A top-end location for a top-end workforce – that’s Rewardsco Investments’ new R300-million operations centre in uMhlanga Ridge, which was officially launched earlier this month.
Speaking at the roof wetting of Block A – the third of the operations centres to have been built over the past eight years – founder and executive chairperson of Rewardsco Investments, Michael Steenfeldt-Kristensen, said the vision for the three-building campus that was now complete was a perfect fi t with the strong growth of the business.
“We always intended growing this business exponentially. But, to accommodate this, we had to have the right premises. We have now built three buildings that are all P-Grade and 5-Star rated and have created a beautiful campus for our employees to enjoy,” he pointed out.
“This is a strong endorsement of our belief in KZN and eThekwini, as well as in uMhlanga. When you collect a lot of similar businesses into an area, you create a centre of gravity which attracts a multitude of clients from different geographies. That puts you on the map. But if you stand up as a high-calibre business like we do, we believe this can only be a positive thing,” he said.
Dylan Koen, group commercial director at Rewardsco, added that the new operations centre was an investment in job creation and a refl ection that the company remained strong even during turbulent economic times.
Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) is seen as an important job creator for South African youth, and according to StatsSA, by the end of the second quarter of this year, youth unemployment was 63,9% for those aged between 15 and 24, nearly twice the national unemployment rate of 34,5% and more than four times the global average of 13,6%.
Of the 275 000 people currently employed in the call centre space nationally, 57 000 reside in KwaZulu-Natal. Rewardsco is one of the biggest single employers at 2 000, with more than 1 200 jobs likely to become available in the near future.
“We have capacity for about 600 consultants now – which will take us to over 2 500 nationally,” he said. Further international contracts that are expected to come on stream next year could boost this to 3 200.
Koen said the Rewardsco campus – with its three operation centres joined by impressive sky bridges – was a contribution towards making KZN more competitive nationally in the business services sector.
Up until now, the company has focused on South African clients. However, the investment in a third operations centre marked a strategic move towards international markets, especially the United Kingdom, North America and Australia.
“It makes sense to pursue business growth opportunities within the global business services space. We’d be remiss not to capitalise on these because they represent new business lines that offer greater volumes than those that are likely to emerge domestically,” Koen explained.
He said the creation of a night shift component would enable Rewardsco to fully utilise its current assets while servicing countries operating in different time zones.
Koen said that the creation of a sophisticated operational facility such as this went hand-in-hand with investment in skills development and staff retention, offering long-term career development prospects rather than just entry-level jobs.
The five levels of floor space in Block A, and adjoining Rewardsco facilities, feature spacious cubicles, comfy chill areas and restaurant facilities set within a sea-facing indigenous landscaped precinct. Other features include natural light and an open, free-flow plan that fosters interaction and collaboration.
Koen said that this third large investment in infrastructure at a time when many other companies were tightening their belts, reflected the resilience of Rewardsco’s business model and the fact that the company is expected to grow by an average of 25% per annum for the next five years.
Rewardsco’s entrepreneurial journey began in 1996 with a focus on loyalty and incentive programmes that were outsourced to it by major brands such as Pick n Pay and ABSA. By 2010, it employed 71 agents. Two key factors underpinned the company’s growth, according to Koen.
The first was the pandemic which changed market dynamics and increased demand for products offered by Rewardsco and partners such as Vodacom, MTN and Telkom.
The second was diversification. “We invested heavily into online and digital whereby we created our own lead generation business which is now a Google premium partner. This has allowed us to augment our business as a telecommunications reseller. This side of our business – known as www.mondo.co.za – has grown by nearly 400%, which is significant,” he said.
Looking to the future, Koen said inbuilt features within the Rewardsco campus proactively addressed potential challenges to growth. Each building is fully prepared and equipped when it comes to emergency infrastructure, and each has its own generator to ensure that services will not be interrupted during electricity outages.
Rewardsco remains a good destination for foreign business to outsource operations, offering a high-quality service at a reasonable cost. Right now, our business is on an exponential growth curve and this will continue over the next few years. We are not only expanding our local footprint but also our footprint overseas. So, in five years’ time, we expect to have a very active proprietary business and BPO business,” Steenfeldt-Kristensen concluded.