An app a day keeps stag­na­tion away

IT’S HARD TO CRE­ATE AN APP THAT CAN THRIVE IN SA’S FAST-PACED TECH­NOL­OGY SEC­TOR, BUT THESE MEN ARE PROV­ING THAT THE BEST IN­NO­VA­TIONS ARE THOSE WHICH IM­PROVE SO­CI­ETY

Destiny Man - - MEN FULFILLING THEIR DESTINY -

LEV­EL­LING THE PLANT­ING FIELD

Kari­das Tsh­intsholo (23) hails from the town­ship of Ekan­gala (north-east of Pre­to­ria). His en­tre­pre­neur­ial jour­ney started at an early age, sparked by the need to help his mother pro­vide for the fam­ily.

He and his business part­ner, Matthew Piper

(24), have cre­ated an app that prom­ises to break down the bar­ri­ers which have kept hun­dreds of thou­sands of black South African farmers out of the agri­cul­tural in­dus­try.

It’s based on a sim­ple con­cept: the main rea­son most emerg­ing black farmers don’t get a chance to sup­ply the coun­try’s big su­per­mar­ket chains is their lack of suf­fi­cient farm­land to ful­fil the mas­sive or­ders these chains typ­i­cally re­quire. En­ter Khula, an app that al­lows farmers around the coun­try to com­bine their re­sources, con­tribut­ing what­ever amount of pro­duce they can to ful­fil an or­der larger than they’d be able to sup­ply on their own. They don’t even have to meet each other or any­one at the su­per­mar­ket chains they’re sup­ply­ing: it’s a digital co-op­er­a­tive.

“Khula is es­sen­tially a sup­ply chain so­lu­tion,” says Tsh­intsholo. “It’s not just an app – it’s an ecosys­tem which links ev­ery­one from the farmer to the lo­gis­tics, to the ware­house and to the client.” So now the coun­try’s big­gest su­per­mar­ket can sup­port the de­vel­op­ment of emerg­ing farmers with­out the hassle of iden­ti­fy­ing and vet­ting all of them.

Tsh­intsholo’s no stranger to en­trepreneur­ship, hav­ing gone through the Al­lan Gray Or­bis Foun­da­tion fel­low­ship for en­trepreneurs from the age of 19 and started a fi­nan­cial lit­er­acy mag­a­zine dur­ing his first year of study at the Univer­sity of Cape Town, where he was pur­su­ing a Bach­e­lor’s de­gree in ac­tu­ar­ial sci­ence. How­ever, the Khula app proved to be so vi­able that he left his stud­ies in his sec­ond year to fo­cus on grow­ing the business. The project’s since evolved into a ma­jor na­tional cam­paign, backed by Old Mu­tual.

Tsh­intsholo and Piper have been work­ing on Khula since 2015 and have in­vested over R300 000 of their own money into the ini­tia­tive. There are cur­rently 175 ac­tive farmers on the plat­form with whom they trade daily in a pilot pro­gramme they’ve run over the past year. The pair are now seek­ing seed fund­ing in or­der to scale Khula around the coun­try.

“KHULA ISN’T JUST AN APP – IT’S AN ECOSYS­TEM WHICH LINKS EV­ERY­ONE FROM THE FARMER TO THE LO­GIS­TICS, TO THE WARE­HOUSE AND TO THE CLIENT.”

A FRUIT­FUL PART­NER­SHIP

Tha­bang Koloi (35) has a 1ha farm in Ob­ser­va­tory, Jo­han­nes­burg that he’s been work­ing for more than 10 years as part of a co-op­er­a­tive com­pris­ing nine farmers, 11 stu­dents from the Tsh­wane Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy and three ca­sual work­ers. The land was leased to them by the Univer­sity of the Wit­wa­ter­srand and the co-op­er­a­tive grows 17 dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties of pro­duce. Koloi’s been part­ner­ing with Khula for nearly a year.

“It’s been won­der­ful,” he says. “Af­ter win­ter, I’m plan­ning to plant one side of the farm specif­i­cally for Khula be­cause every time I’ve ac­cepted an or­der from them, they’ve col­lected the pro­duce as soon as it was ready and paid im­me­di­ately.”

THE DOCTOR WILL SEE YOU NOW

By the time Sher­aan Amod (32) moved back to SA in 2013, af­ter sev­eral years in the USA, he’d shown him­self to be a ca­pa­ble en­tre­pre­neur, hav­ing built Per­son­era, a com­pany which al­lows peo­ple to cre­ate photo al­bums, greet­ing cards and calendars by com­bin­ing images from their so­cial me­dia ac­counts. They can then have the al­bums printed and de­liv­ered to them. At its peak, Per­son­era had part­ner­ships with Face­book and Xerox and was sold to Amer­i­can firm Im­pres­sion Works LLC for an undis­closed amount.

Amod started the ven­ture fresh out of univer­sity, hav­ing ob­tained a Bach­e­lor’s de­gree in elec­tri­cal en­gi­neer­ing and com­puter sci­ence from the Univer­sity of Cape Town. He in­ter­rupted his stud­ies for a Mas­ter’s in en­gi­neer­ing man­age­ment at Stel­len­bosch Univer­sity to pur­sue en­trepreneur­ship. By the time he was ready to re­turn to SA, this son of doctor par­ents knew he wanted to cre­ate an app that could rev­o­lu­tionise the health­care sec­tor.

The re­sult was Re­coMed, an app that al­lows pa­tients to search for health­care prac­ti­tion­ers within their area, read re­views, com­pare prices and book ap­point­ments – all with­out leav­ing their homes. “It’s Airbnb for health­care,” says Amod.

The com­pany’s grown sub­stan­tially in its five years of ex­is­tence. With of­fices in Jo­han­nes­burg and Cape Town, Re­coMed is used by about 1 500 health­care pro­fes­sion­als and Amod ex­pects to ser­vice one to two mil­lion unique users this year. The app costs noth­ing to use, but health­care prac­ti­tion­ers pay a small fee for each client booked through it. It pow­ers the na­tional book­ing ser­vices for both Medi­cross and Clicks and pro­vides in-house clinic book­ings for Dis­cov­ery Health’s em­ploy­ees. Re­coMed has at­tracted in­vest­ment of more than R15 mil­lion.

“We get a lot of pos­i­tive feed­back about how we’ve given peo­ple peace of mind when there’s a health emer­gency,” says Amod. “That means a lot to us. We can see that what we’re do­ing is gen­uinely im­prov­ing peo­ple’s lives and ul­ti­mately help­ing the coun­try. That makes us very proud.”

DOCTOR’S OR­DERS

“Use of the app has grown sig­nif­i­cantly,” says Dr An­nie G Hall, a pri­vate health­care prac­ti­tioner who started us­ing Re­coMed early last year.

“The feed­back from pa­tients has been very pos­i­tive and most now use this as their only means of book­ing a con­sul­ta­tion.

“From our end, the ex­pe­ri­ence has been equally pos­i­tive. The Re­coMed team re­spond quickly, note users’ com­ments, act on them and give com­pre­hen­sive feed­back. This sys­tem works and I can un­equiv­o­cally rec­om­mend it to other GP prac­tices.”

“KHULA ISN’T JUST AN APP – IT’S AN ECOSYS­TEM WHICH LINKS EV­ERY­ONE FROM THE FARMER TO THE LO­GIS­TICS, TO THE WARE­HOUSE AND TO THE CLIENT.”

DIGITAL NEIGH­BOUR­HOOD WATCH

The idea of cre­at­ing Jonga came to Nt­sako Mgiba (23) when he was vis­it­ing his aunt in Wit­bank and her home was tar­geted by bur­glars. He later dis­cov­ered that sev­eral other homes in the neigh­bour­hood had been bur­gled the same night and be­gan won­der­ing whether the crimes could have been pre­vented if there’d been bet­ter com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween his aunt and her neigh­bours.

Af­ter re­turn­ing to the cam­pus of UCT, where he

“WE WANT TO SELL THE HARD­WARE FOR SOME­THING AF­FORD­ABLE AND THEN CHARGE USERS A MONTHLY FEE, WHICH WOULD IN­CLUDE DATA COSTS.”

was pur­su­ing a Bach­e­lor’s de­gree in mecha­tron­ics and en­gi­neer­ing, he be­gan work­ing with fi­nance stu­dent Ntan­doyenkosi Shezi (23) on a so­lar power ven­ture. “I told him that a neigh­bour­hood watch app was the project we re­ally needed to be work­ing on. He bought into it and we got started right away,” re­calls Mgiba.

Jonga is an In­ter­net of Things so­lu­tion in which a mo­tion sen­sor is placed in your home and you’re no­ti­fied on your phone every time move­ment’s de­tected in your ab­sence. The app gives the op­tion of alert­ing your neigh­bours to a pos­si­ble burglary in progress.

Es­tab­lished in 2015, the com­pany’s since gone through mLabs, where Mgiba and Shezi re­ceived train­ing and fund­ing of R400 000, as well as through the San­tam Safety Ideas Cam­paign – a part­ner­ship be­tween San­tam, Launch Labs and In­novus – through which they re­ceived fund­ing of R150 000. In to­tal, they’ve raised in­vest­ments of R1 mil­lion and have been pi­lot­ing the project in the Cape Town town­ship of Khayelit­sha.

“We’re still ex­plor­ing pric­ing, but we want to sell the hard­ware for some­thing af­ford­able and then charge users a monthly ser­vice fee, which would in­clude data costs,” says Mgiba. “We’re in the pre-com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion stage and sev­eral house­holds in Khayelit­sha have ex­pressed in­ter­est in pur­chas­ing it.”

They plan to launch the app of­fi­cially by Oc­to­ber this year. For now, though, the team’s small, com­pris­ing only Ntando, Nt­sako, two peo­ple who deal with sales and mar­ket­ing, as well as two an­gel in­vestors. Their long-term plans in­clude rolling out this digital so­lu­tion na­tion­ally.

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