"We had a good spike of opportunistic business in the pandemic. That wasn’t what we wanted to do forever," says KnG Group co-founder Mannu Kala, who for the second straight year won the top prize at the Gold Coast Young Entrepreneur Awards.
After a significant restructure and rebrand of a business founded to tackle COVID-19 staffing and vaccine administration challenges, Mannu Kala took home the 2023 Gold Coast Young Entrepreneur of the Year award last night amidst a flurry of diversification activity that shows his venture is by no means a one-hit wonder.
Kala and Dr Anuj Gupta won the same award last year for their success with Covax Australia, co-founded in 2020, but at the start of this year they relaunched that business as KnG Healthcare - currently the largest subsidiary of their restructured KnG Group, which also has emerging businesses in education, technology and cyber security, to name a few.
Without the impetus for rapid-fire pandemic solutions that built the reputation of Covax Australia, KnG Healthcare now looks like a very different company but keeps its spirit of 'thinking out of the box, making quick decisions, not sitting on it', according to Kala.
As a recruitment agency with around 7,000 staff on its books, KnG Healthcare has utilised its human resources to respond to other problems.
"Healthcare is our predominant service, but we are service providers – we are servicing 170 aged care facilities now, and it’ll be almost 200 by the end of this year. Our agency model is backing our projects," Kala explains.
One of the most noteworthy of these projects is a medi-hotel trial at Seaworld in Southport, where KnG Healthcare is providing a 24-bed solution for patients in need of transitional care.
"The Gold Coast HHS (Hospital and Health Service) asked if we could deliver this. It was cost saving for them. We have saved around 11,000 bed days so far in the last three months in Gold Coast health services.
"At KnG Healthcare the DNA will always stay fixing health issues, and we're now going for a national roll-out," he says, adding discussions are taking place with state health departments and individual hospitals across three states
"It reduces the patient’s stay time in hospital and it reduces hospital infection, which is mostly acquired from hospital when the patients are staying there."
It is a business model that Kala says has been embraced by the group's experienced advisory board, which includes former Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt and Kate Jones, a former Queensland Government Minister across several portfolios.
Kala highlights another exciting offshoot for the business is homecare branch KnG Gold Care, looking after people who do not want to enter an aged care facility and would prefer a 'home service with the nursing, doctors, the personal care workers, companionship, and a lot of other services'.
"We have limitations in the aged care sector; there are staffing issues. Even though the government is trying its best, it’s just very hard to provide the quality of care of a higher geriatric population," Kala says.
"We have a high-level team in the Gold Care business. We're launching in Melbourne, Brisbane, Gold Coast and Sydney at this stage, just because we have a hold on those areas, and then we’ll have the national roll-out."
Further early-stage ventures within the group include a cyber security company that assists both the private and public sector in improving cyber health and identifying threats, and an education business aimed at delivering partnerships to bring in international students to help fill both current and impending skills gaps in various sectors.
"I am very passionate about the international education sector. I came as an international student with literally nothing in my pocket, and now we employ people," he says.
"This is the story of a lot of international students who come here with a dream of making their life better."
Incidentally, the India-born Kala is the second Young Entrepreneur of the Year winner so far this year to arrive in Australia under such circumstances. The 2023 Brisbane Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Homes by CMA founder Chris Baptista, also came to Australia as an international student.
Mannu Kala was just one example of the impressive finalists on display at the 2023 Gold Coast Young Entrepreneur Awards, which took place at The Star Gold Coast and was supported by corporate partners Maserati, City of Gold Coast, MGI, Coraggio, VentureCrowd, and iVvy.
See below for all winners from the night, and we thank all participants for sharing their stories with Business News Australia.
- Young Entrepreneur of the Year - Mannu Kala (KnG Group)
- Trailblazer - Kristie Baird (Drip IV)
- Digital Disruptor - Paul Billing & Alexandra Rofe (Send Payments)
- Finance - James Marshall (MWM Advisory)
- Food & Beverage - Mike Kellett (Macro Mike, Macro King, Macro Gym)
- Health & Medicine - Mannu Kala (KnG Group)
- Hospitality & Tourism - James Carney, Alec Carney, Paul Carney (Gemelli Group)
- Marketing - Barratt Kennett (EFCOMM Sales and Marketing)
- PR, Media & Events - Jacob Ritchie (Two Birds Social, Poly Studios, North Productions)
- Professional Services - Jasminne Hristic (NGO Training Centre)
- Property & Construction - Luke Vaughan (Vaun Group of Companies)
- Retail & Services - Stacey Hollands (Lust Minerals)
- Specialist Services - Jared Ooi (Maco Electrics)
- Sustainability & Social Responsibility - Joel Prokic, Matthew Nikolai & Jason Smit (G1 Asset Management)
- Startup - Brodie Cook & Roger Cook (Lucent Globe)
- Technology - James Gilmour (Gilmour Space)
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