According to Mteto Nyati, the former powerhouse CEO of MTN and now CEO of JSE-listed technology group Altron, he started his training to significantly differentiate this international mobile telcoms group, as a very young child: waking up at 4:30am to buy milk and vegetables from the city (20 kilometres away), so that his mother could sell the freshest products possible to her customers.
“For me it all started standing behind that counter, having my mother making it clear to me that the people who you are serving … are the people who are helping us to have this kind of life that we are having.” Hence his mission to differentiate MTN from its competitors through an unrelenting focus on customer centricity and the relationship that the business has with its staff.
However, there are many shades to this spectacular academic achiever – whose professional trajectory has placed him in leading roles at IBM, Microsoft and now MTN – as one of the most powerful executives in SA telecoms. His career timeline looks like a finely-tuned, perfectly-implemented strategy for professional success. Yet he maintains that his greatest strength is his ‘expertise’ in failing. In fact, he he says that the accomplished individual we see when we look at the Mteto Nyati of today, is really the sum of a number of earlier failures.