Like a shooting star on a cloudy evening, Nyeleti Consulting Engineers has grown from a four- person band in 1999 to a 120 strong staff company 20 years later, thanks to a transforming civil engineering sector, supportive government policy and serious personal sacrifices by its founding partners.
In the past two decades, the company has invested heavily in attracting the correct expertise to build its team, got involved in some iconic infrastructure projects which have made mobility easy such as the Reading Interchange tunnel in the South of Johannesburg, significant elements of the Gautrain route development, Kusile Power Station and projects that delivered the 2010 Soccer World.
The company has enjoyed organic growth over the past twenty years and has diversified within the civil engineering industry offering wide range of consulting services to both public and private. Although, the beginning was not easy for the founding directors Stanford Mkhacane and Pine Pienaar.
“At the time that we decided to start the company, the public and political attention was moving toward the establishment of black-owned companies on the one hand and supporting small enterprises on the other hand. We saw this as an opportunity to leave the large, international company where we were both employed at the time, and to start a new firm meeting the political and institutional needs of the day,” says Pienaar, Nyeleti Consulting CEO.
Despite an enabling environment, Nyeleti had to go through familiar challenges faced by start- up companies.
“The first few months we had to work from our homes – Pine in Pretoria and myself in Polokwane, with the assistance of Pine’s wife and my sister, respectively. This had to be done without salaries for all of us. In order to manage our marketing needs, we had to use our private vehicles to go around introducing the company without payment of disbursements”, recalls Mkhacane, Nyeleti Consulting Chairperson.
“Let’s not forget the purchase of new equipment, computers, printers. This required a significant capital investment and we had to use all our personal savings. Another challenge was to balance the workload with the number of staff resources employed. With every new personnel appointment, there was the fear that we would not be able to keep the staff busy productively. Thankfully staff integrated well, and we never found ourselves in the position where there was not enough work for the entire team, “adds Pienaar.
Today, Nyeleti is segmented into various expert services including roads, bridges, water engineering, construction management and forensic investigations. Its footprint has tentacles throughout the country with offices in Tshwane and Ekurhuleni in Gauteng, Polokwane in Limpopo, eThekwini in KwaZulu-Natal, and a presence in neighbouring Maputo in Mozambique.
The excellent work ethics, quality delivery and internationally acclaimed expertise in the company has ensured that Nyeleti participates in landmark projects such as the provision of specialist services during the development of the Orlando Stadium and Soccer City (FNB Stadium) in the run up to the Soccer World Cup in 2010, the conceptualization and implementation of the City of Joburg most ambitious public transport system - the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT), and various projects that have delivered water and waste management systems to South Africans in previously under developed towns and peri-urban areas.
Nyeleti is a Xitsonga name meaning “star” which the founders found reverence with as they believed that the new company was destined to reach new heights in the civil engineering space. “It was felt that the name should be neutral, progressive, easy to pronounce, diversity-friendly, in order to accommodate a spectrum of members who would be invited to join and feel comfortable as future owners. After some deep thought, the name Nyeleti was coined – meaning a star, and symbolizing the delivery of excellent services to our valued employers,” says Mkhacane.
In August this year, Nyeleti will celebrate its 20th anniversary and the founders are seized with growing the company in the next 20 years which will be dominated by the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Mkhacane says, “we have learnt several lessons in the business, so we will need to continue to sharpen our skills to better respond to client changing needs. We would like to continue developing our young talent to take the company forward and increase our women participation at management level”.
“We anticipate technological development at a much-increased rate in future – the so called, Fourth Industrial Revolution” We are already in this era, and within Nyeleti we take pride in ensuring that our computers, software and other technologies are up to date and in line with modern developments. This is, of course, exciting to staff in that they get exposed to the latest developments and in this way are able to also advance their own careers,” says Pienaar.
Nyeleti is also expecting diagnostic investigation of aging infrastructure and improved maintenance methodologies to receive increasing attention in the next decade. The company is also staying on the forefront of technological developments and will focus on continued change and the need to improve processes on an on-going basis.