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The Right Notes, Right On Queue

In response to the success of My Worst Day, FORBES AFRICA is launching a new column, Epiphany, dedicated to that moment in business when it all comes clear. First up, radio entrepreneur Greg Maloka.



When 22-year-old Greg Maloka heard that YFM, a new youth radio station, was to launch in Johannesburg, he rushed to join the thousands of hopefuls vying for a spot on air.

Ever since Maloka was a young boy in the township of Diepkloof in Soweto, South Africa, he dreamed about being a charismatic, robed figure on stage, commanding an audience of thousands. In the early days of this longing, he determined that he was going to achieve this by either becoming a teacher or a priest.

Kaya FM’s Greg Maloka, Johannesburg; 14 February 2012 – Photo by Brett Eloff

So the young hopeful, then a final year student majoring in typing skills at the former Technikon Northern Transvaal (TNT), took a bus to the auditions. Just as he had expected, the snaking queue held hundreds upon hundreds of eager hopefuls.

“When I saw the very long queue, I immediately realised that there would probably be about 50 other people—if not more—who would be far better than me. Furthermore, I was all too aware that the station would be looking for between 10 to 15 people, maximum,” says Maloka.

That’s when the light-bulb flickered on.

“Realizing that I needed something that was going to make me stand out from the hundreds who had the same ambition, and probably some with more talent, I decided to put pen to paper and to list in bullet form the things that I thought were going to make this new station work.

“As I sat in the queue, I started observing and listening to the conversations of the eight or so guys who were processing the auditions. These guys were clearly earmarked for top positions in the station and luckily for me, I had been part of the TNT Campus Radio Station so I was familiar with the challenges that face a station [targeting] a youth market.”

The moment of truth arrived. Maloka walked into the sound booth for his turn to charm the judges. He paused at the door and handed over the handwritten “business plan” to the then music manager, the late Arabi Mocheke.

“He took those pages and disappeared. The notes on those pages were largely based on my own observations—what I thought they should do with the station; how they should position the brand; what kind of music they should play; and even the kind of DJs they should have on the station,” says Maloka.

Maloka’s audition was soon over. He waited around the station with the other young hopefuls, but he knew fate was on his side when Mocheke, the music manager, pushed through the crowd looking for him.

“He returned with the notes and started questioning me about the stuff that I had written. He asked me how I knew the things mentioned there and proceeded to invite me to a management meeting that was going to be held the next day.

“Needless to say, I was up at the crack of dawn and was on number 28 bus. By the time that fateful management meeting concluded, I was now in charge of auditioning the same people I was queuing with the day before,” he concludes joyfully.

So never stop thinking, or scribbling, if you want to get ahead.

Who Is Greg Maloka?

Greg Maloka was among the group that pioneered the launch and establishment of Johannesburg youth radio station YFM, in 1997. The station has been widely credited with bringing about a revolution in youth culture. YFM brought kwaito music to South Africa’s listeners and promoted the rise and infiltration of hip hop music. Most importantly, the station supported young entrepreneurs by giving them a radio and print platform to communicate their services. Maloka has held practically all the important positions within the station, with stints as program manager, music manager, station manager and then eventually, CEO and managing director. He left YFM in 2003 after falling out with the station’s board and went on to be partner in Instant Grass—a trends and insights agency that’s based in Cape Town. Maloka is currently the managing director of Kaya FM, one of the fastest-growing independent radio stations in South Africa.

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