KwaZulu-Natal entrepreneur and financial services trailblazer, Kershen Pillay, will compete against some of South Africa’s most innovative business minds at the 17th Oliver Top Empowerment Awards in Johannesburg next week (12 April 2018). The 31 year old CEO of Masifunde Training Centre (MTC) in Umhlanga has been shortlisted in two categories, namely Top Empowered Business Leader of the Year award and the Top Empowered Entrepreneur of the Year award.
It is the second consecutive year that the Oliver Top Empowerment Awards judging committee has noted Pillay’s extraordinary contribution to the financial education industry. “It is an honour to be acknowledged and to compete amongst this calibre of finalists,” says Pillay. “To be named a finalist for the second year in a row highlights our growth, our commitment to developing a skilled and capable workforce and most importantly, our need to constantly innovate and outperform ourselves, year-on-year.”
The Oliver Top Empowerment Awards recognise companies and individuals for their contribution and commitment to empowerment in South Africa, acknowledging the efforts of businesses, civil society, the public sector and truly outstanding individuals.
It is the latest acknowledgement for the entrepreneurial all-star. In November last year, Pillay was a finalist in the National Business Awards, notching up a nomination for the Fast Growth Trophy and in the Top Performing Entrepreneur for 2017 category.
It’s been a phenomenal journey for Pillay, who turned his back on studying medicine for a career in the financial services industry. It’s a journey laced with deep commitment to his vision to provide quality financial services education to those who cannot afford it and to make a significant difference in our country.
Pillay took over as CEO of Masifunde Training Centre, an accredited training provider that services large corporates, banking institutions and financial companies, when he was 27 years old, overcoming challenges with his unrelenting spirit and business astuteness. His tenacity paid off as the business notched up a string of financial success and industry accolades over the past four years. “The uniqueness of our business is our people,” Pillay explains. “We are a team of ordinary people who have aligned the job to our passion and who are committed to a cause that is far greater than ourselves. We get to change people’s lives every day, through education. The greatest joy for us, is being apart of people’s successes.”
Brazen in outlook and fearless in the face of conformity, Pillay is driven to spearheading meaningful change in South Africa. “Our contribution is towards building a skilled and capable workforce, which in turn positively impacts the economy. Masifunde’s core focus is not just education, but quality education. We believe that SA can be aligned to international standards, if we always put quality first.”
It’s an ambitious philosophy considering the financial services is the fastest growing industry worldwide but Pillay has never been one to move mole-hills when mountains are more alluring. “I am a firm believer in putting a 110% effort, passion and drive in everything that you do, no matter how big or small it is. I find that as a society, we are tolerant towards poor customer service and quality. I wanted MTC to be a game-changer.”
“We use MTC as a vehicle for change,” adds Pillay. “We change people’s lives through education. We also do business our way. We have infused the science of happiness into our business and are driven by quality and client experience.”
Pillay believes that this innovative mind-set along with the ability to seek and create opportunity form the heart of successful entrepreneurship. “You must be willing to take risks and believe in yourself when others may not. The entrepreneurial journey is filled with many challenges and successes, so stop, have a cup of coffee and enjoy the view. Follow your passion, work hard, and be impactful. Don’t allow other people’s perception of you to become your reality.”
When there is time to spare, Pillay fills it up by enjoying Durban’s natural offerings. “I am fortunate enough to live, work and play close to one of Durban’s pristine beaches, so after a stressful boardroom meeting I enjoy taking a run on the beach or sitting on a bench listening to the waves at night. The Umhlanga Village is one of my favourite spots to hang out, the atmosphere is amazing and I get to feel like a tourist every time I go there!”
The Oliver Top Empowerment Awards take place at Emperors Palace in Johannesburg on 12 April 2018.