Keep Your Feet on The Ground and Reach for the Stars

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Director at Samsung South Africa Service, Richard Chetty embodies the famous David Gresham saying, ‘keep your feet on the ground and reach for the stars’. His journey is inspirational and humbling.

As a young man growing up in the township of Phoenix, Durban, young Richard didn’t have an easy life. Within the political framework at the time, his material and educational options were limited. But, Richard and his brothers made the best of what they were given and worked hard at school to get the grades they needed to move into a more promising future. Richard’s father was a notable example to his sons; he had an incredible work ethic and taught his sons by example that hard work was important.


An extrovert at heart and someone who enjoys speaking to strangers and making real connections with people, Richard found a niche in his school debating team. After school, he got a job at a market research company, where his personable manner stood him in good stead for the numerous research phone calls he had to make. Richard enrolled in UNISA to study a BComm in Business Management, but found the fees unaffordable and battled to get through his studies. He did manage to study quality management through his company and was promoted to Quality Manager; in that role helped get the company accredited for ISO 9001. But on his salary, Richard was barely managing to pay his rent.


He applied for a job at ABSA bank and was delighted when he was offered a position that paid four times his then salary. Richard excelled in his new company, heading up the sales call centre and as head of the Eastgate Trade area in Retail Banking. While at ABSA, Richard gained a certificate in Credit Management and as one of the only people of colour at the bank at the time, headed up the Business Development Forum in an effort to bring about transformation in the organisation.


From there, Richard never had to apply for a job again – his journey is all about being head-hunted into ever more senior positions. From ABSA, the Automobile Association called him to head up their sales and service division. It was there that Richard was told he’d reached the ceiling in terms of his qualifications and was given an opportunity to do a special management development programme though Harvard Business School.


Soon, Richard was head-hunted again, this time by BMW, where he headed up the customer service division. Anyone who has owned a BMW has Richard’s innovation and vision to thank for the BMW on call service. He so impressed the global management team that Richard was given free reign to create a new role for himself – he chose to create a position of Head of Innovation and Strategy. It was while working at BMW that Richard achieved a certificate in management, his Master’s in Business and attended a Leadership Development Programme at Pretoria University.


One of his tasks at BMW was to double the manufacturing capability of the plant in Rosslyn and to understand the process, Richard spent time in Germany and the UK, absorbing as much information he could. He spent time at the Mini factory, as well as the Rolls Royce manufacturing plant, to learn how to ensure premium quality. Richard was successful in his bid to increase manufacturing capability and in the process created 5,000 new job opportunities. To understand the impact of the factory’s increased capability, Richard spent time with local communities and with Unions, building relationships and negotiating shift planning. Richard had moved into a position of head of learning and Development when Jaguar Landrover head-hunted him for their Board of Directors.


Once again, this small-town boy proved himself worth his weight in gold as the after-sales and technical director, heading up the Kenyan manufacturing plant and responsible for service throughout Africa. While at Jaguar Landrover, Richard set up the new aluminium paint and body shops and spent his time between South Africa and the UK.


Samsung saw the value of Richard with his vast experience a huge talent for growth and innovation. Richard says that his role at Samsung enables him to use all his accumulated knowledge and experience in an exciting arena where he feels he can make a serious difference, not only to the service levels of Samsung, but also to those around him.


In just over four years, Richard’s input has pushed Samsung South Africa to the top in terms of best practise and service delivery.  He managed to take the cell phone repair process from 21 days to 1 hour, instituted the service vans offering, along with numerous other innovations that positively impact Samsung user’s service experience. He’s also put together two empowerment programmes: The Women Technical Programme, which trains women in engineering. With the programme in its second year, Samsung now employs around 40 women in their technical centres. The other programme, called Boys To Men, helps unemployed young men become valued and positive influences and contributors in their communities.


Richard’s advice to young people starting out is, “Never give up. Stay humble and work as hard as you need to get where you want to go.”


Richard’s journey is a testament to what can be achieved if you put your head down, appreciate what you have and always keep other’s in mind. He’s a prime example of the quality of people that Samsung strives to employ.

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