Thabo Majola, the innovative change agent

Portia Nkani
Thursday, 21 January 2016
Incepta boss, Thabo Majola Incepta boss, Thabo Majola

The youthful father of two boys originates from Masukwane, a small village in the North Eastern part of the country.

Thabo was fortunate enough to go through a better education than the usual Tswana medium thanks largely to his upbringing. His father worked as a civil servant while his mother was a teacher at Thornhill English Medium School, where he also did his primary education.

He then progressed to Legae Academy where he finished his high school before he enrolled for Bachelor of Business Administration- Majoring in Marketing Management from 1998 to 2002 - at the University of Botswana. Thabo has two siblings, who he affectionately refers to as ‘my crazy brothers’.

His love for business started at secondary school where he onceowned a company called Huggers Mugs, under the Junior Achievement Botswana (JAB) programme and specialising in branding personalised coffee mugs. It later liquidated.

“It excited me forever. During my UB days I then opened a car wash business. I applied the skills I learnt from school to the business. As time went on the buildings where it was situated underwent some renovations and I decided to close shop,” shares Majola.

Career Path
-Majola started as Brand Assistant and resigned as an Account Director-Horizon Ogilvy & Mather June 2002 till February 2007.
-Marketing & Communications Manager-Botswana Life Insurance Limited (BLIL) February 2007 till March 2009.
-Head of Marketing-Botswana Insurance Company Limited (BIC) April 2009 till May 2011.
-Managing Director-Horizon Ogilvy & Mather May2011 till October 2013 before leaving to fully manage Incepta Communications.

Whilst at BLIL, Majola was inspired by the leadership style of Regina Sikalesele-Vaka who was Chief Executive Officer at the time. It opened windows of possibilities for him to learn what being a good leader entails. He then hopped on to BIC. “I wanted the challenge of working in a so-called boring insurance industry, which had its own perception that brands really don’t matter. After having served for three years I then returned to Horizon, where I wanted to get a well rounded appreciation of the business as Managing Director. I also served for three years before the Incepta concept was born.”

Incepta’s birth, strategy and the future
Owned by Majola himself, in partnership with Norma Moremong, and Tonderai Tsara, Incepta Communications Botswana is an agency that focuses on public relations, events, digital services and advertising. The agency, which first opened its doors in January 2013, is a sister company to Dialogue Saatchi and Saatchi which has been operating for the past 10 years.

According to Majola, the two shareholders from Dialogue approached him with a view to set up Incepta, run it independently, grow and eventually turn it into a giant company. Incepta has now developed a new four year plan that will focus on repositioning and refitting it into the industry.

Traditionally, Majola said the company was an advertising agency. However a research on customer needs and services was done and found that well-resourced PR agencies were few as were advertising agencies that boast the capability to do research. It also found that there was no one that was geared to do brand activation.

“Initially the idea was to form an advertising agency to replicate the Dialogue group. We realised that part of the market was already serviced, so we wanted to add value to our agencies as well as our customers. We have gone out to hire young smart people who will be trained to become the brand masters,” he says.

Incepta has since formed a strategic partnership with international masters - Hill and Knowlton strategies company as well as VWV -, which have so far done brand activation on the World Cup and the All Africa Games.
Majola said they would now be able to benchmark from these two international companies and tap from their knowledge. “It is important to have international access and roll up that locally. We want to be internationally relevant. These partnerships however, have no financial commitment involved.” Majola is a true believer that marketing and communications shape perceptions and perceptions tend to form the realities.

Looking into the future, Majola is confident that in the next three years, Incepta will become the number one agency in PR and brand activation. The team is currently being empowered to do the best for its clientele. Majola is confident that the excitement generated by Botswana’s 50th independence Anniversary and the Economic Stimulus Package will yield good business for most companies.

Amongst Incepta’s biggest clients are Symphony Health, Afinitas, BancABC, BPOPF, and Vigo (from Namibia).  Advertising and Communications Association (ACA)Majola is also the chairman of ACA. He says that although membership growth remains a challenge, they have successfully hosted the Segai awards in previous years. He cites membership drive among top priority initiatives for 2016. “There has not been an increase in the membership over the years and we aim to embark on a membership drive this year,” he says.

Majola says that last year ACA motivated to Office of the President the introduction of a media levy, which subject remains under discussion by stakeholders. With the levy in place, eventually Majola hopes it will push the industry to greater heights.

He continues to share with optimism that, communications industry is growing, opportunities are endless. He adds that, clients must trust agencies that are based in Botswana as they have the expertise to take them to the next level.

Majola and family
Majola has been happily married to Charlotte Tebogo-Majola for three years now and are blessed with two boys, a 12 year old and a six year old respectively. Passion is what wakes him up every morning and aspires to uplift his family. Meanwhile, the father of two always ensures that he leaves his work at the office to give the utmost attention to his lovely wife and kids when he is home.

The balance is critical, he says. He said his wife, who is an Auditor by profession, has just recently quit her corporate job to pursue her farming interests. “I like the idea of farming but I cannot be one. I would rather encourage those who have the will to go for it. People who love nurturing are the ones who have the love for farming.

I do not think it is part of my calling but I do enjoy the social part of farming and its ambiance,” he says with a smile.As a father, he says parenting is a difficult experience. Majola, however, wishes for his two sons to grow up to be accountable and responsible adults. “They should select a career that inspires them. I do not have a pre-determined career path for them, but then again I do not want to limit them. They should however, have a minimum of a degree education level,” he says. 

Majola’s motivation is derived from ensuring that he adds value in everything he does. His aim is to leave a positive mark in this world by driving change and innovation.