Koos Bekker alias “Jacobus Petrus” (born 14 december 1952) is a South African billionaire businessman and also the chairman of media group Naspers. Naspers operates in 130 countries and is listed on the London Stock Exchange and Johannesburg Stock Exchange.
Asides the United States of America, China and India, the company has the largest market capitalization of any media company.
Koos Bekker was born in Potchefstroom, he attended Hoer Volkskool Heidelberg and has a degree in Law and Literature from Stellenbosch University and also in Law from the Wits University. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Commerce in the University of Stellenbosch.
Koos Bekker received an MBA degree from the Columbia Business School after a few years in Advertising, graduating in 1984. He and a few of his colleagues founded one of the first two pay-television services outside of the US. M-NET and its sister companies, such as Multichoice, eventually expanded to 48 countries across Africa. He became the founding Director of the mobile communication company MTN and in 1997 Bekker became CEO of Naspers media group and also one of the initial investors in the M-Net/Multichoice group.
According to the Forbes in 2019 list of the World’s Billionaires, Bekker was ranked as the 1002nd wealthiest person in the world and the fourth wealthiest South African with a fortune of US$2.3 billion. Recently he was ranked as the third wealthiest South African with a net worth of US$2.4 billion.
Having had his early life as farm boy, Koos Bekker cultivated a business oriented mentality and likened farming to entrepreneurship and the improvisation of a farm in business. In his words “you have an element of interference, you plant the seed then you have an element of nature, it rains, you get yield. Similarly, in business, you do certain things and the environment throws certain issues at you and then, you try to solve it. Every experience we go through is a training ground on how we can achieve our dream. Absolutely, no life lesson is a waste.”
Koos Bekker is also known for his ability to see, grab and utilise opportunities that appear as quick as possible. According to him, “the future is very hard to predict”, hence his perception of taking action rather than future prediction. In an interview with CNBC, he mentioned how he never had original ideas of his own but he used his innovative senses to make better the already available and adopt it to his environment.
Bekker believes that one of the most productive ways of growing in a business as an entrepreneur is to identify what is working in other markets either abroad or domestically, and recreate it without infringing on copyright laws.
Here are some of Koos Bekker’s quotes and messages.
“Entrepreneurship is a little bit like farming when you start you do everything, you make a team, you do the Photostats machine and as the business grows, it diversifies but certainly, the improvisation of a farm is extremely useful in business.”
“The problem with corruption is it totally immobilises everyone. Just imagine you are a young [person finishing school and] you have to decide on a career. If you are in China you look up and you see who is making money, it is the entrepreneurs. They have an engineering degree . . . and are billionaires in dollars. That is the people they want to emulate. In many countries in Africa, you look up and you see no engineers, you just see people that play the political system and make money, and you are so discouraged, and you say, ‘Why should I study for five years to be an engineer, when there is no one making money this way?’ The way to make money is to go and study a BA for three years, go into politics and milk the system.”
“I believe penetration of pay-TV will not rise too much in the future, as in its current form it is quite a mature industry. I don’t see that much further growth for satellite-based TV. However, DTT opens up completely new potential, for the viewer does not need to buy a dish, only a cheap antenna, and – once all TVs become digital – will not need a decoder. All of a sudden, for just one small investment in an antenna, everyone will have access to numerous free TV channels. This will provide great new opportunities for content creators. I expect content generation to become the most attractive sector inside the TV industry.”
“In business, one should never take anything for granted. Your fortune can change in five minutes.”
“The CEO is the captain of the ship; he makes the executive decisions fast and with enough authority to sail the ship. A non-executive chairman is more… a strategic figure in the background.”
“The pace of technological change is still accelerating. Innovation never stops.”
“Currently, e-commerce is the segment of our internet business which is growing the fastest and it will remain that way for the foreseeable future.”
“Naspers has made a huge investment in e-commerce during the last few years, some of which is still developing to its fullest potential.”
“For a group to be great, both good governance and excellent execution are required. It’s not one or the other.”
Bekker is married to Karen Koos (Bekker) and has two children.