SouthAfrica.info (Johannesburg)

23 January 2013

South Africa: Start-Up Takes Computing to the People

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"If you don't have computer skills, you are at a disadvantage in the job market," says Rani.

To add to this predicament, people often have to travel long distances to an internet café to distribute their CVs when searching for jobs.

"People have to do this at great expense and it takes a lot of time."

The Silulo Internet Café caters for both needs, and Rani has ensured that the pricing of his services are within reach of the majority of South Africans.

An affordable service

"What is central to my business model is affordability," he says. "Our prices are low." He believes that companies operating in emerging market economies should adjust their business models and profit expectations.

"It is essential for entrepreneurs in these markets to be socially minded and not only profit-driven."

For just R6 (70 US cents), Rani's customers can access the internet for one hour, whereas some internet cafes in the Eastern Cape charge as much as R30 ($3.38) an hour, R10 ($1.12) to send a fax and R3 (34 cents) for a photocopy.

"This is simply unaffordable for most people," he says. "Even if you just have R2 (23 cents), you can go onto the internet for 15 minutes," he says.

Silulo Ulutho operates in the Western and Eastern Cape, but in the future Rani would like to grow the business in other provinces, possibly through a franchise business model.

"But the core must always remain that the business must benefit the community," he says. "I am passionate about this."

In addition to internet café services, computer sales are still a core part of the business. Silulo offers IT support to assist customers with network connections, computer repairs, and maintenance, and software installation.

As part of its computer sales division, Rani has entered into a partnership with mobile provider Vodacom. Customers who buy computers from Silulo can access prepaid internet services using a 3G connection from Vodacom, the dongle for which is part of the deal.

More innovative thinkers for South Africa

Rani believes there is nothing stopping more entrepreneurs from building successful businesses that can also impact society positively.

"What we need is innovation. Young entrepreneurs must inspire and give hope to other young black people that they can do it if they work hard," he says.

He spoke out against entrepreneurs who want to achieve quick riches. "With transformation more people have been afforded opportunities, but this system is abused and people take shortcuts," he says.

He maintains the only way to grow a business is through hard work and commitment. "My advice to young entrepreneurs is to focus on your business and do it better than anyone else. Always maintain good business values, integrity and humility."

Thinking back on his childhood, Rani says he always had an interest in business. "My mother ran a tavern and I grew up in this environment which exposed me to entrepreneurship," he says, remembering how he watched her run the business and interact with customers.

"This shaped me more than anything."

First published by MediaClubSouthAfrica.com - get free high-resolution photos and professional feature articles from Brand South Africa's media service.

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