Futuregrowth: Building communities through shopping mall development

This podcast is brought to you by Futuregrowth Asset Management, a specialist investment company that manages around R135 billion of assets.

Candice Paine is speaking to Smital Rambhai, product manager of the Community Property Fund at Futuregrowth. I’d encourage you to look back at the podcast around the property fund to explain exactly, what it does. Today, we’re just going to speak about the related development around the rural shopping centres that Futuregrowth has developed in certain areas. Smital, we’ve been chatting and you’ve told me some fascinating stats around this spinoff that comes out of the shopping centre. It’s not just the fact that people get jobs in the shopping centre and that you develop it, but there’s a whole bunch of upliftment, which Futuregrowth focuses on within those areas.

We had a discussion around the fact that when the shopping centre’s built, it creates jobs – albeit construction – as well as post-construction because the retailers will employ people from the direct community. We took it a step further to see how many actual jobs are created within the community. I asked the Centre Managers to collect data around each retailer and how many people come from the direct local community. The stats came up and 84 percent of the employment comes from the direct local community, which the shopping centre services.

That is amazing. Eighty-four percent of the people who work within the local and national retailers come from the local community. The centre manager and staff: where do those come from?

Interestingly, the number is exactly, the same. 84 percent come from the direct local communities. Centre Management staff would be the actual Centre Manager, the Centre administrator, as well as the cleaning and the security staff.

Surely, these people don’t come with the skills that you require. How do you make sure they’re fit for purpose?

I’ll use the Centre Manager as an example. We always employ a Centre Manager from the direct local community because it’s quite important that we have a liaison who understands the local community. There’s often a language barrier, as well. As you know, we have 11 national languages so you need someone who understands the local language. Many of the centre managers might not necessarily have the skills to run a centre and together with Capital Land (our property managers); we have a program, which actually trains them up to be highly skilled centre managers. At the end of the day, they could walk out of there and go and run Sandton City. That’s how efficient this program is.

That’s fascinating. Have you moved any of your centre managers around to train each other? How does it work?

Our service provider is Capital Land. They manage our properties. In their portfolio, they had a Centre Manager in KZN who ran a smallish shopping centre – around 10,000m2. We saw her potential and we then decided to move her to Bridge Centre Shopping Centre (our shopping centre), which is about 40,000m2. She’ll be training under the Head Centre Manager and we feel that with approximately one year of training, she’ll be able to take over the shopping centre – fully.

Let’s talk a little bit around building the shopping centres. There must be a lot of job creation when a centre is actually built, but those skills may not necessarily be in the community and you’re obviously bringing in contractors from outside. How do they work with the community?

It’s always good to use examples. There’s currently one in Thulamahashe, which is up from Nelspruit in Mpumalanga and we are busy putting up a fence around the shopping centre. We’d normally use contractors from Gauteng because they’re highly skilled guys and they sometimes bring their own labour force. We had a bit of a backlash in the past with local communities and when I joined 12½ years ago, I said, “Let’s try and see where we can actually use the local labour force to do the work.” What we’re currently doing is we’re getting a main contractor who is quite experienced from the likes of Gauteng. They would then subcontract to the local contractors in the community as well as teach them how to put up these fences because with some of these fences, you need a certification that you are skilled to do it. We’re currently engaging with these main contractors to skill the labourers so that they can walk away with a certification that they are able to put up these fences. The contractors that we’re employing will make sure that they’ll take the labourers to the doctors to make sure that they’re fit for work as well, so they’re complying with all health regulations as well.

Well, that’s really, great work in the community. I know that one of Futuregrowth’s other vision is around education and education drives in these communities. When we were speaking earlier, you said that there’s a drive to pay for certain learners’ schools fees. How does that one work?

We realise that we have a duty to drive education. We have 24 shopping centres, so we looked at two or three schools, depending on how many schools are in the area. We’re looking to support up to three schools for each shopping centre. We want to drive education. We realise that the best way to do that is actually, to do a type of academic prize sponsorship. Therefore, the top student in Standard 4, for example (Grade 6) and the top student in Grade 11 (Standard 9); we pay for their final year, which is obviously matric or Grade 7. I know it as Standard 5. We pay for their final year and in those rural areas/townships; if you look at those school fees, they could be up to a maximum of R1000.00. For us as a Fund, it’s a small price to pay, but it takes the community a long way. Imagine putting that back into those learners’ family’s pockets for spending.

That’s the Futuregrowth Community Property Fund. Some sterling work in communities through social upliftment and development. Smital Rambhai, thank you very much for your time.

Thank you very much, Candice.

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