Finance Indaba Q&A with Blacfox's Kerushan Govender
Kerushan Govender is the CEO of Blacfox, a technology advisory company that brings IT decision-makers and vendors together.
(In the photo: Blacfox CFO/COO Sujatha Bhagwandin with CEO Kerushan Govender at the Finance Indaba Africa 2017)
Q. Tell us about your background and the origins of Blacfox.
I have an honours degree in statistics and financial mathematics, and am currently enrolled in a graduate programme in enterprise architecture and business transformation. Prior to Blacfox, I consulted to a Forbes-list billionaire on his EdTech project in the US. Before that, I worked for Microsoft as the head of small to medium public sector for Middle East and Africa, based in Dubai.
Having lived outside of South Africa for a number of years, I have seen what tech was doing for businesses around the world, and when I returned it was evident that South Africa is behind in its adoption. I knew that we need to unlock the potential of digital and technology locally, and I knew that despite the barriers, you can be very successful in South Africa if you have a good service and you're smart about the way you deliver it. I started Blacfox as a platform for connecting business leaders with relevant technology solutions.
Q. Tell us more about how you work and the niche you fill.
We are the bridge between business and IT. We deal with many business decision-makers, helping them bring their business strategy to life using technology. We've seen that many business decision-makers are not buying technology – not because they don't want to or don't have the budget, but actually because they just don't know what is out there. Staying abreast of technology today is very hard, and executives like the CFO have multiple demands on their time and attention.
Blacfox does not specialise in any individual technology, instead we stay abreast of all technology. We have cultivated relationships with suppliers that we work very closely with, and then we broker the engagement between the tech supplier and the business if the solution helps move the business strategy forward. In this part of the business, we primarily deal with the operational and financial directors of companies.
Q. Tell us about the relationships you develop with CFOs. What kinds of CFOs do you prefer to work with?
As you are aware, when it comes to technology the role of the CFO has changed completely. In the past, the CFO was primarily responsible for managing the ‘opex vs capex’ decision when it came to technology. Now the CFO is the owner of organisational risk and their biggest category of risk today would be cyber risk and digital security threats. Given this, they have to be more involved in IT decision-making than ever before.
Any smart CFO worth their salt is going to be rapidly working in the direction of advancing their own knowledge and capability in the field of technology. We like to work with CFOs who take this responsibility on, the CFOs who are constantly looking at how to use technology to protect the organisation from risk and deliver on their compliance mandate.
Q. Tell us more about some of your services. What services and tools are in demand locally?
There is a big need for improving technology infrastructure in most South African companies. A lot of companies are unnecessarily paying a fortune right now for basic things like keeping their servers on site, often requiring biometric systems, backups, heavy air conditioning, insurance and so forth. Our advice is always tailored to the individual situation and we help clients let go of unnecessary costs. We do our best to avoid the “rip and replace” method and instead build a journey of transformation with the customer.
We have a simple three-step method that ensures that our clients invest in technology in the cleverest way possible. We offer a service that makes a tech advisor available to the client at any time, to advise on tech decisions. Each tech advisor is backed up by a research analyst so that we can provide any potential client with vital insight. The result is a high-quality tech recommendation that is tailored to the client situation. This keeps busy execs from having to scour the internet for what technology should be bought.
Q. What is unique about your business model?
We try our best to make premium services available at no major cost impact to the end-customer. We create the relevant partnerships in the background that allows us to do this. For example, if a customer needs an enterprise-wide baseline assessment to know what software they own, which can be a somewhat expensive exercise, we would go to Microsoft and request funding for the assessment. The assessment report goes to the client who now has a really beautiful document that tells him exactly what he has in his IT environment before making any additional purchases. This is one example of how we can add value to customers by using our partnerships.
With our tech advisory service, we offer our clients the option to purchase their tech recommendation report directly from us. Alternatively, if they are exploring a possible purchase down the line, they can elect for one of our recommended suppliers to purchase the report on their behalf. This tech supplier will follow up with them, of course, and hopefully conclude a purchase with them at some point in future. Needless to say, this isn’t guaranteed or expected by us.
We remain independent to keep a high degree of integrity and impartiality. There is no obligation on the customer to make a purchase decision.