Moeen Mungalee shares his entrepreneurial journey from startup innovation to global aspiration

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Zoom Fibre's CIO says that IT found him – and the best is yet to come.

Zoom Fibre is an open access fibre network operator based in Johannesburg, with a network that spans across South Africa. According to CIO Moeen Mungalee, the startup has grown from a team of five in 2020 to just over 150 employees, with aspirations to go global.

An entrepreneur at heart, Moeen says that IT found him; from cutting his teeth in telecoms sales to setting up an IT consultancy side business, he’s now in a place where things are getting good, and, he believes, they’ll only get better.

Like many students, Moeen was directionless when he started studying. He ditched engineering for accounting, but he admits it was more about getting a stable job than his life’s passion. “I tried doing my honours in accounting, but I realised, four years down the line, that I really despised it,” he adds. “I just couldn’t see myself doing it; I had to figure out what I wanted to do in life… to be honest, IT was a path that found me.”

Falling in love with IT

Come 2014, telecommunications startup Vumatel had just entered the market. Still unsure about what he wanted to do, Moeen joined Vumatel’s sales and customer service team. He especially loved the unstructured energy of the startup. “There was no sales manager; it was an exciting environment and I got exposure to different parts of the business like IT, data flows and finances.”

Moeen ended up working on Vumatel’s systems and databases and, using no-code and low-code, he built his own dashboard and workflows to make his job more efficient.

“That’s when I started falling in love with IT. I thought it was amazing what I could do in a no-code and low-code environment. I was also able to understand the business better and translate that into IT operations.”

Unfortunately, the opportunity wasn’t there for him to formally move into Vumatel’s IT department, but Moeen kept learning about how the business worked. A year later he was transferred from sales to finance. “Because that’s what I studied, I knew what was going on and how to put things in place,” says Moeen. “I noticed many mechanisms were inefficient, so I improved the processes and tailored the systems accordingly. Through this, I could still tap into my newly found passion for IT.”

The business of fibre and burning out

Fast forward a few years, and Moeen found himself working at another telecoms company, setting up databases and workflows while consulting on the side. He gained valuable experience in networking, and by 2019, he had a deep understanding of the business of fibre.

“I got exposure to all aspects of the business and practically knew it end to end: from feasibility to billing, every touchpoint. When I was building out the systems, I understood that.”

Around this time, a close friend and family member – who was also in the telecoms space – convinced Moeen to look at deploying fibre across the borders of South Africa, as opportunities presented themselves. Before things could get off the ground, Covid-19 hit, and the borders were shut. Soon after, Moeen ended up in a hospital ward, burnt out and very unwell. He took six months off to recover, and once he felt like his old self, he got back in the game to explore new opportunities.

Pushing the envelope and a growth mindset

A long time co-worker, colleague and close family member, whom Moeen had been working with for many years at that point, decided he wanted to start a fibre company – and Moeen was the man for the systems and IT solutions aspects of the business. Initially, Moeen was a little hesitant, as he felt he’d “seen it all with fibre”. Pursuing opportunities in a different sector, turned those down in favour of making Zoom Fibre the success story it is today. Deep down, he knew it was only natural that this startup would be a success, due to the calibre of people that were touted for various positions in that core group – it just made sense.

Zoom Fibre was registered in October 2020. Three years and many challenges later, the company is thriving thanks to a solid foundation and a strong desire to innovate.

“We’ve spent the last year consolidating and bedding down proper processes, which have evolved 100 times over,” says Moeen. “We had to do so much to get everything to a stable state. We’re still pushing the envelope to chase revenue and deploy new projects.”

For Moeen, his startup is ambitious. It's always trying to reach the end customer faster, constantly deploying new features, creating a more flexible networking solution and making fibre more accessible; it doesn’t stop and keeps evolving.

“We’re now expanding globally, and we need to redo the business model; it’s all hands on deck,” adds Moeen. “I thrive in an aspirational and growth mindset culture. We’re moving into a shared services function – it was getting good, now it’s getting even better!”

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