Uncertainty is rife in today’s business world. With changing market dynamics and customer behaviours diverging wildly from the norm, the pandemic is revealing the business world’s winners and losers; those whose business models fell on the right side of the pandemic and became even more relevant, and those whose business models have been driven out of existence.
What the pandemic has also revealed is that companies simply cannot rely on their pre-pandemic business models to guide them into the future. Successful companies will be those which can quickly react and reshape to form pandemic-proof strategies and redefine a new path to value creation.
The pandemic has also dramatically accelerated changes in consumer behaviour, with technologies adapting quickly to serve new demands. In fact, the period has highlighted how quickly technology has been able to make physical office spaces around the world completely redundant, accelerating the need for a new way for people to meet and interact.
If any company has managed to embrace the pandemic and turn it into a competitive advantage, it is virtual reality start up The Virtulab, co-founded by Jason English and part of the CG Tech portfolio. Helmed by chairman Niall Carroll, CG Tech is an investment group that invests alongside existing management teams which demonstrate strong leadership and commitment principles, but which have not necessarily advanced in digital transformation.
Formerly CG Labs, an internal technology support team operating out of South Africa and the United Kingdom, The Virtulab was spun-off at the height of the global pandemic as a new vertical within the CG Tech portfolio, when it was quickly recognised that the technology served a far greater – and far more lucrative – purpose in remote and virtual meetings. Indeed, as most organisations were retracting their operations, the CG Tech board saw the value to be captured and doubled down in harnessing virtual reality technologies to solve emerging business challenges.
In his upcoming book “The Oros Effect”, The Virtulab co-founder Jason English uses the metaphor of Oros, a popular regional orange concentrate, to spread corporate culture throughout organisations, aligning people around a common cause and propelling companies forward in uncertain times.
“It’s challenging enough for leaders to navigate the challenges of the present. Unless leaders are able to effectively pass on the corporate culture, their knowledge, their beliefs and their ideas – effectively, their “Oros” – onto those around them, it becomes increasingly challenging to push forward and disrupt in such a rapidly changing market.”
In fact, CG Tech portfolio companies have made it their mantra to enter some of the most established industries and use technology to reimagine business models and dominate their markets. Prommac, a CG Tech company led by former CEO Jason English – now led by CEO Dany De Barros – went from a niche player in the oil and gas services sector employing a handful of people, to a dominant player employing over 2000 people with revenues exceeding R500 million.
In a recent interview, Jason English commented, “We have never shied away from a challenge, and The Virtulab is a tangible manifestation of this. Having the perspective to see challenges across our verticals, identifying synergies when they exist, and being able to respond swiftly and comprehensively to try and solve them, is what sets The Virtulab and other CG Tech companies apart.”
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) and drone technology is an area the CG Tech group’s The Virtulab is actively exploring. And it’s an area of increasing opportunity. With a global drone market projected to grow from USD 19.3B in 2019 to USD 45.8B in 2025, commercial drone technology is experiencing the highest growth. The remote aircraft piloted systems (RAPS), led by The Virtulabs Managing Director David Cummins, has capitalised on this trend to repurpose drone technologies from their roots in military applications, and redefine them to provide support services in the oil and gas, rail and power generation industries.
Among the portfolio of services offered by the Virtulab is Virtuscan, a visualisation portal for drone and ground-based data capture, and Virtuplan, a rapid deployment and scene creation tool for sites and infrastructure planning. Dubbed by The Virtulab team as ‘digital solutions for analogue problems’, the suite of tools is rapidly revolutionising the operational processes of traditional industries such as oil and gas, construction, and event management.
With Virtuworx, The Virtulab team – headed by Chief Innovation Officer Wayne Strydom – is tapping into a global virtual reality market estimated at USD 6.1B in 2020, and expected to reach USD 20.9B by 2025. Conceived pre-pandemic as a team productivity and online training solution, which increased the value of Prommac exponentially, the platform soon found relevance as a tool to connect remote teams together, with compelling virtual spaces that mirror their analogue counterparts, including educational spaces, conference booths, office spaces and meeting rooms which fundamentally solved the most challenging question during the Covid pandemic: how might we create a socially engaging environment during remote work.
Within the pandemic context, an avatar-based virtual environment proved precisely what the market needed, since companies could now create a digital twin of their physical space, or conceive a unique piece of virtual real estate unhindered by the physical constraints of reality. Want to host your next global sales meeting on the International Space Station? The Virtulabs team could build it. And you’ll get your own personalised space suit to boot. Such is the power of virtual reality when applied in this new context.
With all the changes we’ve seen in just the past few months, who could have possibly imagined that the future of work would look as radically different as it does today? The team at The Virtulab may be offering us a glimpse, not only of the future of work, but perhaps of the future of how we will live and play.
The collection of business within the CG Tech group allows us to share learnings and ideas with each other, sparking collective investments into research and development of new products and services which would not normally have been created.
The technology arm of the CG Tech group, The Virtulab, has allowed me to grow the reputation of Prommac as a digital business in a traditional industry, and we have been able to transform at a fraction of the cost of outsourcing these services.
As the youngest leader in the group, the collective knowledge of leadership has helped me grow personally by engaging with great business leaders who have been there, done that and have shared their experiences with me.
The CG Tech team has helped us raise capital and fund growth using the know how and experience of the collective group. The spread of skill sets between Accountants, M&A Experts, Operational Specialists, Metallurgy Specialists has helped me shape my business for the future.