Just over two decades ago I sat in a university lecture hall while pursuing an E Commerce course and we were introduced to our guest speaker for the day, she worked at a large bank, just like me, but her title fascinated me, she was called a “futurist”. Her main task was to drive innovation activities and embed a culture of innovation. And it took me just a moment to realise this is something I wanted to focus my energy on.
Over the next few years, I actively searched for opportunities that would allow me to influence and shape organisations through innovation which I was able to achieve. My quest to embrace innovation allowed me to meet some of the leading minds in the space and many of the individuals that played a role in creating the innovation ecosystem in South Africa as we know it today.
I was born in Chatsworth, Durban, a township that was created for people of Indian descent. Growing up I had never heard the word innovation, it wasn’t something that we discussed or aspired to be part of. Over the years it became clearer that Innovation and Entrepreneurship has a symbiotic relationship, one that needed to be explored further with the focus it deserved. My first study in the space was as part of my MBA thesis, titled, “The Key Drivers of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at a Firm Level”
I re-launched my company YIEDI (Youth Innovation Entrepreneurship Design Institute in 2018) to focus my efforts on growing entrepreneurs who had innovative technologies and products. It is my belief that organisations who place the entrepreneur at the centre of their development efforts have the opportunity to improve the innovation stack of the company. In order to benefit from Innovation, it has to be a strategic imperative. At YIEDI we continuously create new innovative programmes for our clients that are tailored to suit their requirements while ensuring growth and success of the entrepreneurs and staff that access the programmes they fund. We are a business that is run by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs.
We have realised that while innovation does not always equal technology, in a country like ours there is still a need for innovative models to address some of the development challenges on food security, education, health and other areas of focus. Technology innovations have the potential to impact at a faster rate, however the majority of the population still do not have access to technology. As a country we need to focus both on developing the infrastructure, but also on developing the entrepreneur who will contribute to shifting the status quo.