PROFILE: Incoming Huge Group COO Andy Openshaw
Quitting Reunert’s corporate environment led to unexpected offers and a chance to develop entrepreneurial skills
Andy Openshaw didn’t really have a plan in place when he resigned from tech group Reunert late last year.
He had joined the group back in 2011 when his employer, ECN Telecoms, was bought out by Reunert. Though Openshaw had started out as ECN’s sales director, he soon rose to become MD of Nashua ECN, the entity created from the merger of ECN and Reunert’s Nashua Mobile.
From there, he went on to run several of Reunert’s ICT operations, eventually becoming CEO of the group’s communications cluster in late 2017.
Openshaw says while he enjoyed being part of a large corporation, it didn’t really cater to his entrepreneurial instincts. He missed the feeling he had before joining Reunert, where he was a part of several smaller businesses that he had enjoyed building up. "We built ECN into a fantastic business," he recalls.
By late last year, Openshaw had had enough of the corporate life. "I was scared of becoming part of the furniture," he jokes.
He knew it was time to move on. "I resigned from Reunert without going into a new job. I just wanted to take a year off."
But then something unexpected happened: word got out that he was leaving, and people started calling him to find out if he was interested in working for them. One of them was Huge Group CEO James Herbst. Openshaw agreed to take on the job of Huge Group COO, starting on March 1.
Huge Group is nowhere near as large as Reunert, and Openshaw believes its smaller size gives it the nimbleness to offer niche ICT products — something that really interests him.
It’s worked for him in the past. Like Huge Group, Nashua Mobile and ECN started out as least-cost operators, but morphed into specialised electronic offerings aimed at small and medium-sized businesses.
Openshaw sees a lot of opportunity in offering these kinds of services to smaller businesses. He says larger ICT businesses essentially offer the same service to enterprises. This basically means they’re selling large volumes at low margins. "The customer must take it or leave it," he says.
When the economy is good this formula is fine, but it doesn’t work so well when conditions are less than ideal. This is what happened with Telkom subsidiary BCX, whose revenue dropped 4.6% to R21.2bn in its latest results because a weak economy led to a drop in volumes.
With many of the larger ICT players focused on servicing bigger companies and only offering generic services to small and medium-sized businesses, Openshaw believes Huge Group has much to gain by offering bespoke products that cater to the specific needs of these companies.
He is optimistic about his move to Huge Group — it puts him in the same company as a number of ICT heavy-hitters.
Vodacom’s former head of finance, Rob Burger, joined Huge subsidiary Huge Telecom as FD on August 1. Brian Armstrong, Telkom’s former COO and chief commercial officer — and current professor of digital business at Wits Business School — sits on its board. Former telecom analyst Duarte da Silva is also there, serving as Huge Group chair.