Koos Bekker of Naspers: The Murdoch of Africa…ish

…or so suggests Forbes magazine of Koos Bekker, the head of the South African multinational media conglomerate who is paid a cool R1 billion (nearly £100m) in salary and share options.

A new book by Anton Harber, the professor of journalism at Witwatersrand University (my alma mater), examines the success of Naspers, and in particular, how it has managed to thrive in a market such as China, which is responsible for 80pc of its market value. In summary, ask no questions, toe the line, and play the ‘we’re not America, so we’re okay’ card.

It’s a strategy that has helped it become a global tech giant – amazing for a company that started out with just a couple of Afrikaans language newspapers. A Q&A in the Balancing Act blog sheds more light – saying Naspers “owns ecommerce and social networking properties all over the world, including China, Brazil, Russia, Africa and eastern Europe. The company has stakes in two of the world’s biggest social networks, the Chinese TenCent and a small, indirect stake in Facebook”.

The secret of their success? Bekker says:

“We’ve made more mistakes than anyone else. The benefit of a mistake is that you know what doesn’t work. What we typically try to do is get into something and ‘fail fast and cheaply’.

Don’t be afraid to fail … probably the most offered piece of business wisdom of recent times. But they don’t say what you’re supposed to do when you really do.

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