KwaZulu-Natal entrepreneur, Kershen Pillay, who is a finalist in the coveted National Business Awards, says he’s both humbled and honoured at the industry acknowledgement. Pillay, 31, the CEO of Masifunde Training Centre in Umhlanga, is in the running in the Top Performing Entrepreneur for 2017 category. The recognition is more than a feather in the cap for one of the brightest minds in South African business; it is also testament to Pillay’s tenacity, his passion for quality education, and his determination to make a significant difference in the country. “I wish to inspire others to be the best version of themselves, whilst developing the best version of myself,” he says.
Speaking ahead of the National Business Awards next week (16 November 2017), Pillay describes how he relied heavily on “gut instinct” when he turned his back on a career in medicine, strapped on his corporate adventure boots, and waded into the financial services industry. Armed with a commitment to hard work, innovation and a steadfast determination to uplift the youth, Pillay embarked on a phenomenal journey that would see him pushing envelopes, blazing trails and breaking moulds.
“By the age of 23 I was heading up the learning and development division of a macro organisation. Although I was making steady progress in my career, I had a feeling of restlessness, a feeling that more needs to be accomplished,” says Pillay. Driven by his goal to provide education to those who could not afford it and create gateways for those who had a desire to achieve, Pillay identified and acted on an opportunity to turn his dream into reality. He took his first tentative steps in the Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services (FAIS) industry and has never looked back.
In 2014, at the age of 27, Pillay stepped into his new role as CEO of Masifunde Training Centre, boldly steering the business into uncharted waters and notching up a string of financial success and industry accolades along the way. Within 24 months, the organisation swelled from four employees and 400 students to nearly 30 members of staff and 2 000 students.
Masifunde Training Centre is more than an accredited training provider that services large corporates, banking institutions and financial companies – it harnesses and mobilises Pillay’s passion for education by training young South Africans who wish to achieve qualifications and skills in the Financial Services sector. To this end, Masifunde Training Centre has partnered with ABSA and Quest to provide affordable education and job placement opportunities within the financial services industry for individuals, who would never have been able to access such opportunities.
Looking back on his extraordinary accomplishments, the Umhlanga resident chalks up his success to a winning combination of a keen eye for opportunities, smart innovation, out-of-the-box ideas and exceptional business savvy.
One of Pillay’s sure-fire seeds for success has been to infuse “a science of happiness” into his business model and organisational culture, which he believes has contributed substantially to the organisation’s upward mobility. “Our growth over the last two years has allowed us to triple our staff count and welcome more clients. However, as rapidly as we are evolving, we’re still holding firm to our roots and core value system. We live by our excellence formula and hire only the most gifted and passionate people. We pride ourselves on our staff and notoriety as a quality service provider.”
He advises budding entrepreneurs to be true to their craft and turn negatives into opportunities by focusing on the valuable lessons. “I do not believe in luck. I believe in working hard consistently and always staying focused on sharpening my skill. As an entrepreneur you have to be open to listening, learning and constantly developing yourself, explains Pillay. I believe that there will always be opportunities in South Africa. The key is being able to spot the opportunity in line with your passion and craft, and work really hard at it. Always strive to be different and follow the path less travelled on.”
Pillay lists business visionary and philanthropist, Warren Buffet, as among his role-models alongside former President Nelson Mandela and Mother Theresa. He enjoys reading autobiographies and biographies of successful people and also makes time to swim and play golf to help keep his stress levels in check.
The National Business Awards take place at Emperors Palace in Johannesburg on 16 November 2017. In addition to Pillay being a finalist in the Top Performing Entrepreneur for 2017 category, Masifunde Training Centre is also in the running for the Fast Growth trophy.