Ridhwan Khan, the Mobicel CEO, wins major prize at EY entrepreneur awards in South Africa




For 21 years the EY World Entrepreneur Awards in Southern Africa have been celebrating, supporting and connecting entrepreneurs. More than just another business award, the awards is a global programme which helps entrepreneurial businesses in more than 150 cities in over 60 countries.

The Southern Africa programme incorporates 10 countries – that is Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique, Malawi, Mauritius, Madagascar, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

This year’s award was hosted in Sandton, Johannesburg on November 29, 2018 with the finalists being honoured while the various Category winners were announced. The winners include: Ridhwan Khan of Mobicel Communications (Master Category), Davison Norupiri of Davipel Trading (Emerging Category) and Deborah Merdjan of the Camelot Group.

(TOP: Ridhwan Khan, the CEO of Mobicel Communications and the Master Category winner. Photo: Twitter).

Ridhwan will now continue on to compete for the prestigious title of World Entrepreneur Of The Year in June 2019. In addition to these awards, Gloria Serobe, founder of WIPHOLD, was presented with the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award.

Ridhwan will represent the Southern Africa region at the EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards set for Monte Carlo in June 2019, where he will compete with over 50 leading entrepreneurs from across the globe.

Ridhwan Khan, 38-year-old founder and CEO of Mobicel, knew he was never going to be a suit-and-tie corporate worker, climbing his way up corporate ladder. He had his eye on something bigger, something inspiring, something fresh and disruptive. More than a decade ago, he set his sights on one simple but powerful core ideal: that in the information age, mobile devices are necessities, not luxuries. Having grown up in Polokwane, he knew well how inaccessible these necessities could be to many South Africans.

With his focus on lower income groups, Ridhwan had seen the gap in the market for an affordable cellular brand and was determined to bring accessible mobile connectivity to that market – at a fraction of the cost of established global manufacturers. In 2007, the new brand, Mobicel, was launched.

“Always look at failure as the beginning, and never as the end,” said Ridhwan.

10 years later, Ridhwan’s efforts are paying off. Mobicel devices are now sold in more than 5,200 stores within South Africa while the company is listed with all major South African cellular operators and has grabbed 18% of the country’s cellular volume market share (and growing). It is South Africa’s leading and fastest growing cellular OEM and is expanding its reach internationally.

“To be a successful Entrepreneur, you need to look at the world through new lenses all the time to be able to copy up with the dynamic global economic changes” says Davison Norupirifounder of Davipel.

Davipel is a dried food manufacturing company established in 2002. The company started off its operations in the back yard of a factory packing and distributing basic food commodities like salt, rice and beans. Two years later Davipel ventured into snack manufacturing and soya mince processing.

A family business, Davipel employs more than 600 people with a daily production capacity of 100tons of snacks daily and exports into 12 SADC countries. The business has built its own modern factory with equipment and machinery imported from abroad and stands out as the third largest in the region. It has further expanded its growth by diversifying into agro-based milling, the only maize grit milling plant in the country with a combined production of agro-based products to 250tons daily.

Emerging category winner

“Being an entrepreneur is about passion, creativity and innovation. You need leadership skills to drive your vision, and an ability to overcome business obstacles with courage and purpose” says Deborah Merdjan of Camelot Group.

Camelot Spa was created out of a consultancy opportunity with Sun International’s first Health Spa at Sun City. Deborah identified a management opportunity of 5 Star Hotel Spa properties. Her franchise division which has grown to 31 properties to date, with a strong brand presence and new brands such as Cspa Wellness and Tite by Camelot Spa.

For the last 21 years, the award has been adjudicated by an esteemed panel of judges, and this year was no exception.

Lifetime Achievement Award 

EY recognised Gloria Serobe with the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award. The award recognises prominent business people whose enterprises have contributed significantly to the growth and development of the economies in their respective countries. Gloria has received many accolades and awards throughout her career – and has been widely recognised for her outstanding contribution towards creating social and economic change in South Africa, and for the empowerment and development of women, particularly those in rural areas.

“I am flattered by this award. As it is difficult for women to get the same opportunities in business as men, all we wanted to do as WIPHOLD was to create a critical mass of women in business, as opposed to each one doing their own thing. There must never be a time again when a woman who wants to open a business goes through what we went through,” said Gloria while accepting her award.

EY’s World Entrepreneur Awards Programme is a major business award for entrepreneurs. The award makes a difference through the unique way it encourages entrepreneurial activity among those with potential and recognises the contribution of people who inspire others with their vision, leadership and achievement. The EY World Entrepreneur awards programme celebrates those who are building and leading successful, growing and dynamic businesses, recognising them through regional, national and global awards programs in more than 140 cities in 50 countries.




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