Un­leash­ing power of bulk buy­ing

Vuleka App gives spaza shops big dis­counts

Sunday World - - Jobs - By Xo­lile Mt­s­hazo mt­s­ha­[email protected]­day­world.co.za

So­cial en­trepreneurs Brian Mak­waiba and Os­car Monama have de­vised a mo­bile app that is mak­ing it easy for town­ship spaza shops and other in­for­mal busi­nesses to gain ac­cess to bulk buy­ing power to com­pete on an equal foot­ing.

Their en­tity, I Am Emerge, has a sub­sidiary mo­bile app, Vuleka.

Mak­waiba, 35, orig­i­nally from Khayelit­sha in Cape Town, said I Am Emerge solves mar­ket ac­cess chal­lenges faced by spaza shops, in­for­mal and for­mal busi­nesses. Their aim is to de­velop SMEs to serve their cus­tomers by bring­ing down prices to a mar­ket-re­lated level.

“We be­came op­er­a­tional in 2014. We do brand ac­ti­va­tions for big man­u­fac­tur­ers to ac­cess the spaza shops and in­for­mal busi­ness mar­ket,” he said.

“Bulk pur­chas­ing is key be­cause of the dis­counts we get from man­u­fac­tur­ers. Those are passed on to spaza own­ers, who in turn pass them to their cus­tomers. We take or­ders and de­liver. We’ve out­sourced the de­liv­ery trucks but most sig­nif­i­cantly for our clients who are not tech savvy we have youth mar­keters we have em­ployed to help our clients with how to place or­ders.”

The I Am Emerge-Vuleka ware­house is in Wyn­berg, a stone’s throw away from the ma­jor­ity of clients in Alexan­dra but they also ser­vice ar­eas in Soweto and Tem­bisa.

Spaza shops are a busi­ness worth about R10bn an­nu­ally and are the foun­da­tion of town­ship economies but are un­for­tu­nately fac­ing a survival bat­tle.

“We’ve seen a lot of old town­ship gen­eral dealer own­ers bounc­ing back to re­claim the busi­ness they had hired out to for­eign na­tion­als, which is a good thing and is wel­comed,” Mak­waiba said.

He said, col­lec­tively, spaza shops can be a force to be reck­oned with if they club to­gether to make bulk buy­ing one of the cor­ner­stones of their busi­nesses.

“We ne­go­ti­ate with man­u­fac­tur­ers, then put the goods spaza shops or­der in the ware­house and de­liver to their doorsteps. We even use taxis to de­liver. The goods are cheaper than they would be from whole­salers.”

Co-founder Os­car Monama said they view them­selves as a “new gen­er­a­tion of en­trepreneurs, that com­bine street knowl­edge – know­ing how busi­ness to­day af­fects the nor­mal per­son on the streets”.

But the busi­ness has ex­pe­ri­enced its fair share of hur­dles.

Monama, 24, from Mo­lapo in Soweto, said they had to come up with an un­com­pli­cated plat­form for clients to place or­ders.

“We’re over­com­ing the hur­dles through our youth mar­keters who can be con­tacted by phone as they re­side in the neigh­bour­hood,” Monama said.

I Am Emerge won many awards in 2017. In Au­gust it won the Town­ship En­trepreneur­ship Award in youth and re­tail fi­nance. It was named among SA’s top 50 en­trepreneurs.

“We’ve seen a lot of old town­ship gen­eral dealer own­ers re­claim their busi­nesses”

Mt­s­hazo / Xo­lile

Brian Mak­waiba and Os­car Monama are co-founders and own­ers of I Am Emerge, a mass mar­ket­ing busi­ness.

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