Bug-bitten brand guru

Managing Director of Indayi Communications, Hlangulani Msomi. (PHOTO: Indayi Communications)
Managing Director of Indayi Communications, Hlangulani Msomi. (PHOTO: Indayi Communications)

Hlangulani Msomi does not have the personality of a billboard that immediately grabs your attention, but word around town is that his is becoming a difficult name to miss in boardrooms.

The Ndwedwe-born owner and managing director of marketing agency Indayi has already earned himself a reputation as a brand strategy prodigy.

Msomi is the last of four siblings in a middle class family. His mother was a housewife and his father a human resources clerk.

With his father working in Gauteng, he was more exposed to the big city life than an average village boy, as he visited him during holidays.

He attended a number of institutions before matriculating at Northwood Boys’ High School in Durban. As a result, he has always managed to adapt fairly well to change.

In an interview with City Press this week, Msomi recounted how he started his education at Umziokhulayo Primary in Ndwedwe, moved to Umdloti Primary in the nearby town of Verulam, then to Woods Boarding School in Port Edward, before completing his schooling at Northwood after his father passed away.

He vividly recalls that he initially wanted to be a medical doctor, but ditched that ambition when he was exposed to the media through his uncle, who worked at the SABC’s radio station in Durban.

“I remember I once shadowed Mahlomola Morake, and he inspired me so much. He was interviewing all these personalities and then filing. It was interesting,” he said of the former SABC journalist.

Though his first exposure was to news media, he knew almost immediately that he did not belong in a newsroom.

“I remember I started following news and would look out for mistakes, but I would be more interested in adverts than the news. That attracted me more, plus journalists are forever writing and I am not a fan of that,” he said.

Despite the interest in media, Msomi enrolled for a law degree at the University of Zululand after his cousin, a law lecturer, encouraged him to. While at varsity, the media bug followed him and, in no time, he developed a reputation of being the go-to guy for campus media campaigns, marketing activations and parties.

“I approached some of my peers who were already involved and they introduced me to their boss, a gentleman called Thabo Leshoro, who became a very important mentor and guided me,” he said.

With media job offers piling up, it became obvious that his heart was not in law. He had to convince his mother that she was not going to see him become a law graduate and he headed into the job market.

“For the longest time my mother was resisting because of the many sacrifices she made. But eventually I think she was very happy when things started looking up,” he said.

The fact that he had numerous job offers helped his cause. With a number of companies offering him work, he joined Moving Tactics as an event manager in 2006 and relocated to Gauteng to live with a friend.

“The transition was frustrating. I was intimidated because I could not relate and there was no one to mentor me on basic things like how to draft an email. I remember at lunch I would go sit with the guy who washes cars, because he was the only person I could relate to,” he said of the culture shock that awaited him.

Soon after finding his feet, he joined Campus Media as a national event manager in 2007. There he headed some of the biggest campaigns in the country at the time, including those used in the lead-up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup. With that he earned a reputation as a brand specialist in marketing. In addition, he completed a marketing and management qualification.

“I had to enrol for that because I was now in executive management and obliged to contribute in the boardroom,” he said.

He later moved to ComutaNet as a national senior campaign manager before calling time on his conventional employment stint in 2010.

“I was coming up with a lot of ideas and I didn’t have the space to implement them, so I left and opened my own shop. Because I didn’t burn my bridges, even my former employers gave me contracts.”

Indayi has given birth to a number of major marketing concepts, including initiatives such as the annual Indayi Homecoming Festival, which has become a major headline festive season event, and the Indayi Youth Foundation.

Establishing the company appears to have been the best decision he could have made. As a result of his efforts, his name is being whispered in boardrooms as one of the most talented public relation specialists around.

With the security of a salary being abandoned, he found himself almost falling into the popular pothole of tax non-compliance. He hired too many people and spent money on expensive cars, almost burying his business.

“The tax issue, I would say, is most important. My number one advice to any start-up would be to get a financial manager from day one,” he said.

The people he looks up to in the industry include Given Mkhari and Andile Khumalo, who own and manage MSG Afrika Media, and CEO of The Communications Firm Bonnke Shipalana.

Within at least four years, he wants to see the company turning over R1 billion, from its current several millions. To achieve that he is banking on his plans to take the Indayi brand to the international markets.

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