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Silulo Ulutho Technologies: Luvuyo Rani

A former teacher teams up with three partners to bring about a township IT revolution

Monique Verduyn

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Luvuyo Rani of Silulo Ulutho Technologies

They say the  sign of a true entrepreneur is someone whowill risk everything, including the security of salaried employment, to followa dream that only they believe in. If this is true then Luvuyo Rani, founderand MD of Silulo Ulutho Technologies, more than qualifies. When the qualifiedteacher left his school post to sell computers out of the boot of a car inKhayelitsha, everyone told him he was mad. “But I knew the thing could work. Ifelt so passionate about it that I just never gave up,” he recalls.

It was his position as a teacher that firstopened his eyes to a gap in the market where he believed he could make money.“The Department of Education was promoting the use of computers and theteaching of information technology at schools, but I knew that most teacherswere not computer literate and most schools lacked access to computers. So Iresigned and started my own IT company, providing schools with computers at anaffordable rate,” he remembers.But the idea didn’t run as smoothly as hehad initially envisaged. “Using my contacts in schools, I started knocking ondoors, but in many instances the schools and teachers weren’t interested,” herecalls. Slowly, as he spoke to people about the value of ICT skills, hestarted to build a client base. “What was interesting was that once one schoolor teacher had a computer, the other schools and teachers in the communitydidn’t want to be left out, so they approached me for the same service,” herelates.Access to finance was his biggestchallenge. He’d borrowed R10 000 as a personal loan but was turned away by thefinancial institutions he approached for funding, and the business he’d chosento go into was capital intensive. Rani is nothing if not inventive and heovercame cash flow, funding and debt collection challenges with creative flair,engaging suppliers to provide him with payment terms and selling refurbishedcomputers to keep costs down. “We managed to think of creative ways to allowcustomers to pay us and encouraged groups of teachers to form a stokvel wherebythey would each contribute R500 a month to a fund, for example, so that at theend of a period all of them would be able to buy computers,” he explains.

The business grew different divisionsorganically, in response to the needs of its client base. “Lonwabo Rani joinedas operations director and because clients needed maintenance and technicalsupport we took on a third member, Sigqubo Pangabantu, to take care of thatside of things. Then we realised that educators were buying computers but notutilising them because they weren’t computer literate, so Nandipha Matshobajoined us to offer basic computer training,” relates Rani. Today the businesshas a number of divisions that include the supply and maintenance of computersand consumables, as well as an internet café, training facility and businessadvisory service.“There is so much unemployment in thecommunity and we did a lot of work educating people about how ICT skills couldhelp them to find a job,” he says. Ordinarily education campaigns are costlyaffairs but with characteristic ingenuity, Rani approached local radio stationRadio Zibonele offering assistance with the support of their computers inexchange for airtime that the business would otherwise not have been able toafford. “We have a two year contract which consists of two hour slots on Sundaymorning and late on Mondays, and an advert every day,” he explains. This hasraised their profile in the community they serve and as Rani points out,highlighted the importance of marketing the business. “From seeing the returnsthat we got from our radio exposure, we now make sure that we allocate aportion of money every month to marketing,” he says.Since its inception the business hasincreased its turnover by 80%, doubled its number of customers and plans todouble its staff complement in the next two years. Rani and his team have plansfor a business lounge, a concept they are pioneering in Khayelitsha and willthen roll out in Gugulethu, Langa and other townships. Having captured theimagination and potential of this mass market, they’re well on their way toestablishing themselves as market leaders.

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.

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25 Of The Most Successful Business Ideas In South Africa

Find out who’s making waves in numerous industries and how they managed to differentiate themselves in local and international industries.

Nicole Crampton

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“Disruption is all about risk-taking, trusting your intuition, and rejecting the way things are supposed to be. Disruption goes way beyond advertising, it forces you to think about where you want your brand to go and how to get there,” says Richard Branson.

South Africa has its fair share of innovative and disruptive businesses taking both local and international industries by storm. From cutting edge space technology to reimagined logistics, and innovative business models, here are 25 of the most successful business ideas in South Africa:

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Colin Timmis Says ‘Position Yourself For Success By Starting With The Numbers’

People pay first who they feel pressure from, so people will pay you when they feel pressure from you.

CEOwise

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Entrepreneur Colin Timmis founded South Africa’s first cloud accounting practice in 2011, Real Time Accounting. Then, a few years after being appointed as South Africa’s first Xero partner Colin became Xero Country Manager South Africa. Xero is the emerging global leader of online accounting software that connects small businesses to their advisors and other services.

Related: Pat Pillai On How He’s Helped Over 5000 Entrepreneurs Using 3 Key Steps

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Two 20 Year Olds Reshape Entrepreneur Landscape With New Social Investment Platform

The Merge vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

Merge Connect

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It’s no secret that finding the right investor for your venture is a challenge that most entrepreneurs face. The current process of finding investment is one that is outdated, and limits entrepreneurs due to a lack of time, and network that is needed to find the right investor. But, this doesn’t have to be the case in today’s digital society, says Zander Matthee and Brandon Bate, co-founders of Merge.

“By making the Internet the middleman, we are able to connect with each other much simpler and faster than before” was Zander’s response. “We have taken advantage of this, and have created a digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors” added Brandon.

Merge is a social platform that connects entrepreneurs and investors. It aims to simplify, refine and accelerate the process of finding investment for entrepreneurs, and the process of finding investment opportunities for investors. From idea to developed, the platform allows entrepreneurs to present a brief outline of their venture to a network of all investor types. While doing this, entrepreneurs are able to browse through, and connect with investor profiles that suit their requirements.

Related: 8 Codes Of Success That Helped Priven Reddy of Kagiso Interactive Media Achieve A Networth Of Over R4 Billion

From Private Investors to Venture Capital, and everything in between, Merge allows all investor types to join. Investors have the opportunity to personalise their feed to suit their investment preferences, and will be able to connect with innovative businesses – that are looking for investment – at their fingertips. Only once there is a mutual interest in each other, are users able to enter a secure private chat where they can discuss further and share documents under the protection of a digital NDA.

The two boys became good friends during their time in high school at St Stithians Boys College. However, it was only in their last year, 2016, that they decided to pursue their dreams and create the platform. They didn’t know how to code, so rather ironically, they needed some form of investment to get the platform off the ground.

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“We knew we had a mountain to climb, but we believed in our vision and that we were really trying to make a difference, and if we could get others to see that, they would be onboard.” said Zander.

Related: Lessons From The Rich And Famous: Manage Your Money Like Oprah To Avoid Going Into Debt Like Nicholas Cage

Chris Peters is one of these individuals that bought into their vision, and became Merge’s first investor. As a successful entrepreneur and part time investor , Chris saw how much value the platform could bring to all entrepreneurs and investors alike. His marketing and strategic background gave him insight into how Merge could play a vital role in a lucrative space, Brand involvement.

“Entrepreneurship and SME development are two key factors that drive economic growth in developing countries like South Africa. That is why brands are currently getting involved, and looking to support entrepreneurs through various means. We have built a platform that allows these brands to successfully market, and execute on the programmes they have created to assist entrepreneurs.” said Chris

Merge was created to assist all entrepreneurs and investors in finding exactly what they are looking for, regardless of age, race, sex, financial position or social status. That is why anybody can sign-up as an entrepreneur. As long as you are determined and willing to work for your dreams. For too long has the investor space been seen as an “elite club for the select few”, and Merge is here to change that. Whether you’ve gotten your bonus at the end of the year and looking for new investment opportunities, or are an active investor, you can sign-up. Whether you’re currently working, or a retired industry leader, you can join as a mentor.

Their vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

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