S01E01 The journey of Yanesh Naidoo and Jendamark in developing their 4IR solution

Posted On: November 23, 2021

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S01E01 The journey of Yanesh Naidoo and Jendamark in developing their 4IR solution

Our host Goodwill Mabena sits down with Yanesh to introduce the TECH | PEOPLE | TALK series and to chat about Jendamark’s journey and how they developed a strategy around 4IR. We gain insights into this company – who they are and what they have contributed to automation, manufacturing and digitisation.



“In order to have great tech and great machines, you need great people first.” Yanesh Naidoo

Yanesh Naidoo is a visionary who has travelled the world in pursuit of the emerging tech space. He was invited to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, where he spoke at the 11th session of the Investment Enterprise Development Commission. He lectures an MBA class on the 4th Industrial Revolution and the opportunities it holds for Africa. He is also a digital strategy expert and co-owner of Jendamark Automation, a global tech leader specialising in 4IR-driven assembly solutions for the automotive manufacturing sector.

Connect with Yanesh:

Learn more about Jendamark:


02:55 – The reason why Jendamark has decided to start a podcast
  • Yanesh presented to an MBA class two years ago
  • The class’s feedback was that Jendamark should share more about what they’ve done as organisation. So, it crossed his mind to start a podcast.
  • But he was afraid. “Who are we to start a podcast about our experiences and who can learn from us and what we do?”
  • Then Goodwill called and pushed him out of his comfort zone.
  • They hope to share Jendamark’s experiences and help people understand the people behind the tech.

04:16 – Why Yanesh chose to do this podcast with Goodwill
  • Goodwill challenged and pushed him, which Yanesh appreciated.
  • With a 20-year age gap between them, Yanesh feels he has a lot to learn from Goodwill and the generation coming in terms of what they need and expect, so he can adapt accordingly.
  • They are from very different cultural backgrounds, which brings a fresh dynamic to the conversation. Yanesh wants the podcast to be relevant to as many people as possible.

05:40 – How an African company that started as a specialised machine builder grew into a global tech company
  • They will be using technology to solve human problems.

06:10 – Yanesh’s origins from Zimbabwe and his journey to South Africa
  • Yanesh was schooled in Zimbabwe at what he calls the optimum time, when it was the breadbasket of Africa and a non-racial society.
  • He always wanted to leave home to study. The furthest his parents could afford was Cape Town.
  • He went to UCT as a naïve 18-year-old with a technical focus.
  • Yanesh failed a year but after graduating, he started seeing opportunities that his friends didn’t. He attributes it to his open-mindedness and background in Zim.

09:00 – His innate passion for technology and studying Mechatronics at the University of Cape Town
  • His dad and mom pushed him through his dyslexia.
  • They made him believe he wasn’t stupid, even though he wasn’t doing well at school.
  • His involvement in technical things and technology was clear from as far back as Yanesh can remember.

10:03 – The support from parents that proved pivotal in building younger Yanesh
  • Yanesh is eternally grateful to his parents for the gift they gave him – confidence in himself.
  • They always believed in him, even though he wasn’t succeeding in the traditional manner.

10:55 – How selling curry leaves and chicken eggs grew into selling big global machines
  • Yanesh didn’t know what an entrepreneur was but he was always in the business of trying to make his own money.
  • He convinced his father to buy him five chickens and help him build a chicken run in the backyard.
  • The chickens laid eggs, which he’d collect daily and sell to the parents who were dropping off their kids at school, as well as family and friends.
  • He looked into selling other things, and the lowest cost was curry leaves.
  • He also started planting granadillas because there was a demand for it.
  • That was from the age of 10. It wasn’t out of necessity. Selling was fun for him and his parents encouraged him to do it.

13:10 – How do you know how to navigate the difference between assertiveness and ego?
  • The older you get, the more confident you are, says Yanesh.
  • “I do have an ego. My ego comes out when I feel insecure about a particular thing.”

17:04 – Why did Goodwill drop out of university?
  • Goodwill felt that he wasn’t in the right place because he never wanted to attend university and, as a result, wasn’t motivated enough.
  • He felt the call to entrepreneurship and decided to take the risk and take a step in that direction.

18:19 – It is such a cliché to celebrate the success story and forget that there is no success story without the challenging story

  • In 2008, there was a global economic crash. Yanesh explains how Jendamark responded to these challenging times and how they expanded their business into Europe.
  • In 2008, 2009 and 2010, the company experienced dark days as a result of a lack of focus, Yanesh says.
  • Jendamark had reached a point where there was no sustainable source of income and no big projects coming in.
  • The directors had to make a decision about the direction of the company and if the risk was worth taking.
  • The directors took the decision to fight for the company.
  • The focus became making the best machines possible and they set themselves a target to export the machines to Europe and, more specifically, Germany.
  • The goal was a 50/50 split between local and export projects to strike the financial balance.
  • Jendamark also took the decision to narrow their product line to catalytic converter assembly machines and powertrain assembly lines.
  • “In 2012, we took a risk and built a machine that we did not know how to build and, through a lot of hard work and lots of luck, we got a big break. We now export 95% of our machines all over the world.”

23:30 – There is the saying: Luck is when preparation meets opportunity

  • “Preparation is important; opportunity presenting itself is important; but willingness to take the opportunity – and recognising that it is preparation and an opportunity – is more important.”

24:15What is Jendamark and what does it do?

  • Jendamark, at its core, builds machines that assemble automotive components.
  • Over the last ten years, what has stood out for Yanesh as they built the machines are the people behind the machines. “As amazing as some of these machines are, the people that make them are even more amazing.”
  • The podcast aims to strike the balance between the tech and the personalities behind the tech.
  • During the dark days, there were suppliers who became partners who really helped Jendamark in building a sustainable business.

25:30 – The emerging Industry 4.0 and how Jendamark has responded

  • Approximately six years ago, a customer asked Jendamark what their Industry 4.0 strategy was.
  • Apparently there was a revolution involving digitisation and artificial intelligence that they needed to respond to. It was called Industry 4.0.
  • Yanesh was tasked with coming up with the strategy of how the business would respond to Industry 4.0.
  • Yanesh travelled to Europe, Asia, America etc, in search of what was called Industry 4.0 and he soon realised that nobody knew. The recommendation from Yanesh was to just start.
  • The company bought some Virtual Reality (VR) headsets and began to develop programming on digital work instructions that they had done for some of their other lines.
  • They developed some VR content and started to expand on their already existing production line management tool that offered customers a paperless production line as well as process security.
  • “When we started, we started to understand what we don’t know and that gave us direction on what we should know.”
  • The company now has a clear strategy that Jendamark has been developing for a couple of years but he feels that they are only just starting out.

30:29 – Where does the fear that 4IR will result in job loss comes from?
  • Being uninformed is unfortunate and the fear can only come from being unaware. The natural response to anything unknown is defense and that’s where the fear of job losses could potentially come from, as a form of self preservation, says Goodwill.
  • The podcast aims to inform people about 4IR in the hope that we could invite people on the journey that lies ahead.

33:55 – How does 4IR affect Africa and how does it differ from European countries?
  • Jendamark designs and manufactures technology that answers challenges in developed countries.
  • The aim of automation is to take people off the production line because that decreases the cost of the product.
  • The cost of labour in developed countries is high and that is why automation is important for them.
  • The reason why labour costs are high in developed countries is because there is a decline in population.
  • Populations are shrinking and when there is a low supply of human capital the demand goes up. When the demand goes up, the cost increases.
  • In developed countries it makes sense to cut jobs or else they are no longer competitive.
  • In Africa, the scenario is the complete opposite. We have a lot of human capital and therefore if we prescribe the western world solutions to solve African problems, we will have a huge social problem.
  • As a result, automation does not make sense in the African context and we should rather invest in digitisation.
  • If anyone is interested, they should google GAFAnomics which is Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon economics.
  • All of those business are networked businesses. They are all about establishing connections between people and things, and collecting data.
  • Google Maps is a good example. We don’t pay for the services but we trade our information and they can use the information to sell services to Uber, for example.
  • WhatsApp had made 1.5 billion connections and that, to Facebook, was valued at $19 billion despite it being a loss-making business.
  • As Jendamark learns and develops their product, they are taking a step in incorporating some of the principles including: connections between people and things, and collecting data.

41:10 – How to develop a business model understanding the difference between a developed country and a developing country
  • It is important to choose a particular problem that you want to solve and orchestrate all the different technologies into solving that problem.
  • Uber solved a taxi problem by orchestrating different network businesses like Google Maps, Amazon Web Services etc.
  • As Africans we need to leverage some existing technologies and put them together to solve problems.
  • If you take a step back and look at how education is delivered, it is mass produced and that has not changed for 100 years.
  • This education model made sense and was the best way to educate people on a mass scale.
  • If we use new digitisation technologies, we can evolve education to be much more adaptive and individualised.
  • Jendamark bought a startup education company called Odin Education.
  • Odin Education has put together a tablet called Omang and written some coding which allows network companies like MTN or Vodacom to insert their SIM. The device is locked to protect the viewer from uncensored content.
  • The Omang device is secure and Odin Education has built in a learning management platform. There are BBB classrooms (digital classrooms) on the device.
  • What Odin Education has managed to do is source close to 200 free educational web platforms that are embedded in the device.
  • Odin Education is targeting the 10 million underprivileged learners in South Africa.
  • They have built a system which is able to understand the learner’s strengths, weaknesses and interests, based on tests conducted via the device and interactions with the web platforms.
  • The Omang device uses learning algorithms and can now adapt to the learners and give suggestions to the teachers on which web platforms the learners would best benefit from.
  • There was an interesting realisation from the learners using the Omang device. There were about 600 learners who were interested in chess and the interest was observed from the Omang device analytics reports.
  • Then Odin Education developed a chess club online as a result of the rise in chess interest among the learners.
  • Now they can play online chess with their classmates and with others from schools in other provinces. The chess club has grown and spread across multiple provinces.
  • It has been really amazing to see how Odin Education is able to scale this education platform and individualise it for every single child.
  • It is because Odin Education has been able to orchestrate various network technologies that it has been able to deliver this world-class education platform to underprivileged learners at an incredibly affordable price.