Pursuing a diversified range of ventures with Conver-Tek, Davis & Deale and Sure Sight, Bevan Davis is helping to uphold South Africa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem
Writer: Jonathan Dyble | Project Manager: Kyle Livingstone
The country is home to a rising venture capital scene and a growing recognition from both the private and public sector that startups are crucial to solving the challenges created by sluggish economic growth – something it has been suffering with of late.
Further, a shift towards broad-based black economic empowerment legislation has also made greater funds available for skills and enterprise development, as well as bolstering both the number and diversity of successful entrepreneurs.
The result? South Africa’s startup ecosystem (currently home to 28 percent of all of Africa’s startups) has been and will continue to be a major source of innovation, technology and healthy competition, many of the country’s most successful companies having started from this same position.
Take Davis & Deale, for example.
Starting out in 1980, this company developed the now renowned micro-irrigation concept for citrus and sub-tropical fruit and vineyards that has come to be used the world over.
“My passion has always been related to water and technical plastics,” irrigation engineer Bevan Davis reveals – the mastermind behind the concept and the company’s Founder and CEO.
“When we came up with the micro-irrigation idea, we took over the plastics and tool making company doing our production in order to consolidate our intellectual property as well as development and production, keeping all facets under one roof.”
Indeed, Davis & Deale is proof that ideas can be actualised as business success stories.
Today, the firm also lays claim to the first successful engineering polymer water meter for the leading meter manufacturer in Europe. This was to replace brass water meters, and Davis & Deale exports many of its other products widely across the African market – a market where water development infrastructure remains crucial to socioeconomic development.
Away from the irrigation space, Davis’s entrepreneurial efforts in fact predate that of Davis & Deale, having also harnessed plastic’s proclaimed properties in an alternate venture named Conver-Tek.
He explains: “A company with roots stemming back to 1975, we bought Conver-Tek in partnership with an enterprise named Kreep Krauly to specialise in precision plastic engineering developments and production.
“Today, Conver-Tek has a world class toolroom and production facility housing 24 injection moulding machines. We manufacture tools for production across the medical, motor, irrigation and armaments industries, as well as pool cleaners, water meters, electrical packaging, boxes and more.”
For Davis, the engineering plastics industry has been the vehicle of entrepreneurial thinking –a vehicle he has capitalised upon, embracing its dynamism and challenges through the launch of meaningful concepts, designs and products through these two ventures.
“We are innovative leaders; the developers of new ideas,” he adds.
“Others have followed and copied our ideas, but we continuously look to develop and produce new cutting-edge, dynamic products, driven by our mindset and our people.”
Indeed, this latter point relates to the firms’ staff, a human resource base viewed as an integral part of the strategic efforts of both businesses throughout the course of their historic developments.
The companies’ emphasis on innovation is also testament to the work of its employees, who are encouraged to bring creativity to the table on a daily basis.
“We ask our staff to think outside the box; to make informed decisions without the constraints of corporate policies and restrictive decision making,” Davis reveals. “We encourage people to study and will pay for their studies providing they pass. We have a very low staff turnover which is an indication that people are happy in their jobs.”
Staff are not the only source of excellence for Conver-Tek and Davis & Deale, however, the pair are also heavily reliant on the role of suppliers, vendors and partners. Here, close relationships are similarly valued as being of massive importance.
“Supply chain operations are critical to our success,” Davis affirms.
“Whether it be specialised polymers, computer aided design software, pigments and masterbatches, toolroom machines, toolmaking cutters, injection moulding machines, rapid prototyping, or tool steel suppliers, it remains critical for us to work together. All these facets require different inputs, trust and partnerships, so the support of our partners is key.”
The result of the combination between loyal suppliers, esteemed staff and an innovative spirit is the optimism of a bright future for both companies, Davis citing a number of upcoming developments on the horizon.
The first of these is a new range of plumbing fittings for PEX and PEX ALU PEX piping –products that have the potential to be ground-breaking. Meanwhile, the group is also putting the final touches to a hybrid hot water/photovoltaic system that its planning to launch by mid-2020.
“We’re optimistic about both these undertakings,” Davis states. “Initial trials and testing have put them into a league of their own.”
Looking ahead, further cause for optimism can also be found in the group’s latest venture –Sure Sight.
A high-tech, fully automatic electronic bow sight, Davis and his teams have been developing this innovation over the course of the past five years in South Africa. Now on the market, the product has already been received with great interest on the global stage.
“This highly technical, robust, automatic sight resolves all the time-consuming inaccuracies found when using conventional fixed pin bow sights, and takes bow hunting to another level of accuracy, speed and ease of use,” the Chief Exec adds. “Our quality Sure Sight product, on a shootout with a world-branded, opposition automatic bow sight, has come out leagues ahead in all aspects…. and is 40 percent cheaper.
“While we have otherwise tended to focus on Africa, a continent which aligns with our plastics and water business interests, with Sure Sight we’re targeting the 20 million bow hunters in the US and Europe, who are already responding positively to our new sight.”
Indeed, this diversified, three-pronged business portfolio will ensure that the group continues to take strides as an entrepreneurial and innovative force. Yet Davis is quick to urge caution, pointing to the economic hardships and political downfalls of the country that threaten to curb against major progress.
It is this that forms the basis of his conclusion: “South Africa has unfortunately been tainted with massive government corruption. Hundreds of billions earmarked for development has been misappropriated via state capture, fraud and corruption, which directly affects business confidence and investment.
“Sadly, the worst affected are the masses, who could have substantially benefitted from better education, hospitals, housing and infrastructure, instead of the political elite mismanaging, squandering and stealing our hard earned taxes.
“South Africa’s financial ratings have accordingly slipped to a concerningly low level. I sincerely hope the country can rectify this, as businesses and people are suffering as a direct result of the lacklustre political will to fix obvious problems.”