A Game Changer and A Phenomenal Woman – Ugeshree Thakurpesad
“Reach for the stars and keep our feet firmly on the ground.”
When passion drives you, your work becomes evident in your results. We celebrate another phenomenal woman who is making a different through her dedication to see woman thrive and excel in what they do.
We connect with Ugeshree Thakurpesad, to share her journey of entrepreneurship as well as common challenges small businesses find themselves facing. She intend to use the knowledge gained to improve my value add to both business and society. She also believe that Africa need to move away from a “donor culture” and align its nations to the UNDP’s sustainable development goals. Be inspired by this incredible woman and in return inspire others.
Tell us about yourself and your family?
I am a proud mother of two wonderful children and I have been married for 20 years. I love travelling and having different experiences from rustic trips to Mozambique to the nightlife and beaches of Barcelona. I enjoy quality time with my friends and family and will take up any opportunity to dance and celebrate life.
How and when did your entrepreneurial Journey start?
My entrepreneurial journey started in 2009 when I was appointed to head the Wind Programme at Exxaro Resources. At the time, large businesses, communities and government had a major disparity and it was difficult to develop megaprojects in rural communities. I recognised the opportunity to bridge that gap by translating strategy into tangible economic projects and developing meaningful stakeholder relations. I took a bold step to leave a successful corporate career and founded Economic Development Solutions in 2012.
After five years of building a successful consultancy and helping large multi-nationals to build sustainable projects in rural communities, I decided to step down to focus on family-life. I was then approached to assist with the Enterprise Development strategy for the Gauteng Premiers’ office under the Tshepo1Million jobs project. This project resonated with me and afforded me the opportunity to start a home-based consultancy. It allowed me to continue my passion for transformation but at the same time gave me valuable family time.
DevRani Consult, in honour of my parents, the late Devindra Padayachee and my loving mum, Rani Padayachee, is a vehicle for me to continue my drive to shift “business as usual” towards transformation and empowering people and communities.
What projects have been accomplished?.
Some of the projects I hav include the development of a socio-economic sustainability model for a mine in Limpopo Province, a due diligence study of a solar project in the Northern Cape and the baseline impact assessment for Sasol’s CSI projects. I also worked in partnership with Promethium Carbon to rollout the National stakeholder engagement plan for the announcement of the Carbon Tax Laws and the Carbon offset programme. It was also a fantastic opportunity to be appointed by Amadeus to project manage the partnership and development of the National Tourism Visitor Information System (NTVIS) for the tourism sector.
What are some of your greatest achievements?
The development and approval to execute the 95 MW Tsitsikamma Community Wind Farm (TCWF), Exxaro’s first commercial wind farm and under the country’s renewable energy independent power producer programme (REIPP) is one of the achievements.
I was also one of the first Directors of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce and assisted in developing it into a successful and meaningful Chamber bringing investment opportunities into South Africa from Spain and other European countries. I served the Chamber for four consecutive years as the first and only Black female.
I was also recently appointed as the Board Director of Sya Phanda, a Pepkor business transformation initiative in the telecommunications industry. The role is to develop strategic growth opportunities for Black businesses.
How has your business impacted your community?
In the development of TCWF, I established community trusts to enable the communities to benefit from the commercial rewards and own shares in TCWF. The community school bus project involved preventing children from walking over 5km to school on gravel road and crossing the busy N2. Other projects include the building of schools and community halls, building of houses, graveyards, sanitation, water and agricultural projects. The water reticulation project repaired an ageing system and prevented people from walking for many miles and drinking contaminated water.
How do you empower other women?
I continue to train and coach women in small businesses. I have hosted four empowerment events over the last two years and use every platform and opportunity to motivate and inspire others to be true to their passion. My motto in life is to “Reach for the stars and keep our feet firmly on the ground.”
What challenges have you encountered as a woman in business and how did you navigate around them?
In every small business, finding new work and developing a brand identity takes time. I realised the importance of good networks and the relationships that were built over the years.
The other challenge is that most large companies do not differentiate between small and bigger service providers. As a result, payments are not processed timeously which effects cash flow. I often to speak to senior management to revisit their paying terms and advise them on the incentives linked to early payment.
What advise can you give to women?
Running a business may look attractive, but it takes a lot of perseverance and should be passion driven. Finding new clients has a long lead time, so it is essential to manage cash flow and keep overheads low. Always remain optimistic and believe in the product or service you are taking to market. Most importantly is to believe in yourself and surround yourself with successful like-valued people who will support you during the tough times.
What do you believe has set your journey apart to be successful
Definitely my Faith in God and the support and love of my family and friends. I also have a strong desire and determination to transform our challenging socio-economic landscape in South Africa.
What do the next 3-5 years look for you in your journey of growth?
I am registered to complete the Business Sustainable Management Programme through the University of Cambridge and plan to do my Masters in Sustainability. I intend to use the knowledge gained to improve my value add to both business and society. I believe that we need to move away from a “donor culture” and align our nation to the UNDP’s sustainable development goals.
You can reach Ugeshree Thakurpersad at Devrani Consul, +27836091008. Ugesh@devrani.co.za www.devrani.co.za.