The girl behind the Avis desk at Cape Town Airport sported intimidatingly large breasts and couldn’t find my reservation. It happens a lot; the not finding the reservation I mean. I am an Avis preferred customer. That doesn’t make me special. Anyone can apply to be one and it doesn’t cost anything so it’s a bit like a Tesco or Boots card but I’d recommend it to the frequent traveller because sometimes they give you an upgrade and my new big breasted friend did just that.
Neither Rosie nor I had ever been to South Africa before but we came with an open mind; our primary objective was to see whether there was a way forward for Van Walt Ltd to expand into this new country and ultimately more formally and efficiently into the whole sub-Saharan continent.
Africa has always excited me and has tickled my endorphins more than any other place: The vivid colours, the broad white smiles of the people, their sense of humour and the vastness of their savanna which covers half the continent. It has too much or too little of everything; water, minerals and therefore many types of mining activities. There is extreme poverty and extreme wealth and the distances are enormous.
We already have our equipment in several African countries, from Egypt to Morocco, Mauretania, Sierra Leone, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Kenya and even Somalia but we seem to stop somewhere around the equator. We were naturally drawn to South Africa to satisfy our quest to be meaningful to that part of the African geography.
We are very proud of our telemetric data collection systems and even our competitors seem to agree; for now at least. Designed from scratch, in house, by Lewis and I and manufactured under license by two excellent partners in the UK, GB-Electronics and Mandar Solutions, we have something quite special and now after 3 years, with deployments scattered around the globe, can also boast a little about the systems’ resilience, robustness and reliability. We’re not smug or complacent; just extremely proud and grateful.
Rosie met Jani van Gend at an IAH conference in Malaga. I’m sometimes accused of being a tiny bit impulsive but that pales into insignificance when compared to Rosie and Jani. These “South African Go-Getters”, as I now call them, form an entire meteorological pressure zone of their own. Before even allowing the “white paint job” to dry on the equipment, normally black, which was deemed better for deep south climates, we had sent some units for high temperature resilience testing to Cape Town. They were installed within days and I’m pleased to say that the units seem to be quietly unaffected by their sudden exposure to plus 40 degree environments. They seem to have taken this in their stride.
Let me be brief when describing Jani: She’s young, smart, feisty, ambitious, tenacious and has an immense desire to succeed. Oh, and she loves talking. In fact it’s difficult to make her shut-up for a second or two so we can recover a little from her overabundant enthusiasm.
Business is all about people. I’ve been lucky and am surrounded by passionate and loyal colleagues and that includes my children David, Dirk and Rosie, now also part of the business. Jani fits right in and already after our first night’s impromptu dinner with her and her husband Charl, also a hydrogeologist, we knew we had found the right partner and managing director for Van Walt SA (Pty) Ltd.
Haslemere, 18th April 2020
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