Diversity-based leadership performance and change management focus designed to keep Group’s business strategy aligned with South African development needs
Lishani Letchmiah, newly appointed director of SA Taxi Foundation and Senior Manager Transformation for SA Taxi, will focus on consolidating corporate social investment programmes with other of the SA Taxi Group’s transformation activities in order to enhance the Group’s developmental support for the minibus and metered taxi industries.
“Inherently, the SA Taxi Group’s day to day activities are transformative,” Letchmiah says. “Our business objective is to develop small businesses by providing vehicle finance and revenue-generating services to minibus taxi operators and metered taxi owner-drivers.
“However, our range of products and services is extensive. It covers diverse disciplines including media and advertising, short-term insurance, business training, driver training, refurbishment of vehicles, and local sourcing of parts. So, within our overall strategy, it’s important to ensure coherence of specific empowerment initiatives such as employment equity, preferential procurement, skills development, enterprise development, supplier development, and socio-economic development.
“By doing so, we can significantly augment the Group’s ability to enrich the whole of South African society by enabling our customers, who are the transport lifeblood of society, to become sustainable.
“And then, through the SA Taxi Foundation, we can extend our transformation vigor into specific projects designed to empower the communities within which our customers operate.
“My objective, therefore, is to ensure that there is a smooth, logical continuum from our internal transformation initiatives out to our customers and the community at large. Any single act of transformation anywhere in the continuum should automatically create a beneficial ripple effect in the rest of it.”
Letchmiah brings to her task a decade of experience in transformation-focused talent management within the SA Taxi Group and its parent company, Transaction Capital. She also has masters qualifications from the University of Johannesburg in Leadership in Performance and Change Management, along with qualifications in Strategic Talent Management for Sustainable Management from the Gordon Institute of Business Science.
Her initial degree was in industrial psychology and sociology from the University of Cape Town. She guest lectures for her alma maters to their industrial psychology honours classes.
Letchmiah’s approach to the concentration of SA Taxi’s developmental capabilities will also be infused by her personal respect for diversity and education as mediums for transformation.
Born into a South African Indian family that has struggle credentials and with family members who have married into a variety of religious denominations, she has always involved herself in activities that celebrate diversity. In her undergraduate years, for instance, she headed up the culture committee in her university residence.
As one of the first black South Africans to qualify as a quantity surveyor, Letchmiah’s father symbolised for her the importance of continuously expanding one’s capabilities, particularly through education. This conviction was reinforced by her mother and grandparents, all of whom were able to overcome humble beginnings to provide good homes and opportunities for their children.
“It’s important that we take advantage of multiculturalism to create the kind of social and political democracy that will ensure the country prospers,” she says. “As a nation, our diversity gives us so many more options than would be possible if we all had similar backgrounds. It makes the socio-economic tapestry we can weave together much more resilient.”
Letchmiah will focus 50% of SA Taxi Foundation’s activities on education, through bursaries to students who wish to pursue a career in education and projects that enhance the capabilities of teachers.
The SA Taxi Foundation Art Award, which is unique in its combination of fine and graphic art, will continue to be the Foundation’s single biggest individual project.
Once a number of smaller existing projects are completed, Letchmiah and her team will begin to introduce initiatives focused on developing entrepreneurship in the informal economy. And projects focused on aligning community interests with environmental custodianship will be the Foundation’s fourth major focus.