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December 9, 2015

Shesha Engineering pours resources into training welders, boilermakers and fabricators

Fast is the perfect word to describe Kruban Pillay and Mickey Duleep, the founders, owners and chief executives of Shesha Engineering, a manufacturer and installer of steel products.

“Our goal is to keep up with the latest global technology and bring it to South Africa.” Co-founder, Kruban Pillay

“Our goal is to keep up with the latest global technology and bring it to South Africa.” Co-founder, Kruban Pillay

 

Situated in the heart of the hustle and bustle that is Phoenix industrial area on the northern side of Durban, Shesha is growing as fast as its name implies – “shesha” means “quick or fast” in isiZulu, Pillay explains.

“We started out as two guys and a bakkie in 2000, working out of a friend’s premises,” he says with a smile. “And now we have our own premises and a plan to get even bigger.”

The company does steel reinforcing; mild, stainless and structural steel fabrication, erection and installation; as well as aluminium and glass windows. When it started out it specialised in steel shop fitting components, but has grown well beyond that. One of its early successes was to manufacture and install the mezzanine floors in Gateway, the massive mall in Umhlanga, north of Durban.

“My philosophy has always been to supply what the client wants, by deadline, on budget, and to keep quality high,” Pillay says. “We treat the smallest job with endurance and give the best quality on time.”

And it is this commitment that led to his big break in 2009, when Shesha landed a contract to provide steel balustrading at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.

That first contract led to more work on the stadium, as well as on housing developments on the nearby Umhlanga Ridge. And now, as development spreads north and south of the new King Shaka International Airport, Pillay and Shesha are rubbing their hands, preparing for more hard work and well-earned rewards ahead.

“Development is going up so fast in this area,” he says. “Soon it will be one big city all the way from Umdloti to Durban.”

It will make for a tidy profit for companies supplying the essential components of this building, companies like Shesha Engineering, which today employs 132 people, up from 49 in 2008.

Another arrow in his quiver is Transnet, which is planning to increase the size of Durban harbour through a dug out port. It will require a lot of steel from many companies. Pillay wants a slice of that pie, all the while believing there is enough to go around for everyone.

He has a foot in the door already, having manufactured, supplied and installed 2 000 tons of structural steel at Island View Piperacks. “This contract put Shesha on the map. It won an award as the most successful Transnet contract in 2013/14.”

Thinking ahead is his specialty, so much so that the company pours resources into training welders, boilermakers and fabricators. Many of them go on to work at large companies around the country.

It also prompted him to approach the Industrial Development Corporation. Shesha applied for funding “to reach higher standards, uplift the business, especially in relation to the new dugout port”, he says. The latest technology is needed for the new port and its rail network, and to get the latest technology on its part, Shesha needed funding.

A loan from the corporation, received in 2014, was used to buy machinery from Italy, putting Shesha at the forefront of the sector. It was able to employ more people, and make more components for Transnet. It also led to a contract on the revitalisation of the Doctor Pixley Ka Isaka Seme Memorial Hospital near KwaMashu.

“We intend to increase the number of our employees now,” Pillay says, “because of this machinery and the backing from the IDC. We intend to take Shesha to the highest level of engineering.”

Other goals are to train as many people as possible as artisans to overcome the country’s huge skills shortage. This way, he will be paying it forward and helping other small businesses as well.

“We have applied for funding through MCEP. When we receive it, we will use it to repay our IDC loan as well as invest in new machinery. Our goal is to keep up with the latest global technology and bring it to South Africa.”

Pillay is driven by a desire to grow manufacturing in South Africa, and he sees no reason why machinery and products that are imported cannot be made locally. To help get to the point where this is possible, he plans to buy more machinery, buy land and set up a training school for the industry as a whole.

“The legacy you build and leave behind is what it’s really all about,” he concludes.