Patuxolo Nodada, Executive Group CEO at Busmark South Africa, discusses the company’s place in the manufacturing market today.
For over 48 years, Busmark has supplied a comprehensive range of first-class, price-competitive buses to the South African market and further.
In total, over 10,000 buses have rolled off the company’s production lines, each manufactured to comply with and exceed the highest international quality and safety standards. Its ISO-certified production facilities in Johannesburg and Western Cape produce a combined 80 units per month for right and left-hand drive markets using over 80 percent local content for bodywork on all its buses.
Indeed, Busmark is the preferred body builder for many of the major motor manufacturers in South Africa. Its vehicles are designed and manufactured to specification ranging from economy units for short commuting buses including inner-city rapid bus transport, to luxury units for long distance travel and 4×4 and special vehicles.
Patuxolo Nodada is the Executive Group CEO at Busmark South Africa. He acknowledges how badly the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the country, particularly in the industry he serves, but prefers to think positively.
“We have opportunities because we are the only black-owned manufacturing business, and we have valid contracts we are delivering,” he affirms. “The only thing that has changed is the cashflow. This has changed from three months to nine months meaning that the customers are now paying later than they would normally pay.”
Nodada himself grew up in an industrial town in Butterworth, Eastern Cape, where factories were based. As a child, he dreamed of becoming an engineer but subsequently switched to accounting upon visiting Sun City Resort on holiday. “When I got to university I studied accounting, and from there I went to engineering investments. The reason for going into that sector was easy because I was familiar with it,” explains Nodada. “I have been invested with various manufacturing engineering companies where I have either manufactured rock drills, electric distribution transformers, TVs as well as seats for buses and trains including chemicals up to the manufacturing of buses. Most of my investments have been in both engineering and manufacturing.”
In partnership with a number of universities, government departments, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and Hydrogen South Africa (HySA), Busmark developed the first hydrogen fuel cell bus in 2019. While, the company also replaced its entire bus fleet which feeds its train station, as a result of the concession agreement with operator Bombela.
“We have delivered the first gautrain buses. We developed the buses based on a Caio model and the current model is a replacement version after 10 years,” affirms Nodada. “It’s an integrated bus platform meaning it is a bus that can convert to the normal diesel powertrain, to an electric powertrain to hybrid or hydrogen fuel cell electric train.”
Partnerships are a critical component of all successful organisations. Forming key, strategic partnerships that can stand the test of time isn’t easy, but Nodada stresses that the collaborations his company has formed are mutually beneficial and of key importance.
“They are critical. The biggest challenge I have is transformation for our suppliers because it is mostly industry-based historically,” he explains. “Our aim is to empower our suppliers so they can grow. We are speaking to the Automotive Investment Fund, and it is looking at how they can help inspire our suppliers.”
For Nodada, he believes in helping staff to succeed via a robust teaching methodology where he challenges people to learn from mistakes. “I throw people into the deep end and see if they can swim,” he muses. “If they can swim underwater then reach out to me with solutions, I don’t have a methodology that spoon feeds people as I allow people to grow themselves. I do this by ensuring I share with them the correct knowledge and the opportunities including the marketplace where they are able to learn from that.”
The company takes the same pride in its after-sales support as it does in manufacturing its vehicles. All of its buses carry a 12-month warranty on all workmanship and materials as well as three years on body structure and anti-corrosion regardless of mileage. In addition, Busmark has a policy of keeping parts available for 20 years after supply. It offers technical support on body-related repairs and provides on-site training at its Johannesburg facility for minor bus body repair works.
Nodada believes in training and development, dedicating a full day and evening on the first Thursday of every month to host entrepreneurial talks.
“The talks are about sharing my journey but that by itself isn’t sufficient,” he explains. “Therefore, I share stories of similar entrepreneurs or people with different experiences in business giving out advice on what are the challenges of business are and how to make it a success. I am keen on developing interns where people grow and understand new things to progress and achieve more.”
Moving forward, Nodada stresses the plan is to consolidate in the industry. “Public transport is dominated by the taxi industry. 67 percent of passengers are transported by taxis in South Africa, I need to strengthen the relationship with the taxi industry because those are the key players in terms of running public transport in South Africa,” he tells us. “The objective is to ensure that they are transformed from being taxi operators to bus operators in a way that empowers them.”