Safland – Namibia: Driven by a desire to develop
Building one of the country’s most diverse property groups is no mean feat
29 September 2021 | Infrastructure
Kallie van der Merwe, Safland-Namibia CEO - “You have to have desire. You need to have a picture in your mind of where you want to be and make the commitment to get out of bed every morning and take that first step every day, that will lead to something.”
Safland - Namibia Property Group is arguably one of largest and most diversified players in the local property industry. Having been involved in the development of the Grove Mall of Namibia, and a range of large-scale retail and lifestyle projects spanning the length and breadth of the country, one can be certain its leadership does not lack vision, tenacity and drive.
This year is a big milestone for Safland - Namibia Property Group, as they will not only be celebrating their 10th year in Namibia, but also the dual milestones of 30 years in operation, and 30 years in which the founders, Kallie and his wife Mirinda, have been married.
Driven by a dream
“We started off as a property brokerage in South Africa in 1992, and soon evolved in a property development company in the mid-90s,” explained Kallie van der Merwe on a beautiful day at the sprawling and luxurious Droombos Estate, which he and his wife own.
“In 1999, we did our first complete in-house development and we were mostly involved in motoring-related developments, before moving into retail, after which we moved to Namibia, and as Safland Property Group Namibia, we were appointed as the fund-managers for the Frontier Property Trust.
That’s where things got interesting
“We then started developing properties, the first one happened to be the big one, the Grove Mall of Namibia, together with our partners at the time, Demushuwa Property Developers and the Atterbury Property Group.”
At the same time, they were also involved in the development of the Gwashamba Mall in Ondangwa and the Otjiwarongo Town Square.
Around 2014, they formed a company called Safcoll Property Holdings with South African partners and set out with the development of the Rundu Mall, Gobabis Mall, the MegaCentre opposite Grove Mall and then the Steps Development, which is now home to Virgin Active Kleine Kuppe, as well as the Town Lodge Hotel down the road.
“I would say that Safland-Namibia Property Group is probably the most diverse property service company in Namibia, and we take great pride in being able to contribute to the development of country and all the employment and investment opportunities we’ve been able to assist in bringing to various parts of country,” van der Merwe explained.
“The Safland that we see today, is fairly different. There’s still a belief that we only work on our own developments, which is not the case, we have numerous clients across Namibia and our services range across the property development, property management, facility management to name but a few.”
Foundation of excellence
Based on their decades of experience at every level of the property industry, Safland - Namibia is well placed to offer insight and advice to new players wanting to “break into” the property industry.
“I think it’s starts off with the phrase ‘breaking into the market’. There’s no breaking into the market. We started Safland – Namibia Property Group in 2021, and before that point we spent 20 very hard years, having started very small beginnings, and working extremely hard to establish ourselves in the industry.
“There was even a running joke when we first came to Namibia and everyone would say that we became successful very quickly. To which we would always reply, ‘Yes, it took us only 20 years to become an overnight success’,” he said.
“You don’t break into a market, it’s a process, and though many people only see the success, they don’t realise the hard work and determination that it takes to get to a place where you can experience any kind of success,” he stressed.
When asked when and where you start as an entrepreneur, Van der Merwe is very clear on this issue.
“You just start. Immediately! You take your first step, and don’t listen to the nay-sayers, even if it’s your parents or whoever, as they’ve probably grown up in a different time, and out of concern, would encourage you to seek security, whether that’s through education or a fixed long-term career.
“However, in business honesty is paramount, especially being honest with yourself, as entrepreneurship is not for everybody. A lot of people want to own a business because they aren’t happy with their current situation, not understanding that often in business you have to do some things you don’t particularly enjoy.
“You can be a florist and love flowers; unfortunately, you will also have to do financials, human resource management and even tax. An entrepreneur must learn to deal with the inherent challenges of running a business, in the best way possible,” he added.
Desire and determination
When asked what drives him in business, Van der Merwe breaks it down in what he calls a very small, big word: desire.
“You have to have desire. You need to have a picture in your mind of where you want to be and make the commitment to get out of bed every morning and take that first step every day, that will lead to something.”
Not that it was always a given.
“I always had a burning desire to make something of my life, but I had no idea of how to do it or where to start.
“I didn’t leave school with this fantastic vision, nor was I a strong student, but things happen in life and you find yourself on a certain path. While working in tourism, I met someone who was working in property and I liked the idea, so I started out as an estate agent, which didn’t last very long, but I started to move up in the industry and then ventured into development,” he explained.
“If you look at our story today, we’re mainly talking about Safland, but my wife and I always had a dream to enter hospitality and that’s how Droombos came about. Unfortunately, four months into our operations, we were hit with Covid-19, which presented its own challenges. However, even with Droombos now, we are starting to farm with herbs, and we’re as passionate about the herbs as we are with Safland.
“So, even when new challenges arise, they seem to take us to places that we never even considered before,” he added.
“I know, not I think, that the most important thing is to keep walking. Start off in a certain direction and just keep walking.
“I’d even go as far as to say that if you do have to work for somebody, and you do not excel, you are going to find it extremely difficult to excel in your own business. If you strive to be the best employee, you will get recognised and that will set the tone for the rest of your life, and probably even be the stepping stone to becoming a successful entrepreneur, if that’s what you want.”
So now, the young man who wanted to be a journalist has grown to become a leading executive whose desire to make a difference has seen the company he and his wife started 30 years ago become a leader in the local property industry, through their involvement in billions worth of development, and lasting economic spin-offs that have created opportunities for thousands of people across the country to aspire for more.
To learn more about Safland-Namibia Property Group, visit their website at www.safland.com .