CAPE TOWN – AYO Technology Solutions the largest black-owned ICT company in South Africa, recently announced its results, which show strong cash balances and no debt.
The company says its asset base, in excess of R5 billion, is well-positioned to take advantage of the crisis that the Covid-19 pandemic has chartered in its unprecedented path around the world.
Nearly two years ago, Howard Plaatjes, AYO’s chief executive, recognised that the group’s key long-term competitive advantage investments would set AYO apart. He says AYO has thrived by building durable business moats with innovative acquisitions, although sometimes sacrificing short-term margins.
AYO’s foresight in creating a basket of investments that speak to every aspect of the digital ecosystem, is starting to reap benefits, as even under Covid-19 conditions, its products and services were being utilised as more people banked, exercised, learned, relaxed, worked and even sought medical care remotely.
The same, cannot, unfortunately, be said for businesses stuck in the bricks-and-mortar paradigm, where the crash course in technology innovation has sounded the death knell for more than one.
To safeguard against AYO becoming a Covid-type pandemic victim in the future, Plaatjes and his team are not resting on their laurels. Instead, AYO is once again taking the long-term view, continuing with its moat-building strategy, focused on other advantages, such as eCommerce marketplace network effects, digitisation of platforms, data and related cybersecurity, and repeat customer product engagement.
Covid-19 and global lockdowns have accelerated the move towards digital everything. Opportunities in this space have always been there, particularly in Africa, which in many respects had already leap-frogged legacy systems as necessity has driven innovation for decades.
However, even Africa’s appetite and need to embrace a fully digitised environment has been fast-tracked. Into this, AYO will pivot, having identified key sectors that will play a role in how we all work, live and play going forward. In essence, says Plaatjes, “we are preparing to welcome and service future customers, today, with a comprehensive offering that can provide all their digital requirements”.
Key sectors AYO is eyeing include the likes of eCommerce marketplaces, eLearning, cybersecurity, healthcare, and advanced remote working solutions.
“eCommerce marketplace platforms that provide, products, services and content, have been available for some time but are truly coming into their own now,” says Plaatjes. “AYO has a growth strategy in place that will see the group look at means for integrating low-cost, mobile, tech-driven shipping and logistics solutions, among others.’
On eLearning, Plaatjes notes that the group has invested in platform and network solutions, which have positioned AYO for providing the necessary products and software services for remote learning. It is, however, seeking targets to complement its own offering to make the transition to eLearning seamless and effective, as the future of the country’s success lies in the education of its young, today.
An increasing amount of capital is being devoted to cybersecurity, observes Plaatjes. This has been necessitated by the sudden onset of remote working, which has revealed major gaps in organizations’ security systems. In this regard, AYO says it has identified international targets.
Remote working has also been the ideal for another of AYO’s subsidiaries that have seen a sharp uptake in its headsets, virtual reality and video conferencing products. Plaatjes does not see that the current high demand will abate anytime soon, consequently, he says, the group is looking to acquire additional capacity.
Plaatjes also says they are looking for quality assets, which may necessitate AYO looking offshore for acquisitions and expansion. In this regard, the group is already considering several potential innovative assets that can help cement the group’s position as a leading ICT provider.