Behind the scenes with Rajeev Matai, our hands-on head of production excellence and sustainability champion.
When asked to describe an average day, Rajeev Matai is stumped. He laughs and says it’s because every day is so vastly different. “I don’t come with a game plan, wherever ‘fires’ need to be put out – that’s where I go.”
As Rajeev describes some of the work that he does as the head of production excellence, it is so clear that in his 18 years working at Equator – the Belt Factory™, he has gone and continues to go far beyond his job description.
It’s evident that Rajeev is the go-to-man when any employee has something important to raise – or something important needs doing. It’s impossible to capture all his responsibilities. He says he always tries to “stay calm, while 50 people call my name.” In addition to this, he sits on multiple committees in the company, including the Employment Equity, Sustainability, Health and Safety, and Celebrate Diversity committees, and has been the ultimate champion behind the sustainability journey and progress that the factory has achieved so far.
“Rajeev has taken the knowledge and passion in working with our sustainability consultants, and run with it like a true leader. We wouldn’t have achieved any of our goals without his dedication and his focus on onboarding the rest of our employees,” says director Leon Buhr.
“The biggest challenge I had in the sustainability journey process so far,” says Rajeev “was adjusting my mindset to thinking of all actions and decisions we took with the idea of the ‘green factory’ in mind. It was also challenging to take the theory and suggestions of our sustainability consultants, Ecolution Consulting, and turn that into practical measures for our business that could be sustained.”
For example, Rajeev says that it took more than three months to find a waste management contractor in the Pinetown area that could work with the factory’s relatively small amounts of recycling. “Being one of the first industrial facilities to do something like this in South Africa does mean you have to work a little harder,” says Rajeev.
Rajeev’s favourite part of working at Equator – the Belt Factory™ is the diversity of his job. “ I get to be in the office, the factory, the stores and working on the sustainability of the business. I have the opportunity to go out and see other factories, our suppliers and tanners, and working hand-in-hand with the sustainability consultants. Many people don’t love change, but I do and I can embrace it wholeheartedly. I love new ideas and innovation – and I love bringing my own ideas to the business and taking others on the journey with me.”
“When it comes to the sustainability journey, it has been amazing to take my learnings home with me, educating ourselves as a family and implementing what we can at home. But I think the best part is when things start working and the hard work pays off. I feel so proud to see the staff at the factory doing their part and knowing that I had something to do with it.”