When Head of Sales and Marketing at Bidvest Office (trading as Konica Minolta South Africa), Alten Hulme, was told that they could take part in the International University Contest, he was very excited. “Out of 26 universities in 12 provinces there must be at least one entry that is world class standard. I also see this as a wonderful marketing tool for all our branches and distributors”, Hulme said. He added that there were already many of those universities who are Konica Minolta users, and that this competition was a way to get closer to the students and staff of those institutions.
Initially South Africa ran into some problems. Not only are the university final exams in November and December, but the holidays are also totally different to those in other parts of the world. To add to that there were demonstrations at all universities throughout South Africa over the last 3 months of 2016, which caused many campuses to close early. Despite all these challenges a great number of entries were received by the deadline.
Although the South African judges had a difficult task, there was one entry that stood out – that of the Vaal University of Technology (VUT). The VUT campus with more than 20 000 students, is situated in Vanderbijlpark about 60 km from Johannesburg. The winning entry had workable solutions to streamline printing at the campus, to make it affordable for students and also recycle paper to keep the campus clean and green.
The students, their mentor Dr Folasayo Olalere, the Konica Minolta dealer in Vanderbijlpark, Dave Cochran and his sales manager, Darren Kruger, were then invited to a function at the Konica Minolta Head Office where they were given the good news – a trip to Berlin for the 5 of them! Sales Manager Darren Kruger was instrumental in getting the winning entry in and for that reason Alten decided that Darren should accompany the students and represent Bidvest in Germany.
Then the race against time started. The students had to get passports, and then apply for Schengen visas. This entire process could normally take weeks! A few well motivated letters to Home Affairs and telephone calls to the German Embassy did the trick and the entire team was ready to travel on 28 April for the journey of a lifetime. They spent many hours rehearsing for the Berlin presentation and even bought similar outfits.
For Alten back in South Africa it was a wonderful midnight call on Saturday night when he was given the good news that the South African team beat all the contestants. Their reward is another trip overseas – this time to Vienna, Austria.
The wonderful thing about the winning team was that, barring one student, no one has ever been on an airplane – let alone traveling overseas. “This competition has given 4 students an opportunity to see a part of the world that they would normally not have seen. It also brought them into contact with students from other parts of the world”, Dr Olalere summed it up. The University, all 1000 employees at Konica Minolta in South Africa and the country are all immensely proud of “their” team!