The chief executive of the Doves Group, Minki Rasenyalo, is a content character who seems to operate subtly below the radar in the funeral parlour sector.
City Press met up with the Durban-born executive at the group’s Houghton office for a chat and to understand how she manages to stay out of the limelight while leading the funeral services giant.
Born into a family of four, to a sales agent father and nurse mother, Rasenyalo admits to being a quiet child who would tend to chores and hide away to read.
“I would hide under the bed and read because my siblings would disturb me. I guess I was somewhat antisocial because I wouldn’t go out to play much with other kids,” she says, laughing at the memory of how she would ignore everything else when reading.
She started school at Edenvale Primary in Groutville before her family moved to Mtwalume in the south of Durban, where she went to Mnafu Primary School.
“My parents took me to Monthebelo Convent, a boarding school, because they liked it and were actually there for my sister,” she said of the coincidence that led her to be enrolled at her all-girls alma mater where she matriculated.
After matriculating, though, her father wanted her to pursue a career as a medical doctor. She ended up studying towards a Bachelor of Science degree in Dietetics at the University of Natal’s Pietermaritzburg campus.
“I didn’t have my heart set on a specific profession. I just wanted to ensure that I would not be poor. I might have not known what I wanted to be, but I knew I didn’t want to be poor. I don’t want to struggle,” she said.
With a scarcity of such professionals within her community, Rasenyalo said she didn’t even know what a dietician did before she enrolled.
After graduating and completing a post graduate diploma in dietetics while interning at the King Edward Hospital in Durban, she approached one of the companies providing catering services for the hospital, Royal Food Services, and that is how she landed her first job.
It was at that company that she developed an interest in project management and the operational side of business.
It was also at that company that she managed to empower herself through a finance management course at Gordon Institute of Business Science.
Nine years later and after several prominent promotions within Royal Food Services, Rasenyalo joined Fedics, where she was appointed as operations manager in the KwaZulu-Natal region from June 2006 to January 2009.
At Fedics, she was the first black woman to hold the position and she saw it as a challenge to dare not fail – and succeeded she did.
She narrates that she experienced racism at Fedics and all the mala fide that accompanies such an environment.
“It was the cruellest thing I have ever experienced,” she said, adding that she stuck it out because she did not want to leave behind a perception that the decision to appoint a black woman was a wrong one.
“You are used as a reference in order for them not to hire black people,” she said of the two years spent there.
In 2009, Rasenyalo joined Doves as general manager for the coastal provinces and the Free State provinces, which at the time constituted around 80 branches.
The transition from the catering sector did not prove to be a difficult one, as she confessed to being very flexible because of her lack of loyalty towards her life as a dietician.
“Business is business and people are people,” she said, elaborating on her strategy.
Though she confesses to not being good with sales, her strengths lie more in operations.
Since taking over as chief executive of the 150-year-old Doves Group in 2011, she has managed to set the company on an ambitious development path that has resulted in 40 branches being sold as franchises since last year.
The majority of the franchises belong to employees of the group through vendor loan agreements.
The company has an estimated market share of 5%, a figure Rasenyalo said was because the sector has a lot of players and Doves is still mostly in towns and not in townships like the majority of its competitors.
Doves has 105 branches, excluding the franchises, and Rasenyalo said the vision of the group is to tap into the financial services of its holding company – the 360FSG, which holds a number of financial service licences.
“We knocked on a lot of doors, but we could not find funders for the employees to buy the branches.
“Our target is 60 branches because the aim is to create wealth via owner-managed branches,” she said of the intention to bury poverty via the strategy.
Doves, which is wholly owned by Numsa Investment Company through 360FSG, was acquired 12 years ago. It still carries a “white legacy” tag, but Rasenyalo said this does not bother her much as the vision of the current owners is bigger.
The mother of three loves family activities when away from the corporate world, but confesses to still being “obsessed with Doves because I am constantly looking for better ways to do things”.
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