We are always eager to celebrate entrepreneurs behind technology start-ups, constantly on the lookout for the next Deliveroo or TransferWise that will disrupt a market and make its inventors untold riches, seemingly overnight.
But with all the buzz around start-ups it’s easy to forget what the UK is best at: services.
And this is what seems to continue to attract investors to the UK – in spite of Brexit.
Since the vote last June, foreign investors have continued to open headquarters in the country. In October Nissan confirmed that it will build new models at its Sunderland plant, following unspecified “support and assurances” from the British government. Announcements from Boeing, GlaxoSmithKline, Google, Facebook, Apple, Jaguar Land Rover, Tata and McDonald’s have all indicated that these companies will continue to invest in the UK despite Brexit.
And opportunities are not just coming from America and Asia but from Africa too. According to the former British High Commissioner to South Africa, Dame Judith Macgregor, there is a good opportunity for Britain and South Africa in the post-Brexit era to boost two-way trade and investment in many sectors, including innovation in fintech.
At 78 per cent of GDP, the UK service sector is where British professionals really make their mark globally. Ironically, the services offered to improve business performance often require a deep expertise in exploiting technology to make change happen – not the sort of technology that delivers your pizza or finds the closest minicab, but the solutions that transform your business, make it more profitable, increase your market share, or ensure that you’re deriving the most from your people’s skills and talents.
It’s this leadership position in the knowledge economy, combining business acumen and technology delivery, that drove South African IT services giant EOH’s acquisition in UK consultancy Rinedata in 2016.
EOH is the largest African tech organisation publicly listed on the JSE, the South Africa Stock Exchange. The company has a market capitalisation of 20 billion Rand, with over 12,000 employees serving 5000 companies in 50 countries. It was ranked 7th in The Times Top 100 companies last year and has been ranked in the Top 20 Companies list by The Sunday Times for the last three years.
Recently re-named EOH UK – the former Rinedata is now part of EOH’s International division. As Regional Managing Director, founder Kirit Patel is helping drive the company’s aggressive growth ambitions within the UK and across Europe.
It’s a long way from Rinedata’s origins as an implementation unit within Comshare (since acquired by Infor) back in the mid-90s.
“A group of us within Comshare had developed a reputation over three or four years as a crack team of experts,” said Patel. “We somehow worked out very early in our careers that taking the time to really understand a customers’ business objectives always led to a more satisfactory outcome. By asking the right questions and getting under the skin of the issues we could scope the most appropriate solution, anticipate potential issues and implement the actual kit with fewer hiccups.”
Being independently minded, Patel and his colleagues always had ambitions to be masters of their own destiny. So, in 1996 they decided to setup an independent business as technology consultants, with a focus on delivering group reporting solutions to the office of the CFO.”
Rinedata was born, and so began a two-decade journey of steady organic growth, with a reputation for exceptional outcomes, speed, premium service and on-boarding of the best people along the way.
“We have seen a consistent demand from organisations that are striving for better insights into their data, more predictable planning, faster closing cycles and the ever-increasing demand from regulatory reporting,” said Patel. “No doubt this demand has resulted in numerous new technologies that have emerged and a number of new vendors entering into the UK market. This obviously makes for a much more competitive landscape.”
After delivering hundreds of successful projects, Patel says Rinedata had developed into a business where steady growth had become the norm. However, they had a reached a point where further growth was going to be difficult. The technology markets they play in are becoming increasingly complex and they needed to bring in new skill sets and resources at a fairly heady scale to be able to fulfil their ambitions and stay relevant. “Notwithstanding, we had always strived towards building a company where we could offer a variety of avenues for growth and ensure longevity for our committed team. EOH meanwhile needed a strong and credible presence in the UK. The timing of this meeting couldn’t have been better,” said Patel.
Prior to partnering with Rinedata, EOH had a smaller direct presence in the UK. Its UK division operated as a hub to service and support existing EOH customers – mainly South African corporates with a UK presence in the UK – with Global Service Agreements.
This later evolved into a hub to attract and pursue smarter alternative tech off-shoring and outsourcing models based on advantages like time-zones, costs, language, talent pools etc.
Ebrahim Laher, CEO of EOH International, commented: “For EOH, finding businesses that fit into our philosophy of entrepreneurship, great people and delivery excellence is the most important endeavour as we look at growing our footprint globally.
“In Rinedata we found a strategic partner and the perfect mix. It has been built on a bedrock of delivery excellence borne out of entrepreneurs who have created a fearsome reputation of quality and value-add to customers. The business has cut its teeth in the tough and demanding UK market, which bears testament to the values of the founders and other people in the business.
“We are proud to have this team spearheading EOH’s growth into the UK and Europe into the future. The unrelenting pursuit to add and create value, in a methodical manner in the business means that EOH UK is indeed in great hands as we build our futures together.”
As the UK embarks on the Brexit process – EOH’s investment in the UK displays a continued confidence in the country’s services sector to deliver quality and growth. Couple that with the exponential explosion of data within organisations and the struggle to derive meaningful information from this data. This is where the EOH acquisition makes most sense for Patel: expanding the range of solutions, services and industry know-how they can offer to current their clients.
“I strongly believe that even post-Brexit this country’s reputation as a centre of excellence for professional services will be undiminished, and anyone who wants be a truly global player needs a robust presence here. Our reputation and superb client base, combined with our foundation in Enterprise Performance Management, the technology at the nucleus of the finance function, makes us a perfect fit for EOH’s international ambitions.”
At 50-plus employees in the UK and South Africa, joining the EOH group has immediately helped Rinedata to grow and start to fulfil ambitions beyond the company’s previous reach. “We are now able to offer a full range of products and capabilities from EOH’s portfolio that fit neatly alongside our EPM foundation. Onwards and upwards,” says Patel.
“After two decades of successfully helping organisations run better, we have a deep understanding of how the finance function has changed, and how it now leads business transformation in many respects. You need that level of insight, coupled with the practical expertise to implement solutions and show ROI quickly, in order to become true business partners to the office of the CFO.
Technology makes it possible, but people make it happen.
By Kirtan Sita, CSO, EOH International