By ’Mathabana Kotello
MASERU — “Running a business is a continuous journey of discovery; I am nowhere near where I still aspire to be”, says Mohlalefi Sefika the co-founder and owner of Computer Business Solutions.
“We pride ourselves in making money from happy clients who are satisfied with our products and services,” adds Sefika.
A husband and father of two, Sefika was born in Sefikeng in the Berea district. He is the fourth of nine children. As a young boy, he aspired to be a university lecturer and climb the corporate ladder in the academic world.
After high school he enrolled for a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) after which he obtained a government scholarship to study at the University of Illinois in the United States of America.
Six years later he returned, armed with a master’s and doctorate degrees in computer science and eager to kick start his teaching career, Sefika took up his first job as a lecturer at NUL.
“I started consulting in 1996 upon my return from the United States. While lecturing at NUL; I would take on consulting projects,” says Sefika.
“I later found lecturing to be a bit unfulfilling, largely due to lack of research opportunities and a general research culture.”
When lecturing did not live up to his expectations, Sefika took a keen interest in commercial ventures and in 1998, together with Lebina Tšepe, registered and co-founded Computer Business solutions.
The first few years of business were, according to Sefika, fine yet quite turbulent. The company focused on software and website development with the first batch of employees mostly being former students whom Sefika had taught at NUL.
“Our very first project was developing the government of Lesotho’s website portal. Business was fine, but certainly not performing to its full potential.”
As the pressures of running the business mounted, Sefika decided to resign from his lecturing job, feeling he could no longer juggle teaching and managing CBS and do justice to both.
“One of the compelling reasons I resigned was because I had tested the market during the first few years of operations and spotted some exciting opportunities so I decided to focus all my energies on CBS.”
Running a start-up after years of being an academic, Sefika quickly got introduced to the chaotic side of business and the challenges that come with it.
From high staff turnover to talent wars and limited access to credit, the only ray of light was that the company was, even in its first years of operation, consistently profitable.
Despite the challenges, Sefika’s full-time focus on CBS paid off quite handsomely.
From 2001 the company underwent a rapid growth phase which saw the marketing, training and finance departments being established.
“We saw a more solidified organisational structure, our product and service line expanded and we started vying for international accreditations.”
Notable achievements Sefika proudly cites include clinching deals with internationally acclaimed ICT firms like Microsoft, Cisco and Oracle, to name a few.
“The global recognition is to us a confirmation and symbol of success.”
“CBS has formed partnerships with global information technology providers. We are an approved Oracle education provider and a certified Microsoft partner.”
In 2009 CBS was rated the top ICT SMME in Africa by Forge Ahead and has since 2011 been receiving accolades from Pmr Africa for being the best information technology firm in the country.
The secret to CBS’ success, according to Sefika, lies in the quality of employees and the focus on innovation and differentiation.
“We try to identify products and services at which we have a competitive edge and always ask the question: What can we do better?”
Looking ahead, Sefika says his vision for CBS, given the market saturation in the ICT industry, is to see it move up the value chain by providing better services at “a higher level of innovation and complexity.”
On a personal note, Sefika says, “I was lucky to be able to participate commercially in a field I studied and love, however going forward I am exploring investment opportunities in the stock exchange and property for example.”
When he’s not hard at work, Sefika is a keen soccer fanatic who plays occasionally and is an avid reader of business books.
“To aspiring entrepreneurs, I say go ahead and don’t be scared to take on risks. Given the unemployment scourge, it is imperative that we fight poverty and make a collective impact on economic growth through business development and management.”