Editor's Choice

Personality profile: Doug Gunnewegh

24 November 2021 Editor's Choice News

Doug Gunnewegh

I was born and raised in Roodepoort in the late 70s with my younger brother and sister by my South African mother and Dutch father. Growing up in the plot lifestyle ignited my love for outdoor sports from a young age, which helped form my competitive nature that I have today.

I finished up my high schooling at Alen Glen High School in 1997 after moving across from Rand Park High. After high school I immediately proceeded to study for a diploma in travel and tourism. At about the halfway mark I came to the conclusion that this path was not for me as I did not see a long-term future in it, however, I was convinced by my father’s assertive words: “You started it, you finish it” – I now stand by these words!

After completing my studies I decided to rather get more work experience and headed back into the audio-visual game that I started doing while I was still at high school. To make some extra cash I started DJing for certain of the school functions and fundraisers, which progressed to other events and parties outside of school grounds and made me a good little living.

This gave me the basis to join an audio-visual staging company as a technician specialising in sound engineering. Here my skills expanded into the lighting and projection aspect of the business and I soon found myself in the position of head technician leading teams in managing full events. I also found an interest in the sales and marketing side of the business which led to me furthering my studies in the sales, marketing and business fields.

This was a very exciting time for me as I got to travel extensively, locally and abroad and had the opportunity to meet and engage with many influential people from all over the world. This was great while I was young and independent but not an ideal situation to start family life, resulting in my next career change and my introduction to the cable industry in 2004.

I started as an external salesman with Jaycor International, having a primary focus on the broadcast and audio-visual sectors. During my time there I was able to exercise my marketing skills and was promoted to marketing manager. In June 2007 an opportunity arose to open up a division within the Eltec group that comprised of five companies – I was employed as a commercial manager for Eltec Cables in Johannesburg. Here I gained insight into the manufacturing and design of the electrical cables. Unfortunately, the Eltec group was liquidated mid-2010 after losing a big contract the previous year and failing to adapt to the change. I was appointed by the liquidator to help tie up the Johannesburg affairs.

I remember thinking to myself, “Shortly I am going to need to find a job. What path am I going to take?” I was very fortunate to have been approached by a couple of companies offering me some very nice positions, making the process even more difficult.

My decision was made after a couple of our staff members turned to me to please try and place them in new positions. I managed to find a couple but there were some young, eager team members that I could not find anything for so this is where the idea of opening up a new venture came from. I approached Helukabel GmbH, a world-class German manufacturer and distributor of electrical cables and accessories that I had been working with over the previous couple of years and proposed opening a South African division.

Thus, in August 2010, Helukabel South Africa was born and I have been running it as managing director for just over 11 years. I can really say that I made the right call as we have managed to go from strength to strength and still have many of the original, energetic staff from Eltec Cables.

Over the last 20 years that I have been working with cables, I have seen many ups and downs in the industry, however, I think the last two years have been the hardest to digest due to the whole Covid pandemic that has been topped with all the global supply chain issues. They say if it doesn’t kill you, it only makes you stronger, so by now all the survivors are superheroes.

Exciting times lie ahead with all the new developments in technology, increasing speeds and bandwidth of data, products becoming smaller and lighter, all of which will allow us to reach new frontiers that have never been seen before and this will snowball. So for people thinking about joining this industry the time is most certainly now, as it is exciting and evolving and for those in the know there will always be a global demand. To those still in school but looking to get into the electrial/electronics industry: focus on your maths, sciences and computer technology as this will open up some exciting opportunities for you.

It is overdue for Eskom to embrace the potential around it, as the unreliable power situation is costing the economy ridiculous amounts and hampering production. Not only that, but it is killing companies and jobs too and manufacturing is almost impossible to plan and maintain. We need to be able to compete on a global scale and this is almost impossible to achieve with the unreliable power supply we’re currently experiencing.

Government and Eskom are utilising other avenues like the recent announcement made for the fifth round of REIPP (Renewable Energy IPP Procurement Programme). This is a step in the right direction, but the country needs more – much more! There needs to be a reliable, steady and cost-effective solution that lets Eskom focus on the distribution while the IPPs (independent power producers) focus on the production and run it like any other business in the sense that if your supplier can’t deliver, you find one that can.

I am a big fan of the REIPP rounds as there have been so many great success stories on the renewable energy front, like power being added to the grid ahead of time and on budget. As these plants are energy friendly and have a short turnaround time, they should be utilised a lot more. My dream would be to see South Africa competing on a global front in the manufacturing industries and converting our own raw materials into finished goods.

In my spare time you will find me outdoors with friends and family, preferably having a braai and a beer. I love spending time riding off-road motorbikes and doing a little enduro riding, throwing in the occasional race or two. My wife and 14-year old son also keep me very active and on my toes.

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