Africa’s women have a long history of overcoming obstacles to feed needs. So it’s a no-brainer that modern women all over the continent are stepping up to the plate, shattering glass ceilings and finding enterprising ways of feeding the digital globe’s need for local content. Today we feature South Africa’s own Khanyi Dhlomo.
Khanyi Dhlomo: CEO, Ndalo Media
South Africa’s Khanyi Dhlomo first captured the country’s imagination with her appearance as post-liberation SABC1’s first black newscaster back in 1993. A 20-year-old journalism student and freelance contributor to the national broadcaster at the time, Dhlomo was credited with sending news ratings to record highs.
She hasn’t put a foot wrong since then – though the path she’s taken to the top has not necessarily been in line with conventional wisdom. To wit: at the height of her TV career, this former model and beauty pageant contestant turned her back on the screen and followed her passion into print publishing.
“Even though I was tasked with reading the news, I was much more interested, and more keen to get involved, in the editorial side – I am more comfortable working in the background to make things happen than in front of the cameras,” she explains. So it made sense to her to make the move from screen to print. And when an opportunity to join True Love magazine’s editorial team arose, she grabbed it, starting out as a fashion and beauty assistant. Within two years, she had risen up the ranks to edit the publication. Only 22 at the time, Dhlomo commanded record circulation figures there too, garnering a myriad industry awards.
She’s pursued various other paths since then, including a stint as Head of SA Tourism in Paris, France in 2003, and a successful venture in the luxury brand retailing space with the launch of Luminance, SA’s first boutique department store. While the R34.1 million National Empowerment Fund loan for the launch was deemed controversial, Dhlomo silenced critics by settling the five-year loan within a year. Dhlomo has since sold all her shares in the business.
Clearly, Dhlomo has the Midas touch – an uncanny ability to turn any enterprise she embarks on into a sure-fire winner. And this year, South Africa’s magazine industry is looking to media’s golden girl to revive its ailing status. If anyone can do it, Dhlomo can.
In 2007, after completing her MBA at Harvard Business School, she founded Ndalo Media, in partnership with Media24, launching flagship titles Destiny and Destiny Man and the respective digital platforms.
The media house kicked off its tenth anniversary year with both titles leading their respective market categories with growing circulation figures and their respective digital platforms achieved market leadership position. But it’s Ndalo’s latest acquisition that is commanding attention. In April, the company announced that it had secured the South African licences for the Elle and Elle Decoration magazine.
For the first time in its 71-year history, the legacy brand – owned by French media group Lagardère Active – will be published by a 100% black-owned media company. Despite the publication’s dismal circulation figures, Dhlomo is positive the deal will prove beneficial to Ndalo’s growth. “I don’t see myself as a risk taker – I look at what the opportunity holds, and the potential it has to bring positive change, inspire others and make a valuable contribution,” she posits.
Growth and expansion
While others might view the digital impact on print as a negative, disruptive force, Dhlomo has been focusing on the opportunities it holds for growth and expansion.
The publishing house has six divisions: print publishing, digital publishing, content marketing, events & experiences, book publishing and television production – a division set to launch in 2018. Apart from connecting readers online via DestinyConnect.com and DestinyMan.com, she offers regular mentorship sessions via the popular DestinyConnect.com LIVE Chats and this mentorship service is to be extended via the free online platform MentorFeed.com. Continued integration is on the cards, says Dhlomo. “We’re looking at increasing our digital, events and TV and video offerings. It’s time now; I’ve always loved the medium (TV) but prefer taking a back seat. Now, there are enough young and talented people out there to be the face of our brands.”
Dhlomo, who is married to an education entrepreneur and is mom to three, attributes Ndalo’s success to this multi-platform approach and an emphasis on servicing its readers. “Quality content is key; consumers want access to brands they love and trust, and they want it anywhere, anyhow, at any time and so the survival and profitability of any media brand is to deliver on that.”
Honours and Awards
- In 2003, Dhlomo was named one of the most influential women in South African media.
- In 2009, she received the Olay SA Iconic Woman Award in the Media, Arts and Entertainment category.
- The following year, she was selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.
- She’s also been named one of Forbes magazine’s 20 Most Powerful Women in Africa under 40 and a young African economic leader in the Choiseul 100 Africa rankings.
- In 2016, Dhlomo was awarded the prestigious Harvard Business School (HBS) Africa Business Club Leadership Excellence award.
This story was first published in our Africa Annual.
Lucinda Jordaan is an independent writer, researcher and editor with extensive experience in all media, covering various fields from academia and finance to education and lifestyle.Her articles have appeared in several award-winning publications, locally and internationally, and she has contributed to various books and online sites, including The Media Online.