Drisha Kirkman

Director, Tutuka

When she joined a small Johannesburg start-up after returning from working in Europe, Drisha Kirkman had no idea that the company she joined as a junior marketing manager would lead global innovation in prepaid cards.

“Being a small company meant that not only was I responsible for marketing; I also learnt about the actual technology, support, sales and financials behind running the business,” she says. “After the launch, the concept took off and over the next five years we rolled out gift cards across the majority of shopping centres in South Africa, retailers, insurers, corporates and rewards programmes.

“Tutuka was soon MasterCard’s premier prepaid card processer in Southern Africa, and for me this meant having a strong relationship with the MasterCard and Standard Bank teams. Standard Bank then outsourced all their prepaid card programmes to Tutuka. I was responsible for the rollout and then became account manager for several of these programmes.”

The software is created and controlled by Tutuka, so as the market changed Tutuka was able to innovate and improve on the offering. In 2010, Kirkman was the project manager for Visa’s official Fifa World Cup card. The card was the first its kind to be used at an event and now is a standard at all Visa events, including future Fifa World Cups and Olympics.

Already in charge of several of the accounts and strategic relationships of the rapidly expanding business, Kirkman was appointed as director of Tutuka in 2011.

Since then her role has been to expand Tutuka globally, as the need for the company’s solutions in other developing markets was clear. Tutuka has launched programmes in eight countries, with planned rollouts in several others. It is now one of the largest prepaid card processers in Africa and in Thailand, and has over 400 different card programmes globally. From a small team of seven people 10 years ago, the company now has 55 employees from six different countries in three offices.

Kirkman has led Tutuka’s participation in a number of social projects, including participation in the Star Schools programme, and paying for additional tuition for female learners excelling in maths, biology and science. She also mentors many young women, and uses her extensive network to arrange work experience for students. This investment in the future of young women has played a key role in the lives of a medical student in Cuba, a psychologist, three law students, a scientist, and two students who went on to work at Tutuka. — Kerry Haggard

Twitter: @drishanair