MOST INFLUENTIAL WOMEN 2014/15
CASE IN POINT | TSLS
by Andrew Ngozo
The Path to Success is Covered with Benevolance
Vasi Govinder comes from a family of hard-working entrepreneurs who value education highly. It is no surprise, then, that she started working in the debt-collection office of a law firm while completing her law degree. Today, she is the Director of TSLS Holdings, an organisation that she has grown organically to encompass three subsidiary companies active in debt collection, water filtration and telecommunications. Vasi explains her strategy for growth through diversification, and how the principles of respect and kindness underpin her business philosophy.
It wasn’t long after joining the law firm that she was managing its debt-collection office and, when the owners of the law firm approached her to buy this arm of the business from them, she didn’t hesitate. “Of course, there were one or two hurdles to overcome, such as the law firm owners suddenly closing down their office overnight without informing me, but I managed
to cash in some policies and refinance the business at short notice, and I haven’t looked back since,” says Vasi with a confident smile.
That was in 1998, and since then she has grown TS Legal Services to TSLS Holdings, which owns not only the debt-collection business but also two other subsidiaries: Spring Clear Filters and TSL Telecommunications & Automation. This holding company has grown from a team of three to collectively employing about 70 people.
“I am continuously looking for opportunities to grow the business, and particularly diversification. By the end of 2014, I intend to have a branch in each province of South Africa, and I am also looking to expand into the international market. We already have branches in India, and there are exciting news pertaining to activities in sub-Saharan Africa,” says Vasi.
The main subsidiary, TS Legal Services, specialises in the collection of commercial accounts receivable, bad debts, pre-collection outsourcing services, as well as many other aspects of debt recovery and collection services. Vasi says that the company has a proven history in commercial, medical and local government debt collection and related third-party collection services. “To ensure that clients get value for their money and don’t get charged for a service that doesn’t yield results, TS Legal Services only charges commission if the debt has been collected successfully. A commission rate or a flat fee may vary based on the age of the debt as well as its size. TS Legal Services uses two of South Africa’s largest credit bureaus to gather information, and the entire process of debt collecting is done strictly in accordance with the Magistrates’ Courts Act. Through reports, clients are informed on a monthly basis of all successfully collected capital and are given an overall picture of the collecting process.
TS Legal Services also provides a comprehensive range of additional services, which include legal letters, legal proceedings against debtors, negotiated settlements, legal research, legal investigations, and tracing of assets and debtors. “It is important for our client companies to ensure that their customers understand the terms and conditions of the credit contract they are entering into. We advise our client companies to draw up a policy that incorporates issues like setting time limits, contacting customers by phone, sending reminder notices, issuing a demand letter and handing over to a collection agency like ourselves,” explains Vasi.
She says that the principles for successful debt collection are consistency, kindness and following up. “Most people want to pay their debts and live an honest life,” explains Vasi. “When it comes to the small percentage of people who have no interest in paying their debts and who would do anything to avoid paying them, you will never collect any money from them.
“Those people who want to pay for what they have consumed will respond to someone who treats them with respect, dignity and kindness. As a debt collector, an act of kindness isn’t going to cost you anything more, yet it realises a substantial return on your debt-collection efforts. Once your consistent kindness has yielded a promise to pay, you have to follow up to ensure that the debtor keeps up his or her end of the bargain. Once the debtor sends you the cheque, your work is done and everyone can be happy because of the resolution of an uncomfortable situation.”
Given that her debt-collection business was running smoothly, in 2005 Vasi decided to diversify and expand the business by establishing Spring Clear Filters. Today, Vasi and her team at the company design, manufacture and maintain water treatment solutions and products for use in a range of residential, commercial, industrial and municipal applications. The product range includes Spring Clear Filters bags for use in industries like food processing, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, solid preparation, as well as paint and glue. The company designs filter housings, which are then manufactured from stainless and mild steel to suit each customer’s filtration requirements.
It also provides a range of filter cartridges as well as coalescing filter systems, which are manufactured to meet customers’ specifications for oils and fuels. Simplex, duplex and self-cleaning strainers can be made according to individual requirements and are available in middle and stainless steel, and in various plastics. Spring Clear Filters is also involved in the design, manufacturing and installation of liquid plants.
TSL Telecoms was established in 2009, once again diversifying the company portfolio. TSL Telecoms offers its clients a large range of telecommunications, office automation, and information and communications technology (ICT) products and peripherals. These include copiers, scanners, fax machines, desktop and laptop computers, printers and call centre solutions. The company has solid partnerships with a number of reliable suppliers that provide it with a national footprint and support from more than 60 offices.
Vasi remarks that TSLS Holdings is committed to the upliftment of all individuals who form part of South Africa’s diverse cultures. “Most of our employees are women. The role of women in business has definitely done a U-turn. Twenty years ago, a woman’s opinion was never required, but today women’s opinions are valued in the office and in the boardroom, with many a survey showing that women think out of the box and are particularly innovative in business,” she notes.
Professional and personal growth and experience are vital in every woman’s career – something that Vasi endeavours to provide at TSLS Holdings. “Women can’t sit back and wait to be empowered. They need to empower themselves and chase every opportunity. That being said, training is a powerful tool to build expertise and confidence. Often, women don’t take advantage of opportunities because they lack the necessary knowledge. This problem can easily be solved by getting training and learning the skills that are required to successfully do the job in question,” says Vasi.
Some of the drivers of Vasi’s success are her attitude and how she approaches business and the clients she works with. “I believe in the old saying, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’. Every day I strive to positively affect the lives of everyone I come into contact with, and to treat them with respect – irrespective of their status, profession or academic achievements. Being truthful and trustworthy, and having integrity and business ethics, are my key principles in life,” she adds.
“I have had many role models in my life who have inspired me with their professional integrity, ideas and core values. Mostly they are people trying to make the world a better place by promoting outstanding professional and intellectual achievements while maintaining high ethical standards,” Vasi points out. “To succeed in business, you must understand your value to the organisation and believe in yourself. Success will follow,” she concludes.