The CTO at Infinity Brands says it’s easier to be successful if you get the basics right.
For Nkululeko Nxumalo, Infinity Brands’ CTO, the core of what he does – and the kind of legacy he wants to leave behind – lies in data.
“I’ve realised that many South African businesses still have not adopted a data-driven approach,” says Nkululeko. “Look at it like this. If you are a vendor selling bananas from 6am to 5pm, but you realise you’re usually out of bananas by 9am – that’s data you can use to transform your sales. And that’s the approach I bring as a technology leader: do you know what data can actually do for you?”
A robust data-processing environment
Infinity Brands is a franchise management agency that helps businesses become franchises or invest in them.
As CTO, Nkululeko is responsible for the IT processes and systems for five brands housed within the Infinity stable. He says some brands have a national footprint, so the IT requirements can be complex.
For Nkululeko, a key differentiator for businesses that are part of Infinity Brands is the franchise management agency’s data-driven approach.
For example, when a brand comes on board, Nkululeko receives a brief from the brand’s GM, and he develops an IT ‘skeleton’ for that business. Then, once everything is put together, like hardware and systems integration, Infinity Brands processes the company data to gather insights. Franchise owners can get an overview of how their businesses are performing as a group, and they get a granular view of their own stores or businesses.
“We have a robust data processing environment, and we have a business intelligence team who look at the different processes and the KPIs for their success,” says Nkululeko. “They build reports based on the data, and then send those reports to the franchise owners to show them where their business is, where the gaps are, and how they can improve – and succeed.”
An undeniable force
As well as being data-driven, Nkululeko is also driven by a strong entrepreneurial mindset. He is the co-founder of Juggernaut Africa, a company that offers IT consulting services. And during the height of Covid-19, he co-founded another company, born out of Juggernaut.
Khangisa Media instals advertising screens in taxis; the screens have a camera that runs analytics and captures images to determine the demographics of viewers. The data is then used to help companies target their product advertising effectively.
“Juggernaut Africa is my baby that I co-founded with an old friend; we’ve been in tech for as long as we’ve known each other,” says Nkululeko. “He’s a creative guy and came up with the name. I loved it immediately, as ‘juggernaut’ means an ‘undeniable force’.”
Khangisa Media happened when his childhood friend approached him with an idea. His friend’s father was a taxi driver, and at the height of the Covid-19 outbreak, he suggested installing advertising screens in taxis for Covid-related content to educate passengers.
“That has grown into an inventory platform for advertising companies, and we now have 220 taxis with these screens that reach 80,000 people,” adds Nkululeko. “Oh, and all of that – Juggernaut and Khangisa – happens outside of working hours!”
AI is changing everything in “scary and wonderful ways”
For Nkululeko, belonging to a young and dynamic team has made a huge impact on his role as CTO at Infinity Brands. In the past, he headed IT departments in academic environments that were not curious about technology, and his ideas were not stress-tested. “Systems are not supposed to be one dimensional; you need different perspectives to solve problems,” he says.
According to Nkululeko, AI is changing everything in “scary and wonderful ways”. He believes there will be an even greater need for the storage and analysis of data, but it’s not changing the value that people can bring to the table.
“We’re at the point where we can get an instant answer from an ocean of information,” he says. “But with hiring, I no longer need to hire just for technical skills – AI is filling that gap. Instead, it’s peeling off the façade that many people have. What I mean by this, is that some people are exceptional technical resources, but they are horrible humans, which has a huge impact on the success of any organisation. Now I’m looking less at technical skills and more at who you are, as a person.”
Nkululeko emphasises the power of being data-driven, especially for businesses in South Africa. “Companies need to look at data and make decisions based on it to grow their businesses,” he elaborates. “I believe it becomes easier to be successful if you get the basics right and have the right foundation in place – and data is that backbone,” he concludes.