised to give, their marriage would work. If there is an undercurrent of taking only, failure would be inevitable.

So, What’s in the Future for the Moti Group?

Ultimately, the Moti Group is a family business, as the name would imply. For this reason, Moti wants to see the younger generation of the current leadership taking the reins. Although, he is quick to justify this statement, they will need to work hard to fill the shoes of the current team. He sees the inherent value of young blood, and through the mentorship programme within the business, any staff member has the opportunity to fill the positions at any given time. Whether these roles are filled by staff or family, the next generation of Moti’s will play a pivotal role in the business, alongside the staff being groomed for higher positions. The most important thing for Moti is to see the continuation of the ethos ingrained in the organisation of giving and hands-on management.

Agility and turnaround times are important for him and as such, in the near future at least, there is no plan to list the entity on the JSE. Retaining at least a 75% control in the business is important to Moti and the rest of the team. Allowing for quick and efficient decisions, which would otherwise be a long and tedious process with a number of shareholders is, according to Moti, a competitive advantage.

Being the leader of the Moti Group can be no easy feat, yet Moti takes a philosophical look at leadership. He says enjoying the day, whilst preparing for the future is a lesson that needs to be learnt, and thankfully he has learnt it. Making today count, realising you can’t take your wealth with you when you die, and not to lose sight of your family and friends is some of the parting advice Moti offers.

African Leadership Awards

Meanwhile, Moti’s commitment to job creation on the African continent has landed him a spot in the African Leadership Hall of Fame, The African Leadership Hall of Fame will take place at the forthcoming East African Business Summit & Awards, to be held in Kigali, Rwanda in late July 2018.

In nine years, African Leadership Awards has been presented to past and sitting presidents; major business leaders; diplomatic leaders; and others seeking to recognise and promote the entrepreneurial spirit and development of Africa. Moti will be joining a long list of leaders at the African Leadership Hall of Fame, some of which include: Her Excellency President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former President of the Republic of Liberia; His Excellency John Kufour, former President of Ghana; Dr. Mo Ibrahim, Founder Mo Ibrahim Prize for Leadership in Africa; Dr. Donald Kebaruka, former President of the African Development Bank Group; Honourable Xavier Luc-Duval, former Vice Prime Minister, Republic of Mauritius and sports icon, Serena Williams.

“It’s humbling to be recognised for your efforts, especially when it is something you are so passionate about, and when it acknowledges our individual efforts in fighting poverty and creating employment on the African continent. When we change our focus from that of receiving or being net takers, to becoming net givers, we not only positively affect the lives of others, but change and improve our own as well,” he concludes.

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