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How Shameel Joosub Rose to become the CEO of Vodacom Group

Hello friend, you are just in time for a huge dose of inspiration this #CareerWednesday!

So sit back, relax, enjoy this priceless treat and let us know how you find it.

Shameel Joosub

Oftentimes, when opportunity comes in the form of a challenge, it is difficult to recognize it for what it is, it then takes one with a keen focus and foresight to be able to tell the difference and align adequately.

At a very young age, life handed Shameel Joosub what many would have termed an insuperable challenge. The family income was dwindling and he was therefore obliged to seek a solution or watch his family crumple.

Young Joosub started selling samoosas and packets of chips in school when he was only five years old. By age of eight, he had set up a business in Marabastad with a friend and would walk through the taxi parks selling earrings. And at 12, he was left in charge of managing his uncle’s salt packing factory during weekends and school holidays.

Well, this is no makeup tale, but a true account of a man’s selfless endeavour to twist poverty’s feeble limb and afford his family a fresh start.  Today, Joosub’s sacrifices has paid off tremendously, his tough background must indeed take some credit for chiseling him into the huge success he is today. Shameel Joosub is the CEO of Vodacom, the mobile operator with strong networks around the world.

He was born in Laudium, an Indian township near Pretoria, and brought up by his divorced mother, along with five siblings.

Shameel Joosub

Thankfully, Joosub got an opportunity like his eldest brother to go through a university. He studied accountancy, and began job hunting.  Finding a job in South Africa at the time was a tough task, as most employees reserved the available slots for whites alone.

Luck made way for Joosub eventually and he was accepted into Kallweit and Schackerman, an auditing firm in Hillbrow, Johannesburg, where he then began his articles and worked tirelessly to also give attention to the three other jobs he juggled at the same time. He maintained his day job, two night jobs as an accountant helping small companies conduct stock counts, and also managed a perfume business for his uncle who was in exile in London. Through these ventures, the determined entrepreneur funded himself through the university.

In no time, he got an opportunity to join Vodacom as the Senior Accountant in the General Ledger Budget Control Division, three months before it went live. There, he channeled his energy and put in years of hard work, which has seen him outstay his predecessors, Alan Knott-Craig and Pieter Uys.

Six months into his position as an accountant in Vodacom, he became somewhat restless, sensing it was time for an upward scale and in a short while, he was promoted to handle the budgets and began working with Knott-Craig, making sure all deals the CEO started were executed.

“I said, ‘I’m a lot more intelligent than this; you need to give me harder work’,” he recounts. “One of the reasons I progressed was because I had a big mouth, in all honesty.”

In a conversation one day, Knott-Craig mentioned Siemens’ proposal to sell some mobile phones to Vodacom, a totally new field the company had never contemplated before then. Joosub immediately came on stage and began negotiations with Siemens and got a 30 percent discount on the price, received the products and sold all the same day. Well, you shouldn’t be surprised. How would anyone expect less from one who already mapped out a path for himself in business at age 5, when other children were still being admitted into kindergarten?

Shameel Joosub

His brilliance and devotion kept him ahead of his equals, he would be called into meetings when key deals were being structured and would then write up the deal, ensure that it was implemented and that the company’s margins were maintained. Joosub’s move opened up an amazing new terrain and led to the creation of Vodacom Equipment, with Joosub as its 26-year-old MD, zealously closing huge deals and making fast profits for the company. In 2005, he rose through the ranks to become the Managing Director of Vodacom South Africa.

Like the biblical Joseph, Joosub stood out wherever he went and was always spotted as a “fixer.” Opportunities presented themselves for Joosub to leave South Africa, but he resisted, insisting that South Africa was his home and that the opportunities, however honey coated they appeared, where not worth his departing from his lovely family for.

But in 2009 duty called desperately and he was sent to Spain for 18 months as CEO of Vodafone Espana, to revivify an operation which needed transforming to survive in a drastically declining and highly competitive economy. There was a dire need for a calculated move to be able to restore the company’s operation.

The Spain experience opened up a new vista for the young CEO and helped him to better understand the company’s operation across countries and climes.

In September 2012, Joosub became the CEO of the Vodacom group, at the young age of 41.

A man with a lovely heart, Joosub delights in putting smiles on the faces of people around him. He bought his mother a house in the same complex where he lives, and turned the old family home into an orphanage.

“It would have been sad to let it go, so we created the Haven and now there are 26 to 30 kids living there. I have always felt some special connection with kids that are suffering and I thought it would be a great thing to do. You get kids thrown into dustbins and all kinds of horror stories, and it’s amazing to see what happens with those children after a little love and care.”

He sure hasn’t forgotten his little beginnings!

At the end, the lessons are clear…

Find your passion, believe in your dreams and aim for the sky.

Lovelyn Okafor
Lovelyn Okafor
Lovelyn Okafor is a Journalist/Writer, Poet, Lawyer and God-Lover. She enjoys a good read and sees everyday as an opportunity to live and enjoy her calling whilst working towards perfecting it. She believes that someday soon, Africa will reach her full potential as the light-bearer of the world. You can find her on Twitter: @lovelyn_o

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