Prejlin Naidoo, group managing executive of Okuhle Media, has built a career in digital business strategy, working primarily with mobile operators and broadcasters.
He has always been at his happiest when working in a creative environment. Moving into the production industry, and Okuhle in particular, gives him the opportunity to work with an entirely new community of talented, creative people.
Television has always had a deep influence in his life. His generation grew up with television, in the same way millennials have grown up with the internet. He’s always harboured a secret desire to be part of the industry and is grateful for the opportunity to do that with the Okuhle team.
I am 45 years old and so far in my career…
I’ve been fortunate to have had a wide range of experience, from seeing the birth of mobile in South Africa, to launching South Africa’s most popular mobile content platform (at the time), to working with amazing creative talent at a leading brand agency and having a front-row seat to the digital revolution with Accenture. I’ve had a genuinely blessed career so far and I’m excited about the next challenge.
What excites you most about your new position at Okuhle?
At Okuhle, we make content that touches millions of people in South Africa and around the world – being part of the creative process of making high-quality content and working with talented creatives is super exciting. We also produce two youth shows, Hectic Nine-9 and Hectic on 3, which play a role in entertaining and educating the next generation of South Africans – this is a great responsibility but also a fantastic opportunity.
Our HD, live broadcast studio and post-production unit also give us exciting opportunities to expand our offerings. Most recently we’ve established Boost Collective, a content marketing agency within the group that takes our creative and content production expertise and applies it to brand marketing using social and other media to amplify the messaging. This is a huge growth opportunity and I’m very excited to work with the team to scale this business.
What do you think will be your key challenges in this role?
Coming from outside the industry, my first challenge is to learn as much as I can, as quickly as possible about what we do. I’m fortunate to work with an executive team that has more than 100 years of collective experience that I’m able to draw from.
Finding funding and distribution for South African content is an industry-wide challenge and one that we have some interesting ideas around. We want to produce great things (it’s what our name means) but to do that we need to fund it – which is a challenge, but one we believe we can overcome.
Our business success is ultimately tied to our people. Creative talent is the lifeblood of what we do. My greatest and most exciting challenge is to help build a place where creatives can do their best work and focus on their craft. I’m also passionate about supporting young black creatives – developing them and the industry around them will be a significant focus for us.
What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned on your media journey?
The customer is the most crucial part of the equation – understanding customers, what they want and need is critical. Only then can we make content that resonates.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
I worked as a croupier in casinos to pay my way through university. It was both the worst and best job I’ve had. The worst because of the long hours and late nights (and seeing people lose their money), the best because of the tips, the job itself and the camaraderie with the other croupiers.
The quality I most respect in people is…
There are two qualities which I believe go hand in hand – integrity and caring. If we can all be honest with each other in a caring way and make sure we keep our word, the world would be a better place. Without integrity and honesty, it’s almost impossible to build trust and without trust, all relationships break down. We all need to care for each other and have empathy – it’s what defines us as humans.
My pet hate is…
People putting pineapple on their pizza – ugh!
What scares you most?
Standing still and not developing – I need to keep moving forward and keep learning.
My best qualities are…
Patience, caring and critical thinking.
My worst qualities are…
Messiness when I cook and sometimes I can be pedantic
My personal motto is…
I came across a quote from IDEO (the design firm) and it’s since become my manifesto. (In fact, it’s on my Mac desktop above a Banksy image of a protester throwing flowers). “We are optimists and makers, experimenters and learners; we empathise and iterate; and we look for inspiration in unexpected places. We believe that a solution is out there and that by keeping focused on the people we’re designing for and asking the right questions, we’ll get there together.”
A perfect day would be…
A sunny African day under the shade of an old tree with my wife, our dogs, friends, good food and wine, stimulating conversation, and laughter.
If I could have dinner with someone living or dead it would be…
Socrates – I studied philosophy and I’m still fascinated by it.
The gadget/s I can’t live without and why…
My mobile – it’s crazy how important they’ve become in our lives.
My Kindle – I’ve stopped buying paper books because we’ve run out of space.
My iPad – it’s my primary YouTube consumption device.
My addiction is…
YouTube and television.
My death row meal would be…
Something with Truffles.
I think 2019 will be…
This story was first published in the November 2018 issue of The Media magazine.