Business application manager at HostCo, Prakash Ramlall, on perseverance, passion and people


Prakash says trust is at the core of a good CIO relationship.

Prakash’s passion for business started after he experienced a personal loss in his childhood years. Losing a parent at such a young age had a tremendous impact, but little did he know that it would spark a passion for business, technology, and, most importantly, people.

At just 16, Prakash understood financial difficulty, and it’s why he decided to pursue a career in business by enrolling at Parktown College. Here, he could do subjects like small business management, economics, and public administration as part of the National Senior Certificate. After finishing matric, he did odd jobs before finding his feet at Imperial Car Rental. His interest in leadership was sparked, and within two years, he was promoted to team leader, making him responsible for a team of five people at just 21.

A passion for people – and the tech that supports them

“My passion has always been about people,” emphasises Prakash. “There are four fundamental aspects to any business: technology, people, data, and process, and I’ve learnt that my passion lies most with people and the technology that supports them.”

While working at Imperial’s OR Tambo airport offices, Prakash harboured big ambitions. He saw that Discovery Health was on an upwards trajectory, and he was inspired by [founder and group CEO] Adrian Gore’s leadership and focus on innovation. At just 28, Adrian started Discovery, and in 2023 Discovery’s market share sits at well over 40 percent in South Africa’s medical scheme market. For Prakash, the next logical step was to apply for a job at the health insurer.

He landed a job at Discovery Invest in their call centre, and in a few months, there were more than one billion rand in assets under management. “Applications and technology played a huge part in that,” says Prakash. “In my second year, I won front office employee of the year, and at the time, the IT divisional manager approached me to work for her. That’s where my IT journey started.”

Without the business, there is no technology

Prakash worked in systems support, and from there, he went from strength to strength. During this time, he decided to study for a BCom in Informatics through Unisa because he wanted a holistic understanding of business beyond the technical aspects. Straight after that, he completed an advanced diploma in business analysis at the Faculty Training Institute.

“I believe that without the business, there is no technology. My job is to enable a business to be more efficient so that people can spend time doing what they need to do – make money for the business so it thrives,” adds Prakash.

His time at Discovery also taught him about investments (he became a certified financial planner in the process) and, at 35, he was debt-free – quite a feat considering he had to start work immediately after matric.

After much success at Discovery, including being part of the technical fixes and configuring teams, Prakash embarked on his next career move as a business analyst at Alexander Forbes, before becoming applications manager for Willis Towers Watson, the second largest brokerage in the world. Prakash was responsible for the SEAM region (Southern, East Africa, and Mauritius), and after five years, he was groomed to become manager for Willis Towers Watson’s entire African region. Unfortunately, a merger put an abrupt halt to this plan.

“The ship was a bit shaky, but as luck would have it, I was offered an opportunity at HostCo,” adds Prakash.

A good CIO relationship is based on trust

HostCo, based in Johannesburg, is a managed IT service provider that offers a hosted short-term insurance software platform for independent brokers. Prakash is the business application manager, where he manages everything from mobile apps to vendor relationships. He explains there are two aspects to the job: operational (to keep the tech stack running) and strategic development (to move the business forward).

According to Prakash, he works very closely with CIB’s CIO, Shoaib Nathie [CIB is HostCo’s largest client]; he adds that for a relationship like this to be successful trust is key.

“Make sure the strategy is clear and that both the CIO and their support are continuously communicating,” says Prakash. “Be clear on responsibilities and what role each person plays in the strategy. A CIO needs to ensure that people have the support they need to deliver on the strategy."

"A good CIO relationship based on trust – that’s at the core of everything,” he concludes.

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