Connect with us


Spoken Ink: Kali Illunga

A young entrepreneur captures the youth market through innovative mobile campaigns that meet their needs.

Juliet Pitman



Kali Llunga of Spoken Ink

When Kali Illunga did his learners anddrivers licence tests – and failed them repeatedly – he knew there had to be abetter way of going about things. “I remember my frustration with the wholeprocess – from the corruption to the lack of access to really goodinformation,” he recalls. Some preliminary research revealed that1,95 million people do their learners and drivers licence tests each year, andon average fail three times. “There is a 55% pass rate but those who arefailing are failing many times over,” he says.

Fillinga gap

It was a gap that couldn’t be ignored.Illunga, through his company Spoken Ink, set about creating a mobile campaignto help young people pass the tests. “We filmed teaching videos, animated themand made them available on mobile phones, along with practice tests. We got thedepartment of transport to endorse our campaign through Arrive Alive, andMcCarthy sponsored it to gain exposure for their Chery brand,” he explains. To entice users, some 20% of thecontent is free; the remainder can be downloaded for a small fee. Within thefirst 13 weeks, Spoken Ink’s Chery K53 MobiAssist site had 135 000 users, 13 600 competition entrants and was thesecond most popular brand on MXit. “The concept is simple and effective –almost every youngster in South Africa has a mobile phone. They may not beable to afford to buy a driving test book or pay someone to give them lessons,but they can download our content onto their phone. The idea is to give youngpeople great mobile content that can educate them to help improve their lives,”says Illunga.

Meetingyouth market needs

It’s an idea that underpins SpokenInk’s mission. “We identify youth market needs and develop great, relevantmobile content to meet them,” Illunga explains. Sponsorship from corporatebrands like McCarthy covers the cost of creating the content and running the campaign.It’s a win-win situation for all; young people get the content they want,brands such as McCarthy get exposure to a notoriously tough youth market, andSpoken Ink generates a profit. “But the secret ingredient to all ofthis is great content,” says Illunga, “A mobile or new media campaign doesn’tnecessarily make your brand cutting edge or innovative. It doesn’t help youreach the youth market effectively if your content is condescending orirrelevant to their needs.”

Learningfrom lessons in print

As a 22-year-old, Illunga has a goodsense of what the youth market is looking for, but he also draws on his pastexperience in print media. While still at school, he launched War Cry, amagazine aimed at the top 60 high schools in South Africa. It was a publicationdriven by passion and very little else. “We were 17 years old and all we knewwas that we wanted to create a great magazine for high schools,” says Illunga.He sold adverts to corporates from public phones between classes. The magazine was a relative success butits real value lay in teaching Illunga some important lessons. “I learnteverything I know about business and the youth market from that project,” hesays.

Movingto new media

But the experience turned him off printmedia. “We had great content but it was only available every three months andfor this market, three months is an eternity. The costs were also ridiculous,”he says. While working at an agency, Illungawanted to start trying out new media campaigns. “I kept thinking ‘This wouldwork so much better if people could download it as a Podcast or onto theirphone’,” he says. But clients were afraid to launch into a medium few of themunderstood. “So all credit to McCarthy for taking aleap of faith with the MobiAssist campaign,” Illunga interjects. The company’sconfidence paid off, allowing the Chery brand to speak to youngsters withdrivers licences who were looking to buy a car. “And the numbers get very bigvery quickly because young people tell their friends and soon everyone isdownloading the content,” he adds.

Scalingthe business

Spoken Ink’s K53 MobiAssist campaignwas just the beginning. Since then, Illunga has identified other youthmarket needs and is launching more and more sponsored campaigns to meet them,targeting clients who want to market their products and services to the youth.Over the next five years he plans to kick off campaigns that will reachmillions of South African users. Africa’sgrowing mobile phone market also presents opportunities for expansion. “I wantSpoken Ink Campaigns to be the go-to place for mobile upskilling andeducational content across Africa,” he sayssimply. Is it a tall order? Sure. Is he up toit? You bet.

  • SpokenInk
  • Player:Kali Illunga
  • Est.2005
  • +2776 846 2448, +27 11 326 4618

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Maame Esi Nyamekye Thompson

    Dec 20, 2011 at 22:04

    we need more o these stories

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply


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



Prev1 of 26


“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:

Prev1 of 26

Continue Reading


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.






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

Continue Reading

Company Posts

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




Vital Stats

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.


“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.

Continue Reading



Recent Posts

Follow Us

We respect your privacy. 
* indicates required.