Tag: growth

FNB Connect is rapidly gaining customers

By Hanno Labuschagne for MyBroadband

South Africa’s largest mobile virtual network operator, FNB Connect, has seen a big increase in customers over the past year.

FNB Connect CEO Bradwin Roper recently spoke to MyBroadband regarding the performance of the operator during 2020, and what its plans were for the year ahead.

According to Roper, FNB Connect had grown its true active subscribers by 22% year-on-year to 815,124 as of the end of December 2020. These customers had recorded financial or network activity in the last three months.

“Our Easy and our Gold account base – that’s our entry and our middle market customers – account for two-thirds of that base,” Roper stated.

The operator has further noted massive adoption and advocacy from higher-income customers – with a 37% increase in premium and 45% growth in its private customer base.

Roper said this was notable, as it indicated that even the most finicky, fussy, and particular customers were choosing FNB Connect as their telecoms providers.

He added that this had happened without the operator having to heavily market its benefits over other operators.

“These customers have organically found us and are using us,” Roper said.

Cheaper prices
Roper claimed that part of the MVNO’s growth could be attributed to its affordable pricing.

“We really have rung true to this concept of money management and how important telco spend is in households,” Roper said.

Products Roper cited as a testament to this the adoption of FNB Connect’s TalkMax and TalkMax Pro plans.

These let customers make unlimited calls to up to 120 or 200 unique phone numbers, for either R299 or R399 per month. They also include set allocations of data and SMSs.

“If you think about the incumbents and their relevant competing products, you are talking about thousands of rand for the same product offering,” Roper stated.

In addition, FNB Connect’s data prices performed well when compared with its rivals.

“Whatever benefits we’ve received, we’ve passed those benefits onto customers,” Roper said.

“We repriced our 1GB data package to R59 per month which arguably is about 40% cheaper than the rest of the market,” Roper stated.

“Our market leading once-off data prices are available to all Connect customers and not as promotional offers to certain customers like the MNOs do,” Roper added.

FNB Connect has also seen increasing usage of its value-added Free Connect benefit for FNB account holders, with a total of 715 million MB of data and 134 million voice minutes used to date.

Month-to-month flexibility
Roper said that one area in which people underestimated FNB Connect was its capability to offer greater customer choice and flexibility, something which he wanted to continue driving.

“One month you need a gig of data, the other month you need five. It’s really impossible, and I think it’s very unfair, to get stuck into a 24-month contract,” Roper said.

“In order to get onto a top-up plan with a big incumbent, you have to be credit-scored, with ours you have the ability to change your allocations on a month-on-month basis,” he stated.

“We want to give you the full benefit of everything that a postpaid service gives you but on a month-to-month basis,” Roper said.

Roper said that this flexibility was one of the reasons why FNB Connect had also seen a surge in Top Up customers.

“Our Top Up base growth has been 57% year-on-year,” Roper said.

“Customers are really loving the fact that they can – on a month-to-month basis – figure out exactly how much data, voice, and SMSs they need and be able to top that up without the cumbersome going into a telco store and getting scored.”

“With us, you can do it on the app and have that SIM delivered to your home or your office or wherever you find yourself,” Roper stated.

Order FNB Connect devices from the app
FNB app users will soon be able to order FNB Connect devices straight from the app in a similar way that they can currently purchase other products.

At the moment, the app allows users to buy Prepaid, Talk Max Top Up, Top Up Data, and Top Up Lifestyle bundles under the Connect pillar of the “Apply now” section.

According to Roper, starting from June or July 2021 this will be expanded to allow for ordering a wide array of devices on FNB Connect postpaid and credit-scored products as well.

“That is going to be a massive disruption to the market,” Roper claimed.

 

By Siphelele Dludla for IOL

South Africa’s economy shrank by 7% last year compared to 0.2 percent growth in 2019 amid the devastating impact of Covid-19 and lockdown restrictions, Statistics SA said.

This is the most significant economic downturn in 75 years, but was not unexpected following months of economic slowdown due to lockdown restrictions.

’’If we explore the historical data, this is the biggest annual fall in economic activity the country has seen since at least 1946,” Stats SA said.

“The second biggest fall was recorded in 1992 when the economy contracted by 2.1 percent.

“At that time, the country was struggling through a two-year-long recession, mainly the result of a global economic downturn.”

Stats SA said the annual real gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of -7 percent last year was primarily led by decreases in manufacturing, trade, catering and accommodation; and transport, storage and communication.

The agriculture, forestry and fishing industry, however, escaped the effects of the pandemic relatively unscathed, expanding production by 13.1 percent last year.

The government also grew marginally in the year, up by 0.7 percent.

Stats SA said expenditure on GDP also decreased by 7.1 percent last year as household final consumption expenditure decreased by 5.4 percent.

Meanwhile, the fourth quarter GDP recorded positive growth as economic activity resumed after lockdown restrictions were lifted.

Stats SA said GDP lifted by 1.5 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, giving an annualised growth rate of 6.3 percent, and easily beating market expectations of a 5 percent rise.

The largest positive contributors to growth were the manufacturing, trade and transport sectors.

The manufacturing industry increased at a rate of 21.1 percent in the fourth quarter, as nine of the 10 manufacturing divisions reported positive growth rates in the period.

Stats SA said expenditure on real GDP increased at an annualised rate of 6.5 percent in the fourth quarter of last year as household final consumption expenditure increased at a rate of 7.5 percent.

 

The eLearning Indaba, an annual conference that attracts speakers and attendees from around the world to venues across South Africa, held the first of its new-format hour-and-a-half long Zoom sessions last Friday, with over 500 HR, and learning and development (L&D) professionals having registered.

Hosted by the end-to-end e-learning solutions provider, New Leaf Technologies, the webinar revealed some critical insights around accelerated digital transformation, and the frameworks needed to optimise the e-learning experience. Major trends shaping a global e-learning market said to reach R5,4 trillion by 2026 according to market research organisation, Facts & Factors, were also presented.

Guest speakers included Michael Strawbridge, Global Head of Content, Networks and Members Services for The Learning and Performance Institute (UK), and Thijs Van Zundert, partner-manager for aNewSpring, a cloud-based Learner Management System (LMS) platform developed in Holland.

New Leaf Technologies Managing Director, Michael Hanly introduced his company’s approach to digital transformation which includes a wide range of over 20 000 ready-made courses available online to engage and empower modern learners with training interventions, delivered on any device, using an appropriate and didactical approach. Hanly said that by creating content and providing state-of-the-art learning technology, the company aims to grow people and their business.

According to Strawbridge, effective e-learning can lead to closing skills gaps in a business environment. The solution to this challenge lies in creating social learning opportunities, supporting business through change, upskilling in data and data analytics, and building a learning culture, with digital transformation at the heart of it all.

For effective e-learning to take place, Strawbridge presented six equally important, key priorities to consider: It is essential to have the right and relevant technology to support the latest learning methods; that a wider skill set is needed, encompassing technology, organisational and soft skills, as well as identifying proper work models to meet these skills requirements; that leadership must be adept at motivating and galvanising team members, communicating the potential of people and technology to respond to challenges and opportunities; to have a focused capture and use of data for valuable insight, linking learner performance with company goals, and garnering foresight that predicts learner behaviour which optimises outcomes; that there has to be a collaboration/shared cultural element, where people’s learning needs are understood and they feel empowered via this learning environment. And lastly, that there must be a strong foundation of infrastructure to keep learning in step with digital transformation.

In his discussion on how to help students/co-workers prepare for e-learning and training, Thijs Van Zundert pointed out the similarities between training for work and a marathon; that there is very little difference between them! He reiterated the need for determining and setting clear goals, creating a proper game plan, keeping loved ones informed and involved (as their support is tantamount to success), and ensuring one has the right program, equipment and materials to successfully complete learning goals.

According to Van Zundert, there is massive benefit in getting advice from people who have done it before you, to be realistic about the amount of training and work you will be able to get through and to keep pushing yourself to succeed. By learning to enjoy the e-learning process, the task will become fun, informative and will inevitably be a truly rewarding experience.

Given the rapid rate at which digital learning systems are currently evolving, Hanly forecast ten trends to follow in order to align your L&D strategy with your business. These include:

1. LaaS (Learning as a Service), is provided as an end-to-end solution that encompasses managed L&D services for a set monthly fee.

2. LXP (Learning experience platforms), a learner-centric, socially enabled environment that provides a personalised gateway to an organisation’s learning content through a familiar and searchable interface

3. Mobile learning, where using mobile devices allows learners quick and easy access on the go

4. Employee engagement, which strives to keep content relevant and interesting

5. Content curation, which continually updates relevant, carefully curated and well-organised content

6. Personalization and adaptive learning; targeting and addressing individual needs, providing the right training materials, and introducing training interventions at the right time

7. Immersive technology, like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) help enhance learning mediums and provide an immersive e-learning experience

8. Video-based learning – the use of video for online lectures, virtual classrooms and web conferencing heads up the digital transformation trends for 2021

9. Artificial intelligence facilitates highly personalised learning pathways by analysing the data it collects, which can then be used to understand the learner’s interests, proficiency and competencies

10. Proctoring; AI-enabled, remote invigilation, that allows students to write a test online in any location, at any time, while maintaining the integrity of the assessments taken.

OneDayOnly expands as e-commerce booms

Local e-commerce platform OneDayOnly has expanded its warehouses and increased the number of employees, OneDayOnly spokesperson Matthew Leighton told ITWeb.

The e-commerce site has witnessed 67% year-on-year growth, with staff members up by 30% in 2020 due to the Covid-19-induced lockdowns.

  • People have changed their shopping behaviour due to COVID-19
  • Consumers have been forced to look at online shopping platforms as alternatives to brick-and-mortar stores
  • The big increase in sales is also partly related to panic buying and lack of item availability
  • Convenience is another factor influencing the uptake of online shopping
  • SA’s e-commerce industry was growing before the pandemic
  • According to a Mastercard report, only 24% of local online spend was on foreign shopping sites, down from 27% in 2019 and 33% in 2012
  • Mobile app downloads increased from 30% in Q1 to 35% by Q4, which is a growth of 2.8 million people. e-Commerce stores with mobile apps have seen significant uptake

The influx of traffic has prompted a 30% increase in staff and an increase in warehouse footprint in both Cape Town and Johannesburg. To support small local businesses, OneDayOnly has prioritised local suppliers on its site.

A robust IT team is able to monitor and maintain the website.

Source: Ford

Ford Motor Company has announced an investment of R15.8-billion in its South African manufacturing operations – marking the biggest investment in Ford’s 97-year history in South Africa. It also represents one of the largest-ever investments in the South African automotive industry, boosting Ford’s production capability and creating new jobs.

“This investment will further modernise our South African operations, helping them to play an even more important role in the turnaround and growth of our global automotive operations, as well as our strategic alliance with Volkswagen,” said Dianne Craig, president, Ford’s International Markets Group. “Ranger is one of our highest volume, most successful global vehicles. This investment will equip our team with the tools and facilities to deliver the best Ford Ranger ever, in higher numbers and with superior quality.”

Ford announced the investment at a media briefing attended by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, as well as several key government leaders, including Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel, Department of Public Enterprise Minister Pravin Gordhan, Gauteng Premier David Makhura, City of Tshwane Executive Mayor Randall Williams, and senior Ford executives.

With this investment, Ford’s Silverton Assembly Plant is expected to generate revenues exceeding 1.1 percent of South Africa’s gross domestic product.

The annual installed capacity at the Silverton plant will increase to 200,000 vehicles from 168,000, supporting production of the all-new Ford Ranger pickup truck for the domestic market and export to over 100 global markets. The plant also will manufacture Volkswagen pickups trucks as part of the Ford-VW strategic alliance.

The expanded production will help create 1,200 incremental Ford jobs in South Africa, increasing the local workforce to 5,500 employees, and adding an estimated 10,000 new jobs across Ford’s local supplier network, bringing the total to 60,000.

The overall investment includes US$686 million (R10.3 billion) for extensive upgrades to the Silverton Assembly Plant that will increase production volume and drive significant improvements in production efficiency and vehicle quality.

These include construction of a new body shop with the latest robotic technology and a new high-tech stamping plant, both of which will be located on-site for the first time. Both facilities will modernise and streamline the integrated manufacturing process at Silverton while contributing to higher quality and reducing overall cost and waste.

The new stamping plant will use a high-speed line to produce all the major sheet metal components for the new Ranger. It includes a fully automated storage and retrieval system for stamping dies, which will be housed innovatively in the roof of the facility, thus eliminating related labour-intensive processes. In addition, a modern blue-light scanner system that scans surfaces for imperfections will ensure the highest-quality final product leaves the stamping plant.

Extensive upgrades also will be made to the box line, paint shop and final assembly to improve vehicle flow within the plant, along with the expansion of the container and vehicle yards.

Ford also will build new vehicle modification and training centres – the latter developed to ensure all Ford employees are equipped with the knowledge and skills required to maximise the efficiencies of the enhanced Silverton facilities.

“The extensive upgrades and new state-of-the-art manufacturing technologies will drive efficiencies across our entire South Africa operation – from sequenced delivery of parts direct to the assembly line, to increased vehicle production line speeds and precision of assembly to ensure the world-class quality that our customers expect,” said Andrea Cavallaro, director of Operations, Ford’s International Markets Group.

Island mode

The new investment program builds on the recently announced Project Blue Oval renewable energy project, which aligns with the company’s global target of using 100-percent locally sourced renewable energy for all its manufacturing plants by 2035 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

The first phase of Project Blue Oval already is underway with the construction of solar carports for 4,200 vehicles at the Silverton plant.

“Our aim is to achieve ‘Island Mode’, taking the Silverton Assembly Plant completely off the grid, becoming entirely energy self-sufficient and carbon neutral by 2024,” Cavallaro said. “It will be one of the very first Ford plants anywhere in the world to achieve this status.”

Modernising our supplier base

Ford also will invest US$365 million (R5.5 billion) to upgrade tooling at the company’s major supplier factories.

“Supporting our suppliers with this new tooling will ensure we modernise together to deliver world-class quality for the all-new Ranger at higher volumes for our domestic and import customers,” Cavallaro said.

Economic growth

“As part of our extensive investment in the Silverton plant, we also are building a new Ford-owned and operated chassis line in the Tshwane Automotive Special Economic Zone (TASEZ) for this new vehicle programme,” said Ockert Berry, vice president, Operations, for Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa.

“Having this new line and our major component suppliers located adjacent to the Silverton plant in the TASEZ is key to expanding our production capacity, as parts will be sequenced directly onto the assembly line,” Berry added. “This will significantly reduce logistics costs and complexity, improve efficiency and allow us to build more Rangers for our customers.”

In addition to its representation on the TASEZ board, Ford also is working closely with all three spheres of government and relevant state-owned entities such as Transnet, in developing the Gauteng Province – Eastern Cape Province High Capacity Rail Freight Corridor. This will be a full-service line linking the Silverton Assembly Plant and the TASEZ with Port Elizabeth, which is home to Ford’s Struandale Engine Plant and the Coega Special Economic Zone.

The GP-EC High Capacity Rail Freight Corridor will channel all of Ford’s inbound and outbound logistics exclusively through Port Elizabeth to support the higher production volumes. It is projected to create thousands of jobs within the value chain.

“Ford’s investment in our South Africa manufacturing operations underscores our ongoing commitment to deliver ever-better vehicles to our customers in South Africa and around the world, while providing opportunities for our own employees, new team members and our communities,” said Neale Hill, managing director, Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa.

SA shares hit record high despite domestic gloom

By Ntando Thukwana for Business Insider SA

On Monday, the JSE’s all share index rocketed to levels never seen before, even as South Africa’s economy continues to be roiled by the coronavirus pandemic.

Monday’s rally was in large part thanks to a 7% gain in Naspers, which is one of the biggest shares on the bourse. Via its subsidiary Prosus, Naspers owns a 31% stake in the Chinese tech behemoth Tencent.

Investors in Asia have been piling into Tencent ahead of the Hong Kong listing of short-video service Kuaishou Technology, a TikTok competitor. The company is backed by Tencent, and could raise more than $5 billion, which could make it the world’s biggest tech listing since Uber, reports Bloomberg. The SA market also received a boost from Monday’s 11% rally in Woolworths, which reported stronger-than-expected sales. On Tuesday, the local market started to retreat, but Woolworths’ share price continued its rise.

The JSE is now 11% higher than at the start of 2020, before the pandemic, hard lockdowns and job losses wreaked havoc on the local economy.

Currently, the country is struggling to contain a massive second Covid wave, while failing to secure the necessary vaccines, and its retreat back into Level 3 is causing immense economic strain.

So why the rally on the local market?

Nick Kunze, a senior portfolio manager at Sanlam Private Wealth, says the JSE is benefiting from new optimism among global investors, particularly about the impact of US president Joe Biden’s proposed new $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package that is expected to be passed by Congress this week.

The more optimistic tone on the US market and elsewhere has made investors more confident, and willing to take on more risk – particularly on emerging market investments.

“All of a sudden, because of this increased risk taking (…) emerging markets are suddenly in favour,” says Edgar Mafoko, portfolio manager at FNB Wealth and Investment.

So far this year, foreigners have bought almost R10.6 billion more in South African shares than they have sold, JSE data show. In the same period last year, they were already the net sellers of R4 billion in SA shares.

In recent weeks, investors have finally starting buying long-shunned shares in companies that are focused on South Africa.

Mafoko says Woolies’ strong trading update – along with other “very good results” from local retailers helped to restore confidence.

“The consumer isn’t in as bad a space as we thought.” But he warned that there is still much gloom ahead for the local economy, with the impact of increased unemployment that will probably only still come through later on in the year.

“Our fundamentals haven’t changed locally. Economically it’s going to be a very gloomy year. We’re expecting disappointment after disappointment,” he said.

Mafoko expects that Naspers and Prosus should continue to remain strong this year, and expects more gains from platinum and gold mining shares, on the back of China’s continued economic recovery which is driving an increased demand for commodities.

 

Netflix tops 200m subscribers

Source: EWN

Netflix on Tuesday topped subscriber growth expectations in the past quarter, keeping ahead of new streaming rivals competing for viewers stuck in their homes during the coronavirus pandemic.

The streaming television leader added some 8.5 million paid subscribers in the quarter to reach 203 million, topping 200 million despite recent price hikes, its quarterly earning update showed.

“Covid-19 has accelerated that big shift from linear to streaming entertainment,” Netflix chief financial officer Spencer Neumann said on an earnings call.

“So, the underlying long-term looks good.”

The company’s cash flow was so strong that it will no longer borrow money to pay for operations, and is considering starting to buy back shares, according to a letter to investors.

Netflix shares jumped more than 12% in after-market trades following the release.

Profits dipped to $542 million in the fourth quarter, compared with $587 million in the same period in 2019. But overall revenue in the quarter surged 21.5% to $6.6 billion.

For the full year, Netflix added a record 37 million paid memberships, according to the earnings report.

“We’re enormously grateful that in these uniquely challenging times we’ve been able to provide our members around the world with a source of escape, connection and joy while continuing to build our business,” Netflix said in a letter to investors.

Paid membership increased 23% in the final quarter of 2020 when compared with the same period a year earlier, but average revenue per membership was flat, according to the Silicon Valley-based company.

While Netflix raised rates slightly in the US late last year, the majority – some 83% – of its new subscribers were from outside North America, the earnings report indicated.

South Africa’s economy rebounds by 66.1% in Q3

Source: eNCA

The latest GDP data has just been released and as expected, the third quarter of this year saw a rebound after a major contraction in the second quarter.

The country’s gross domestic product saw an expected surge in growth between July and September this year.

It rose by an annualised rate of 66.1% after contracting by 51% during the lockdown in the prior three months.

Manufacturing, trade, and mining were the biggest drivers of growth as lockdown restrictions eased in the third quarter.

However, the recovery remains vulnerable, with power shortages and slow structural reforms likely to weigh on sentiment.

The country needs a growth rate of at least 5% to remedy its unemployment crisis.

But current projected growth for the year is expected to be -8%.

 

By Mike Anderson, founder and CEO of NSBC

As a business owner you’ve probably been asked to give a discount. How did that make you feel? Your response to that request is critical to the sustainability of your business – as well as to your confidence.

Because after all, you’re either worth the price you’re asking or you’re not. No discussion. This may sound harsh, but if you don’t believe you are worth it why do you expect your clients to believe it?

Reasons to stop discounting your pricing:

  • It’s no fun
  • It requires a time and energy you can use elsewhere
  • It creates a standard for other clients
  • You’re not getting paid what you’re worth
  • It can lower confidence in your business

Once you’ve made the decision not to discount your prices, it will be much easier for you to simply say this in a friendly and relaxed way if you’re asked. Your mind is already made up, so the answer flows naturally.

If a prospective client is not able, or willing, to pay your prices then they probably aren’t a good fit for your business. Moving on from people who are not a match allows you to create space for clients who are willing and able to purchase from your business.

There will always be someone offering something similar to your offerings for the absolute lowest price. I hope you don’t aim to be that business.

The key is to focus on the value your services and products deliver, not what they cost. People who truly understand the benefits they will receive when they buy from your business will accept the prices you have set because they understand the value they are going to get.

If negotiating is the norm in your business, there is still a way to be true to the value your business delivers without discounting. First, get clear about the total value of the offering. Then if you choose to, you can reduce the amount you deliver, along with the price, which means you are not discounting.

Another way to avoid discounting when negotiating is to stick to your original price and add a one-time, additional bonus for new clients.

While you’re thinking about eliminating discounting, please consider increasing your prices. Seriously, when is the last time you raised your prices? And when you did, what was the percentage of the increase? If it’s been awhile since you raised your prices, it’s probably time.

It’s natural that your expertise expands and deepens over time so why shouldn’t your pricing reflect that. Whether or not you decide to increase your pricing, at least be willing to stand firm on your current pricing and don’t discount.

Think about it: you’ll save time and energy if you stick to your pricing; you will feel confident about the value you deliver to your clients; and be more profitable.

So make the decision today that discounting your prices is not part of your business philosophy. Focus on the value your business creates for your clients and watch your business grow.

 

By Mpho Lakaje for EWN

On the evening of 23 March, South Africans gathered around their television sets to listen to arguably the most important announcement of this year. At the time, the nation was on edge. The rate of COVID-19 infections was accelerating here at home and the rest of the world. Very little was known about the virus other than the fact that it was ruthless to senior citizens and people with comorbidities. Italy, one of the hardest hit countries in Europe, became a point of reference. Although there were 340 000 reported cases worldwide at the time, compared to over 40 million today, it all looked scary. Nobody knew what was going to happen next. The South African government decided to take action.

“The National Coronavirus Command Council has decided to enforce a nationwide lockdown for 21 days with effect from midnight on Thursday 26 March. This is a decisive measure to save millions of South Africans from infection and save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said that Monday night as his government imposed a lockdown on the country.

This strategy appeared sensible, especially as the country looked to buy itself time to prepare for the inevitable spread of the coronavirus. But a prolonged lockdown came at a heavy price. In the months that followed, businesses were bludgeoned. A staggering 2.2 million South Africans lost their jobs. Unemployment now stands at over 30%. Government admitted “the punch in the gut was severe”.

But even in our darkest hour, there was a glimmer of hope. The pandemic became a blessing to some sectors of the economy.

“I think the use of internet and the use of digital technology during COVID because of a lack of movement, obviously surged upwards. I think in the last quarter, if you look at the Statistsa release in the last quarter alone, telecoms was one of the growing sectors in COVID and in the [contraction] time, when everyone else was contracting up to 90% in terms of business activity and output,” says Nthabiseng Moleko, PhD graduate in development finance at the University of Stellenbosch Business School.

Johannesburg businessperson Donald Valoyi can attest to this. As companies were downsizing or shutting their doors, his grocery delivery service, Zulzi, experienced a different reality. It grew at a pace he never predicted.

“Our orders increased 500 times immediately and that means we had to increase capacity. We had to bring in more drivers. It was very difficult because it was during lockdown. Now you have to get guys who are brave to come and work for you. So yah, I think it was challenging. That type of growth comes with a lot of pain,” he told Eyewitness News.

Valoyi started Zulzi in 2013. He says: “We were just an e-commerce platform. We were selling books online to students.” But the business morphed over time. It offered anything from pharmaceutical products and alcohol to fast food. Today, it’s an inspiring company that focuses on delivering groceries. As a customer, you send a list of your grocery items to Zulzi, through an app or website. Your order will be received at the company’s call centre, before it’s sent to someone who will do all the shopping on your behalf. The shopper will then give your groceries to a driver, who will deliver to your doorstep.

“We cover all the major cities. If you talk about Pretoria, Durban, Cape Town and Jo’burg, we are there. We have about 45 guys who work in the office. So, this includes software engineers, the marketing team, the guys who run logistics and the customer service team. Then we have personal shoppers. We are sitting at around 250 shoppers currently. We have about 300 independent drivers at the moment. It’s an Uber-type model. Obviously that number always changes depending on how much demand we have at any given time,” says the former FNB employee. “COVID was very good for online businesses actually. Any business that’s online really took off. Everywhere I look worldwide, groceries were doing well. Valuations for the start-ups shot up,” he says.

Another entrepreneur who’s been smiling from ear to ear in recent months is Graham Wallington. He runs WildEarth, a media company that broadcasts live safaris. The company has a group of camera operators who capture images out in the wild. Those visuals are then sent to television sets, computers and mobile devices around the world, through a control room in Johannesburg. At the same time, safari guides interact with viewers in real time. “All we’re doing is, we’re just watching the unscripted process of nature unfolding, and I think that the majority of our viewers come to have this experience oftentimes because they are stuck, maybe because they are not well, maybe they are depressed, maybe they are lonely, or maybe because they are locked down and can’t access nature easily. What WildEarth offers is a way for people to feel like they are transported into the wild,” says Graham.

The concept is innovative and has become a massive hit in the coronavirus era. “Our global traffic increased five-fold between March and April 2020. Also, we saw an increase 15-fold in our South African audience during March and April 2020,” he says. The growth he is referring to hasn’t turned into financial returns yet, but it increased WildEarth’s valuation.

“I think these are businesses that are going to last because there has been a shift in the way we work. When you are talking about, for example safaris, the way we work has changed. Certainly the way we have fun has to change. The way we relax has to change”, says economist Xhanti Payi.

Developments in the local digital economy are not surprising though. A StatsSA report released earlier this year shows that over 36 million South Africans out of 59 million now use the internet. Most people consume content on mobile devices. This means the ground is fertile for innovative digital businesses or companies with a strong online presence.

“We were always moving into a relatively more online society, more online purchases. Whether we are talking about our food, we are talking about our clothes, that’s where we were going. But I guess it was accelerated even for people like me who were not particularly keen on that sort of thing. Now we are sort of there,” Payi says.

But as our nation looks to recover from the scourge of COVID-19, are we capitalising on the strength of digital businesses? President Cyril Ramaphosa recently announced an economic recovery plan with bold promises. He said his government would create 800 000 job opportunities in the coming years. The plan covered many sectors including forestry, energy, construction and farming. But he said very little about developing start-ups, particularly in the ICT space. Although he spoke of supporting 5,000 young entrepreneurs in passing, few details were given on the plans to help them.

Business experts Nthabiseng Moleko and Mark Swilling say we need to think differently. The two academics from the University of Stellenbosch Business School and the Centre for Complex Systems in Transition respectively, argue in great detail, through a document they released a few weeks ago that, “continuing on the current path, reliant on mainstream economic thinking and use of existing micro-economic solutions, is unlikely to deliver different outcomes in the future”.

 

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