CityPress - - Business - LARRY CLAASEN busi­ness@city­press.co.za

Katlego Maphai is some­what sur­prised that he started his own busi­ness.

“If you told me 10 years ago I was go­ing to be an en­tre­pre­neur, I would have laughed it off.”

Af­ter get­ting a de­gree in busi­ness sci­ence from the Univer­sity of Cape Town and then tak­ing sev­eral jobs in busi­ness con­sul­tancy, he thought he would re­main a cor­po­rate an­i­mal.

How­ever, while work­ing with a few dy­namic com­pa­nies in high-growth ar­eas in Africa and the Mid­dle East, he was in­spired by their abil­ity to do “ex­tra­or­di­nary things”.

A trip to the US in 2012 ce­mented the change in at­ti­tude. Maphai got the itch to go it alone when he was hav­ing a meal with a friend at a BBQ eatery that had great dishes, but wasn’t ex­actly on the tourist map. “It was a proper hole in the wall.”

When it be­came time to pay, he thought they would have to use cash, but to his sur­prise, the wait­ron al­lowed them to pay with a credit card. She took out an An­droid phone, plugged in Square – a de­vice that can fa­cil­i­tate card pay­ments – and their meals were paid for.

He re­alised South Africa needed some­thing sim­i­lar and later that year went about cre­at­ing Yoco – a card-read­ing busi­ness that works sim­i­larly to Square – with some friends.

It helped that sev­eral of his part­ners came from con­sult­ing and fi­nance back­grounds, as it meant they could use their busi­ness con­nec­tions to source fund­ing.

Though sev­eral card-read­ing busi­nesses that are in­de­pen­dent of the banks have taken off over the past few years, Maphai says Yoco is dif­fer­ent be­cause it’s fo­cus­ing on tak­ing this kind of pay­ment into places such as town­ships, where they are not ubiq­ui­tous.

“I don’t want a piece of the cake; I want to grow it.”

This has seen it come up with a dif­fer­ent way to of­fer its ser­vices.

For in­stance, they thought cost and tech­nol­ogy is­sues would be their big­gest chal­lenges.

In­stead, they found just get­ting the de­vice to their clients was the is­sue. “We re­alised we were ac­tu­ally solv­ing an ac­cess prob­lem.”

Banks would in­sist on six months of trad­ing his­tory and only sup­port busi­nesses in lo­ca­tions they ap­proved of, says Maphai.

Other card-pay­ment com­pa­nies would in­sist on lengthy con­tracts and lock cus­tomers into rent­ing card ma­chines.

For its part, Yoco does credit checks within min­utes, sells the de­vices and de­liv­ers them within a few days.

It has no fixed con­tracts and charges a fee on a slid­ing scale based on rev­enue.

The way he and his part­ners see it, there are busi­nesses (such as the BBQ diner that sparked the idea) that can be trans­formed by us­ing Yoco.

Some busi­nesses that only traded on week­ends have be­come full-time op­er­a­tions, says Maphai.

Yoko is plan­ning on sign­ing up 5 000 clients by the end of the year and has am­bi­tions of hav­ing 100 000 by 2022.

Maphai says de­spite the wide­spread use of pay­ment cards, only about 300 000 out of over 4 mil­lion busi­nesses in South Africa ac­cept card pay­ments.

It wants 68% of the busi­nesses it has signed up to be trans­act­ing at least once a month. Get­ting them to trans­act reg­u­larly suits Yoco, be­cause it means they be­come more sus­tain­able.

Hav­ing more card trans­ac­tions has an added ben­e­fit. It will al­low Yoco to spot trends and also to even­tu­ally see it in­te­grate its of­fer­ing into loan ser­vices, ac­count­ing pack­ages and in­ven­tory man­age­ment sys­tems.

Maphai says these ser­vices are im­por­tant be­cause there is lit­tle in­sti­tu­tional sup­port for small busi­nesses. “They are ex­tremely un­der­ser­viced. South Africa has a large, busi­ness-ori­ented econ­omy.”

Katlego Maphai

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