iBurst`s new CEO, Jannie van Zyl, sets his sights firmly on the customer

JANNIE VAN ZYL says he`s passionate about technology. It shows.

After all, there aren`t many people who are so determined to properly automate their own dream home that they end up opening a new company just to do it right. His home automation firm, OmniSolutions, is still doing a brisk trade. But it`s just one of `s ICT endeavours.

An electronics engineer by trade, Van Zyl has spent 25 years in the ICT industry. For the last five years, he`s been consulting to on everything from operations to strategy. Before that he had his own company which developed networking and systems management software, so successfully that it was bought up by .

Earlier this year, after the surprise resignation of Jnr as MD of wireless internet access provider iBurst SA in April, Van Zyl was approached to head up the company.

"I knew very little about iBurst, and decided to come up to Johannesburg to conduct my own due diligence of sorts on the company. What I found was shocking in a positive way  a company with a strong people component, a powerful brand and even stronger technology. iBurst has its own satellite capacity, the biggest WiMax network in South Africa with some 250 base stations, a wireless radio network with another 260 base stations in metropolitan areas, and a complete microwave network," he explains. Added to this are fibre, HSDPA and ADSL capabilities.

While the company is in very good condition, Van Zyl saw a need to focus its sales efforts on certain market segments - specifically, the consumer and SME markets. And so he decided to accept the position.

He`s been with the company for little over a month, and already is reorganising staff to have more of a consumer and SME - as opposed to just a reseller - focus.

"We`ve got about 300 big corporate and business customers, about  25 000 SMEs and about 90 000 consumers. While we have a range of products, they`re not focused on any of these markets as stand-alone product suites."

A situation which the company has begun to remedy with the recent launch of its iBurst Business service, which targets some 500 000 SA SOHOs and SMEs that need business-focused telecoms solutions, but that have been "forgotten" by the larger telcos, he says.

"I believe we can service them well, taking into consideration their connectivity, voice, data, , application and support requirements. Pricing is important, and they can change their minds at a moment`s notice, so they need a business that`s agile to cater to them. Which is what iBurst is - it`s big enough to deliver, but small enough to care for them," explains Van Zyl. His goal with the company over the next few years is to grow its revenue and market share on the base of its established technology, infrastructure and human capital. "Our people, our network and our brand are established, so now its time for our sales capabilities to grow - in fact, there`s no cap on our growth over the next 18 months," he maintains.

"We`re looking to bring to market different combinations of our products, with different rates at different hours for different kinds of people."

As for any possible gaps in its service, Van Zyl reports that he will spend the next three months bedding down "what we`ve started. I`ve got no one in my sights right now, but as we build up the business model we may look at acquisitions. At the moment, we`re focusing on a few partnerships," he notes.

For example, it recently began offering customers an hour of onsite support a month with Dial a Nerd.

Neither does Van Zyl have any plans "today" for iBurst SA (not to be confused with iBurst as a technology, or iBurst Africa) to look at business beyond this country`s borders. "We want to get iBurst SA`s business humming along before we would look to other opportunities."

Tags: Telecoms