By Charndré Emma Kippie
As a seasoned executive, Ms. Kershni Maharaj joined AGCO Africa as a Senior Project Manager, and has thus far successfully led a dynamic team in pushing the business into a two-tier distribution model – one that is profitable and customer-centric. Kershni holds decades of experience as an executive business strategist in assisting multiple businesses scale and gain sustainable growth, and managing B-BBEE solutions – for small and large businesses.
What got you into the field you’re currently in?
They say finding a career that you’re insanely passionate about makes your entire life feel like one big tropical vacation. What got me here was purely my curiosity for the sector. Someone told me it was too difficult to support Agribusiness and that got me interested in understanding why, and what can I do to change that. I am passionate about developing agriculture and improving food security in Africa.
What excites you the most about your role?
It allows me to extend my passion and purpose, enabling small- and large scale farmers to grow their businesses and contribute to food security and job creation in local communities.
After spending four years working with communities and developing agricultural businesses, I was presented with an opportunity to join AGCO Africa. It was the perfect fit for me, working with a multinational corporation with an entrepreneurial culture. This environment allows me to support farmers, through a network of partners, with smart mechanisation solutions, experienced and highly-skilled resources, state-of-the-art training facilities and a great overall customer experience.
In what ways, do you think, your organisation/business is enhancing the South African economy?
AGCO works through a local Dealer network spread across the country. In 2020 AGCO Africa transitioned from a three-tier distribution model into a two-tier distribution model that is both customer-centric and profitable. We did all of this to become trusted partners to our dealers and get closer to the Farmer. We understand that both our dealers and farmers need to remain productive and profitable. The smart mechanisation solutions we offer in the market propel both the dealer and the farmer to excel in their businesses.
In addition, AGCO Africa understands that knowledge and skills are critically important in our industry, especially in Africa. This year, AGCO has introduced a fully funded accelerated program called Africa Agribusiness Qualification to enable South African agri-enthusiasts and agri-preneurs with a broad range of various skill sets such as technical skills, leadership and business management skills.
Do you think your field is diverse in terms of gender equality?
The truth is the Agriculture sector, especially the mechanisation sub-sector, is perceived as a male dominated sector. And yes, there are very few women in senior or executive positions in the agricultural space. My approach is to always look at the opportunity, be the change agent and set an example for other women to follow.
What are your top 3 tips for ensuring the success of women in your field?
- Focusing on the positive can help put your challenges into perspective.
- It is important for women to lean in, take full ownership of your role in the company and lead with confidence.
- Strengthen your network of support within and outside the business.
What have been some major obstacles in your career, as a woman, and how did you overcome them?
In my early banking career, my male counterparts received preference for promotions. The second obstacle was the wage discrepancy for women carrying out the same role. This was, and perhaps still is, a major issue confronting women in senior roles. I overcame these obstacles by refusing to be compared to others, and proving my worth in terms of my remuneration potential by means of my leadership capability.
What are your goals for the future?
I am always growing and learning. My daily goal is to be a better version of myself, be the best in what I do and make an impact to the lives I touch. I am hoping one day I will have sufficient resources to support AgriBusiness and communities across our continent.
What important/life-changing books have you read?
Having a strategic background, my go to book has been the Art of War by Sun Tzu. However, a book that resonates with my journey, and has provided deep insight into my personal growth, is the Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.
What advice do you have for young women entrepreneurs who aspire to work in your field?
Take control of your journey. Persevere and don’t give up…ever. Women are naturally nurturing, emotional and resilient, among many other traits. Use these as your strengths and differentiators to set yourself apart.
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