JOHANNESBURG – Disruptive entrepreneur Tlalane Ntuli has made it her lifelong mission to empower consumers with knowledge and information in order to help them make better decisions.
Ntuli, 39, is chief operating officer and co-founder of digital credit life insurer Yalu, established in Johannesburg last year.
She says that credit life insurance, which covers the borrower’s debts in the event of death, disability or retrenchment, is one of few insurance products that people still do not know about or fully understand in South Africa.
Ntuli, who was head of sales and marketing in the executive committee of FNB Life, says Yalu officially started trading in January this year.
The company is funded by Africa’s largest fund manager, the Public Investment Corporation (PIC).
Ntuli says they are one of two or three credit life insurance companies in the country, and that their business model is centred around affordability, simplicity and rewards.
“The interesting thing to highlight around credit life insurance is that it’s one of few insurance products that people still don’t know about or understand,” she says, adding that their premiums reduce as the loan decreases.
Ntuli, who also worked as senior marketing manager at Old Mutual’s Mass Foundation Cluster, says there has been a sense of confusion and fear on the one side, and a sense of openness and embracing on the other, when describing her product’s reception by consumers.
She likens running the company to rearing a child, saying there is a lot of emotional investment attached to it, which at times can be exhausting.
And that is not all, she says, as the sheer amount of work and time invested in building up the business also becomes a crucial factor in determining its growth trajectory.
“I’m very passionate. I consider myself as a social entrepreneur because I’m very passionate about consumer rights issues. I like to see consumers treated fairly in the financial services and seeing people getting true value for their money,” says Ntuli, who holds a human resource management degree, and a post graduate diploma in marketing management, both from the University of Cape Town (UCT).
She has also attended various executive management programmes with the UCT Graduate School of Business, and GIBS and Henley business schools.
“I never thought I would be an entrepreneur. I’ve always thought I would be a corporate animal.”
She says she views Yalu as an organisation that has fundamentally disrupted how credit life insurance is viewed and explained to customers.
Her focus now is to help grow the company and she admits there are various ways in which that can be realised
“There are a number of different ways one can grow a business like this one. There is growth in geography, in distribution footprint, and then there’s growth in product expansion. We could choose to grow in any one of those directions,” she says.
“However, we are more concerned in the short term in ensuring that there is stability and build the Yalu brand to be synonymous with empowering customers with knowledge and earn our trust within the South African consumer base.”
Ntuli says her company presents them the opportunity to go and disrupt other African markets. “We do see ourselves as an existing company in five years’ time.”
She says she looks up to other businesswomen who have exceeded their own expectations in the businessworld, and says she particularly likes the book Thrive by renowned businesswoman Arianna Huffington.
“Success for me comes in form of a shift that I have been able to create in an industry that is so ripe for disruption,” says Ntuli, who likes spending her free time with her husband of 11 years and daughter and son, aged five and 10 respectively.
– BUSINESS REPORT