Vasagi Govender, business enablement supremo at Nampak Liquid Cartons, is often told not to take her job so seriously. That’s like telling Tom to stop chasing Jerry and Usain Bolt to put on the brakes. It’s physically and mentally impossible. For Vasi, as she is fondly known, has put her very soul into her career at Nampak for a remarkable 33 years. And you can bet she takes it extremely seriously.
VASI joined Nampak just as it acquired 100% of Metal Box SA to become the country’s largest diversified packaging company and a year or so before it bought Blowmocan and Plysu to become a global force.
At the outset, she tested raw materials at the lab in Isithebe, KwaZulu-Natal, but she soon moved into the rands and cents of the business, which suited her to a tee, as she loves numbers and seemed destined initially for a career in accountancy.
But figures were forgotten amid the urge to learn everything about cartons. ‘Sitting behind a desk would have bored me silly and the opportunities Nampak offered me ensured I didn’t have to,’ she comments. Positions followed in sales administration, demand planning, logistics, import management, and sales and marketing, before customer care captured her imagination in a vice-like grip. As customer service manager for Elopak, she travelled Europe, training and attending eye-opening conferences.
In her current capacity as business enabler, her daily activities span sales, marketing, production, product innovation, finance and price custodianship.
Vasi asks herself daily: ‘What can I do to make my customer’s life easier?’ Even if that customer – as countless have through the years – has asked to speak to Mr Visagie.’
The odd irritated, even irate, individual is greeted with honesty and openness, and an explanation that, although things go wrong, Vasi is doing everything humanly possible to resolve the issues.
It’s small wonder that Nampak Liquid Cartons MD, Raymond Dube, has nothing but praise for her. ‘She is one of the company’s most experienced and valued team members, with an immense knowledge and deep-rooted passion,’ he confirms. ‘Her ability to formulate close-knit bonds with customers and colleagues is admirable and all down to her warmth, honesty and respectfulness.
‘She is ever eager to assist with anything and I am proud to have her on my team.’
So wrapped up in her carton world has Vasi been that she forgot to marry until recently. ‘People asked me why I had been single for so long and I always told them that I’m married to my job,’ she laughs.
Her knight in stainless steel armour came in the person of Ashley Pillay, a director at Bosch. The two married just three months before the March 2020 Covid-19 lockdown, surely the acid test for any newlyweds. But, says Vasi, Ashley was home for only one week during lockdown – and then he was in Teams training. ‘Even then, things were a little taxing to say the least,’ she jokes. ‘We don’t really have that much in common, which proves the adage that opposites attract. Ashley is the homebody, while I’m the extrovert.’
Marrying late has its advantages, she adds, as the emotions of youth have softened with age. ‘Although my Aries passion still burns brightly, my impatience is now under control,’ she states.
She no longer sweats the small stuff, preferring to enjoy the fruits of her efforts, which include passing on the enablement mantle. Training new blood is a favourite activity and she beams when she sees her ‘mini-me’s in action.
‘Content’ would probably best describe Vasi. The stimulation of work keeps her on her toes, her garden provides a quiet, reflective environment and dabbling in the culinary arts – a skill she didn’t bother with until she started dating – has produced many a lip-smacking breyani and trayful of crunchies that have made their way from Ashley’s stomach to his heart.