Douglas Mamvura, a marketing guru and turnaround strategist, spoke to Alpha Media Holdings chairman Trevor Ncube on the show In Conversation with Trevor about his career journey.
One of the highlights of the conversation is where Mamvura (DM) told Ncube (TN) how his stint as a marketing executive at Coca-Cola taught him about the importance of protecting brands.
Below are excerpts from the interview.
TN: You have a colourful career; I have discovered one thing. Have you ever applied for a job?
DM: No, for your own information I have never applied for a job. I even joke about this when I run my seminars. It has always been good to be interviewing the interviewers.
TN: You have always been head-hunted in most jobs you have had. How has the experience been like?
DM: It’s a great experience and again there is nothing so special about me, but one thing I have learnt is that when you work, you work as if you are working unto God to the extent that your work should be your testimony and when it reaches that level all these guys have no choice, but to invite you to come and work with them.
So it has been a good feeling.
TN: Do everything as unto God. So you don’t care if your boss is watching or not because your boss is upstairs?
DM: That is what really drives me and my success does not come from a boss.
It comes from God, so my boss has no choice when God has opened the doors, he can’t close them.
TN: You have transitioned from the corporate world to being an entrepreneur and that’s a big move.
But before we get to that, you are a founder of a tech company called Disruptive Technologies Africa and you call yourself the chief digital evangelist.
Talk to us about the thinking of the company, what it does and why you call yourself the chief digital evangelist.
DM: The main reason behind the establishment of Disruptive Technologies was a result of identifying a gap in the market.
From my marketing background, I realised most businesses in order to survive have to change their business model.
One of the key engines required is technology because putting a business on a digital platform has many advantages:
One: reach of a wider audience.
Two: you are able to offer convenience to clients.
Three: you are able to offer products and services at competitive rates. So I decided to get into the technology space specifically for that.
When you look at Disruptive Technologies as the name suggests, I always want to challenge the status quo.
I guess that’s why I found myself as a marketer because I hate sameness.
Disruptive Technologies has been focusing on things such as e-learning platforms and I am glad to say we have had an interesting start-up with one of the mission schools and the ministry of Education has certified our systems.
We are into hospital and pharmaceutical management platforms as well as farm management platforms .
We are also offering co-banking systems for co-operatives.
Basically my focus is on transforming the lives of our people especially the so-called marginalised communities.
So we want to make sure that they have access to technology and are able to compete with some of these guys that are established in the market.
TN: So the transition from the corporate world to being an entrepreneur, how has the journey been?
DM: I wish it was a plain sailing journey.
My journey was quite bumpy and I think one of the lessons learnt is that when you are in the corporate world and when you start your own thing, it’s totally different.
You really have to be alert and open your eyes .
I learnt the hard way having been too naïve and too trusting, but as the journey started it became interesting. I paid my school fees in a painful way. I lost a lot of money.
TN: And the real world bites and tells you this is it.
DM: The only trusted human being is a dead one. I am now in a much more comfortable space by the grace of God.
This idea of entrepreneurship started in 1997.
I remember with Shingie Munyeza, we wanted to come up with a can manufacturing plant and at that time we were still very young.
We went to Denver, Colorado, to identify a can manufacturing plant.
Had it not been for the fall of the Zimdollar, we could have been having our own can manufacturing plant for beverages, but I guess the timing was not perfect that time.
TN: You also went into business with Nigel Chanakira, Strive Masiyiwa. So the entrepreneur has always been in you?
DM: It has always been there. I believe if you want to create wealth you can’t work for someone, you have to work for yourself. However, it’s a journey, but the ultimate goal is to become your own boss.
In life I have realised that at the first stage you have a situation where you work for your money and at stage two you want your money to work for you and stage three is when you want your money to work for you and you are not even there.
TN: Is that where you are now?
DM: That’s where I am heading, I have left, but I haven’t arrived.
TN: The other thing that fascinates me about your life is you wanted to become, but never became a medical doctor.
You became a marketer, talk to me about that disappointment.
DM: It wasn’t like I didn’t get the points, what happened was my combination was so embarrassing and I wanted to become a medical doctor, but little did I know that God had a great plan for me.
I did very well and I found myself doing business studies and that’s where I developed my passion for marketing and, as they say, the rest is history.
TN: You had a shot stint at TA, talk to me about that.
DM: We just wrote a psychometry test at university and I found myself working at TA (Holdings).
I was on a management training programme for six months and after that they gave me a very interesting title: group relief branch manager, and that’s when I realised I was just a commander without an army.
I didn’t really find it fascinating and I realised I was going to go rusty if I stayed there.
TN: You left and went to
Coca-Cola and according to you Coca-Cola was a defining space for you?
DM: I wish I could find enough adjectives to describe my stint at Coca-Cola. It was one of the best organisations in terms of marketing.
I learnt a lot in professionalism there. I developed a passion in marketing and the issue of branding became important.
TN: Why do you think the training was so impactful?
DM: The guys believed in their values and our boss used to say when we talk about commitment it’s like somebody, who has had bacon and egg.
For you to enjoy an egg, a hen has been involved, but for you to enjoy bacon, a pig has been committed.
We don’t want people, who are involved here, but we want people who are committed.
I learnt issues to do with brand values and one becomes a product of a product, you are not scared of competition
TN: Do you find around the terrain that there is still a lot of passion and commitment for brand building?
DM: I wish I could say so. Yes, to a certain extent there are still some organisations passionate about building their brand, but some just take customers for granted .
The brand is the DNA of an organisation and it is important for one to build a solid brand that can just attract someone out there
TN: And you never drank
anything, not Pepsi Cola, when you were there. Was this demanded from you or it was brand loyalty?
DM: Brand loyalty and commitment. I couldn’t even list the names of my competitors, they would blister my tongue.
I remember when the president of Coca-Cola would visit we would even hide our tea cups because tea was considered as competition to beverages.
TN: You got head-hunted by Standard Chartered Bank to set up the first marketing department. How was that experience like?
DM: When I joined Standard Chartered Bank, I was still very young.
In banking for you to get to that level wasn’t very easy because bankers were very traditional, so you would start as a teller and go up the ladder, by the time you got to band five you would be so old.
If I had followed that route, I would now have started dreaming of becoming a head of department.
TN: Did you not find this conservativeness a hurdle for you as a marketer at Standard Chartered Bank?
DM: I remember being the first head of marketing in the finance services sector.
The hurdle there was that I tried to come up with new ideas.
You know a marketer is a pioneer, who sees the future before it comes.
I remember trying to introduce a competition where we would give away cars, the CEO was not up for the idea.
It’s a lesson to the young people that you have to remain resolute because six months later we were almost 40% down our budget.
I convinced my finance director and he said young man, if you believe you can do this, we will give you the go-ahead. So they then allowed me to launch the promotion.
Our percentage grew to 160% in six months because of that marketing initiative.