Stroke of genius

Sibongile Manganyi, owner of Indigo Kulani Group

Sibongile Manganyi, BBQ’s Businesswoman of the Year in 2012, is pioneering a bold new one-stop-shop for the built environment.

In 2006 Sibongile Manganyi started a company that would grow into the groundbreaking Indigo Kulani Group. Using the entrepreneurial skills learnt from working at her father’s fruit stall as a young girl, she has helped to drive the Group’s growth through entrepreneurial empowerment. 

“I realised that we have entrepreneurs in our country but that the business environment is so hostile that people are unable to achieve their dreams. I don’t believe in micro-managing people because I believe that when people are micro-managed it hinders their growth and, ultimately, the growth of the company.”

It was a stroke of genius, then, that inspired Sibongile to see the value in allowing each company to be run by a unit leader under a single vision and mission, rather than trying to be the kingpin herself. 

“A lot of entrepreneurs believe that if you want something done that you have to do it yourself. The problem with that is that you can’t grow with that approach because you can only do so much yourself. I came into the infrastructure and property sector through my studies as an architect but, because I am an entrepreneur at heart, I am always searching for knowledge and understanding of how we can better service our clients.”

This reasoning was the basis for the Indigo Kulani Group developing into the multi-disciplinary infrastructure consulting company that it is today, which affords their clients an opportunity to talk to a single company that can service their needs at almost every stage of a project’s life-cycle. This saved their clients time as well as money. 

“I always look for partners who share the same principles, the same beliefs and the same approach so that we can find similarities in terms of what we want to achieve long term. It’s vital, otherwise people start to want to do their own thing.”

Being a female-owned, young company in a male-dominated industry poses its own unique challenges, such as clients and suppliers being unsure of your capabilities, but to overcome this Indigo has continually strived to raise the bar and make their mark as a strong contender in the industry. To do this, however, has required a solid foundation.

 A clear vision

Sibongile is a firm believer that the key to starting a company (and growing it!) lies in having a clear vision and purpose… and then defining clearly why you want to go into that business in the first place. 

“From the beginning I was very clear that I wanted to build a generational organisation, one that will serve people and redefine the infrastructure delivery landscape,” she said. “Once the vision was clear, it was important to define the key principles about what our core beliefs were. In the case of the Indigo Kulani Group, we stand on the key principles of Professionalism and Integrity. 

”These two principles are priceless and have been the fundamental backbone of our company. If I make a commitment to my clients, and I go and market ourselves and we get a job, and I say, ‘this is what we offer’, then I shouldn’t give them something different from that.” 

 Sailing through tough times

Indigo’s client base spans a broad spectrum from large government institutions to corporations, mining projects, retail projects, and even private residential commissions. Having such a diverse clientele offers the Group the benefits of diversified income streams, which helps to balance market opportunities as well as seasonal activities. 

“It was through this strategy that we were able to sail through the recession and, in fact, continued to grow,’ said Sibongile. Despite that good fortune, she has seen first-hand how much effort and commitment it takes to build a business, and through this process she has come to realise a powerful lesson: “Business is not about you… it’s about building a legacy, building a vision.”

 Men in hard hats 

Her vision for her future started when, as a young girl catching the train to school from Soweto to Bedfordview, she would look out the window at the buildings being constructed in the Joburg CBD… and be amazed by the numerous male-only site meetings in progress. 

“I just saw men in hard hats and I thought it would be interesting to do what they were doing. I started to research the construction industry and the more I did the more I realised that it was a challenge that I wanted to take on. I kept asking myself: ‘Why can’t I do it? Why can’t we change things?’” 

These were questions that sparked her interest and drove her into the industry… and those same questions continue to drive her to this day.

 A solid Foundation 

Sibongile helped to establish the Indigo Kulani Foundation as education is a subject that is extremely personal to her. 

“I know the power that education carries. My parents didn’t have formal education but they encouraged me to go to school, and then my life changed for the better. I believe that education creates an opportunity and a passport to dreams being realised. If we want to correct matters and drive our nation towards a brighter future it is important to use the same tool to take our country forward by investing in the education of children.”

As a 100% black and women-owned company, the 2012 BBQ Businesswoman of the Year award was a tremendous honour for her personally, but it also offered incredible Indigo brand recognition that helped it to become recognised as a serious player in a male-dominated industry. 

 Even better, it gave kids through the Foundation something to aspire to, as they share a similar background to Sibongile. Building a brand, however, (like educating a nation and empowering the youth) is a long-term investment. 

“If you are building a legacy you need to understand that it’s not going to be a microwave process, but when you are committed to something you will see it grow,” said Sibongile. 


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