WITH six companies on his business card and an overflow of ideas, Ismail Hassen was born to do business.
A celebrity entrepreneur in the making, Hassen, 33, has entered six entrepreneurial competitions, of which he recently won the Step-Up National Technology Innovation Competition in the manufacturing and mining category.
The company where it all started, CSR-Africa, is a container refurbishment and repair business that fixes accident- damaged shipping containers.
CSR-Africa also makes a specialised bulk box container to carry liquid asphalt, designed by Hassen and known as the Bitu-Box.
“It is a mobile storage unit that can be transported by rail, road and sea and is fitted with an integrated heating system. It was designed to reduce the country’s carbon footprint because the bitumen (asphalt) does not have to be transported in drums,” Hassen said.
Between his Uitenhage and Durban CSR-Africa plants, Hassen employs 30 people and says he believes in practicing participative leadership.
“By working alongside your employees you gain their respect and loyalty. We eat the same food and live in the same hotels when we travel,” Hassen said.
Although he has made Bitu-Boxes for other African countries, Hassen said the local market alone was enough to take up all he could manufacture for the time being at the current CSR-Africa premises. The entrepreneur left his job at a local container manufacturer in 2009 to start up CSR-Africa in Durban, but said he wanted to plough back what he had learnt into the Eastern Cape now that CSR-Africa was established.
“You can say that I went into exile to start my business in Durban but I am not planning on leaving the province again soon. We should forget about the mindset of waiting for government to make things happen – we need to do it ourselves.”
Last year Hassen took part in The Big Break Legacy (BBL) Season 2 on SABC 3 and was a finalist in the Rize Mzanzi entrepreneurial reality show on SABC 1. This year he plans to change his focus by training other entrepreneurs from the Eastern Cape.
Hassen grew up in Gelvandale and matriculated at Newton Technical High School, after which he completed a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and obtained an MBA from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU).