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Tata Africa CEO Taps into Millennial Magic

Published: 1st October, 2019

With his sight set firmly on appealing to a new and younger audience, Mr. Len Brand, CEO of TATA Africa Holdings, hosted five postgraduate students from the University of the Free State (UFS) during a two-week internship programme at TATA office’s in Sandton, which operates as the nodal point for the group’s businesses across the continent.

“Our reach and success is unknown to the majority of South Africans, as is our philosophy to promote social and economic development of local communities through education, entrepreneurship and health initiatives is a key component of our business,” says Brand.

“Top talent flocks to well-known brands, and in an increasingly competitive world if you want to remain relevant, you need to be top of mind. There are certain things we want to communicate in order to strengthen the TATA brand, remain relevant and attract the best talent to ensure that we continue to succeed.”

The Tata postgraduate scholarship program started in 2013 with the University of the Free State. Over the years the students were requested to conduct research and present possible solutions. Five interns were selected from a group of twelve final year marketing students from the Department of Business Management at UFS. They were awarded TATA postgraduate scholarships after presenting marketing ideas for TATA trucks and busses to a panel of judges as part of TATA’s Postgraduate Scholarship Programme in September 2018.

“In line with the content of their presentations each student was paired with a mentor and was given access to all aspects of the business. In turn they provided us with some incredible and fresh insights on the future they saw for our brand, sparking new trains of thought for our rebranding process,” says Brand.

With the current unemployment rate amongst the youth of South Africa in mind, the two-week internship programme also aims to put TATA scholarship recipients ahead by providing them with work integrated learning.

“TATA does so much more than commercial vehicles. Globally, the group’s businesses are extremely diverse. For example, South Africans who watch Formula One may have noticed the TATA Communications logo on their screens during races. They are the official connectivity partner of F1, and deliver broadcast media to half a billion F1 fans around the world every race weekend! These are the kind of inspiring stories the brand needs to tell more of.” – Sumaya Surtie, 28, Damelin Bloemfontein alumni

“In line with the content of their presentations each student was paired with a mentor and was given access to all aspects of the business. In turn they provided us with some incredible and fresh insights on the future they saw for our brand, sparking new trains of thought for our rebranding process,” says Brand.

“TATA owns Jaguar Land Rover and John Deere. Coming from a background in Free State farming, I thought it was quite apt that I was paired up with the head of John Deere for my internship, and I worked with him on a marketing campaign for their expansion into Ghana and Nigeria. Having an opportunity to put all our varsity theory into practice was incredible.”Christeley Bouwer, 24, St Michael’s School for Girls alumni

“I think the most important thing we learnt from these students is that modesty doesn’t do a company any favours in terms of brand awareness. They made us see that being more vocal about your company’s contribution to society, the wonderful things you’re doing to improve on human excellence, and sowing seeds for future generations is not boasting. They also made us realise that the public genuinely wants, and needs, to know how the companies behind the products and services they buy improve communities and impact ordinary peoples’ lives,” says Brand.

“TATA has really good products. The surveys and statistics prove it. But reality and perception are not always the same. Reality is to perception as fact is to opinion. Through this rebranding process, TATA has the opportunity to change the perception of their products to reflect the reality of their products in the minds of South Africans.” Tanisha Botha, 21, Hoërskool Lichtenburg alumni

“When we joined the programme, we thought they would give us conceptual tasks, hypothetical situations, evaluate us, then teach us how things work. But since the day we arrived, we immediately felt like we were part of the TATA business. We now have a far better understanding of the feasibility and practicality of our ideas, and how to get them off the ground.” – Angelo Arendse, 21, Grey College alumni

Of the five interns who attended the learnership programme, Dominique de Kock is the only one doing her BCom Honours with specialisation in Entrepreneurial Management this year. The others are all doing their BCom Honours with specialisation in Marketing.

“There is just so much opportunity everywhere in the world – to change things, fix things, create things, and make life more convenient for people. And there are brands like TATA who are already doing such amazing work. But not enough people know about it. This needs to change.” Dominique de Kock, 21, Empangeni High School alumni

“It is now time for TATA Africa to step out of the shadows, to own our accomplishments and embrace the TATA rebrand with conviction and confidence. We were honoured by this opportunity to connect so closely with, and mentor, some of South Africa’s rising stars. We hope we have inspired them and we look forward to seeing them become successful in their own ventures in the future,” says Brand.

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