Who is Papi Rapolai?
I’m just a simple guy from Mafikeng with humble beginnings, influenced a lot by my mother who raised me by herself. Essentially, I’m just a shopkeeper with a digital mind for supplying the poor.
Tell us about your childhood?
I witnessed my mother’s abuse from when I was two years old, but also saw the strength of a woman pack her bags and leave a rich guy without knowing where she was going. We moved to my grandmother’s house, but I don’t remember growing up in a house full of people being tough. I just remember a happy home.
We then moved to rakgadi’s (my aunt’s) house and then my mother got lucky and bought a house on auction as a nurse. Despite being raised with a single income, not once do I remember poverty until I grew up and looked at life and I was like “we were the least fortunate in that community”.
My grounding came from seeing my mother leave a man and deciding to go back to school to study and become a nurse and work her way up. Growing up in the Mafikeng, while it was still called Bophuthatswana, we were somehow protected from apartheid.
How did you get into the industry?
I was just looking for a job when I finished studying for a BA Admin and Economics at RAU University (now the University of Johannesburg). My sister would send me whatever jobs were available and I applied for a data capturing job at Nedbank and got it.
That’s how I got into banking in 1999. I used to wear a suit and tie everyday as a data capturer. I was moved to the bank branch side, through their graduate programme, by the coolest guy I have ever met, Paul Tutor. From there I moved to a product development environment and then to marketing. I was the guy you met when you walked into a bank and did most of the car financing for my friends.
From there I became a product manager and then an executive assistant to the executive director. Eventually I ended up working for Edcon as head of credit financial services, where my my banking and retail experience were a strength.
My enthusiasm and attitude has always served me well and I apply it to everything I doON HOW RAPOLAI STAYS ON TOP OF HIS GAME
Take us through your journey at Pick n Pay.
I got into Pick n Pay through a guy called Isaac Motaung. We connected through our passion for similar things. He offered me the job of divisional director in marketing on the spot and told me he hired me for my attitude and passion. We then launched the second phase of the loyalty programme (Smartshopper card). Now, launching Tyme Bank is the most exciting and innovative project I’ve launched. The world is moving from the traditional “big five” banks to the digital world.
Tyme Bank is the first digital bank in SA and we (Pick n Pay) have partnered with them as their strategic distributing partner and have replaced bank branches with a set-up kiosk inside Pick n Pay stores. Customers can walk in and in five minutes they walk out with a bank card without any paperwork, but just using their finger print, which is linked to Home Affairs. It falls under the money market that already operates at Pick n Pay.
We’ve opened about a million bank accounts using the Pick n Pay channel and insurance in partnership with Hollard and agents hired in the store to offer such services. We offer what I call a “720 degree lifestyle solution” because outside of groceries, we know that you’ve got banking needs and insurance needs and travel and leisure, airtime and a credit card, which I run under my portfolio.
How do you stay on top of your game?
My enthusiasm and attitude have always served me well and I apply it to everything I do. I respond to change very quickly and delegate well and the best success is delivering through people.
Any advice for young people who don’t know of this career?
One thing about myself is that I get bored easily so I’m constantly learning and studying new things and take it to the next level and putting someone there to run it. I’m always evolving and don’t get stuck in one place. I’m also not scared to introduce myself to the people who run the company and they need to know who you are and what your aspirations are in life.
Best lesson learned?
How would you like to be remembered?
As a guy who didn’t take themselves seriously. I have a good balance between the township and sitting in an office of a CEO in Sandton.