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BREAKING DOWN COMMUNICATION BARRIERS

A millennium company and 2002 Technology Top 100 finalist in Gauteng, Three Blind Mice (TBM) believes it is well-positioned as a communications player in multi-cultural South Africa. The young company, whose niche is cost effective delivery – via satellite – of large video files to individually controllable display screens, currently boasts a network of more than 1000 plasma and TV screens countrywide. TBM bills itself as ‘Proudly South African’. Not only is it the first advertising company to join the multi-million rand national campaign, its technological applications are entirely developed locally by the company. This is in addition to the fact that it sourced its start-up capital from local investors, giving the company a 76% black shareholding, through Hosken Consolidated Investments (HCI). Though TBM believes there is potential abroad for it, Chief Executive Officer Pierre van der Hoven insists the company is going to “make sure we bed our business down properly in South Africa before we go offshore”. Business secured locally includes the R7 million installation of some 50 plasma screens at Johannesburg International Airport. TBM also provides the South African Revenue Services (SARS) with an internal and external communications network. SARS has 90 terminals, of which 70 are used for staff training and development, and the remaining 20 for disseminating information to the public. In addition, TBM was the preferred supplier of audio-visual solutions to the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg in 2002. Its enthusiastic CEO, Van der Hoven, says TBM is using the same technology that gave birth to the Internet and the digital revolution to dispense with dimensions such as time, distance and speed. “This is what affords our technological applications greater flexibility and a major reduction in costs for clients.” What TBM does is install plasma or ordinary TV screens in any chosen location. It uses DVD (digital versatile disc) technology to send video, animation and static content directly to these screens via satellite. And this is done instantly. He says the benefit to owners of these networks, or those that advertise on them, is that they are able to reach specific target markets with a specific message – a definite plus as it overcomes language, cultural and geographical barriers. Van der Hoven says this is the reason why the company believes that it can have a huge impact on education in culturally diverse South Africa. “Using our satellite network, we can form links all over the country, so that the content is tailored for a particular community. Our ability to change the signal instantly per site makes our technology ideal for communicating in any language.” TBM has also developed technology that affords its clients the opportunity of having their own ‘television stations’. Van der Hoven explains the corporate/business TV network concept is essentially the same as what TBM is offering SARS: delivering tailor-made content to individually addressable sites. “Private TV networks can be utilised wherever and whenever the client chooses, and for various applications such as staff training, brand building, information services, promotions, competitive advantage, social responsibility, sponsor extensions or strategic alliances.” Van der Hoven says the high quality DVD spec with its large bandwidth also makes many other digital convergence business applications viable. “Once TBM has installed the playback box it can offer clients all kinds of additional services such as bandwidth.” Looking ahead, Van der Hoven says there is great potential for the company in the rest of Africa. Once it has planted its roots deeply in South Africa, TBM intends to spread its reach into Africa. He acknowledges, however, that challenges such as capital, knowledge and underdeveloped skills could hinder a company, especially in the technology field, from exporting its products and services. Back home, bureaucracy is an issue. Van der Hoven explains that, though there are signs that government is constantly improving its processes when it comes to dealing with business, there are still frustrations in areas such as obtaining grants or awarding of tenders. “Government vision is great, but the problem currently lies with the implementation.” Van der Hoven is bullish about the future of Three Blind Mice: he projects the business will continue to exceed its current growth rate of up to 300 percent annually. Facts Company Name: Three Blind Mice Communications Sector: Media Telecommunications Established: 2000 Contact Details: Telephone (011) 327-3377 Fax (011) 327-3373 Website: www.tbm.co.za CEO: Pierre van der Hoven Staff No: 30 Turnover: R18million annually Products: Electronic advertising, DVD content creation and closed network telecommunications.

Source: Perpetual Mumphanshya