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Redshift – Connecting South African small retailers with shoppers during lockdown

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Mmabatho Mokiti, Founding Director at Redshift

Have you ever wondered why all technologies seem to launch in the more centralized urban areas particularly in Johannesburg? Why, although the township economy keeps thriving and the technological advancements seem to ignore this economy. These were the questions Mmabatho Mokiti, John McDonald and Douglas Hoseck who founded Redshift had.

“I woke up and found myself in a lockdown, amidst a pandemic with soldiers on the streets and worry about just getting basic groceries. I worried about my neighbors and how they would protect themselves. The entrepreneurs in my neighborhood, who would have to shut down for safety reasons even though they formed part of essential services. It seemed to me, that there was a unique dilemma we faced and this insight was the reason we built the Redshift Store Connector.” Says Mokiti

According to a recent report by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) which measures the size of South Africa’s small business sector, of South Africa’s estimated 5.78 million MSMEs (Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises), only 14% are formalised. Of the 817 000 formal MSMEs, 686 000 are classified as small, very small and micro. In contrast, there exists over 2 million informal MSMEs and 2,89 million survivalist businesses. Most micro and very small businesses exist to create self-employment.

Retail accounts for the majority of MSMEs with most of them operating in domestic trade (wholesale and retail). The current lockdown has seen a boom for large food retailers and established chain stores, which have benefited from panic buying. But presents a serious blow to the prospects of small independent retailers in township environments.

John McDonald, Founding Director at Redshift

“We decided to do something to help South Africa during her time of need. Given Redshift is an agile, easy to use website builder with phenomenal turnaround times, we built our Local Store Connector in a matter of hours with a solution oriented mentality in mind. Here’s the perfect tool to help connect consumers to small business owners while solving several problems at once. Social distancing, food security, safety and convenience are some of the immediate benefits that a customer will gain from using the Local Store Connector. The benefits for small business owners include getting a free online presence to help make an already under-pressure customer base aware that they are open for trade during lockdown and facilitating customer orders,” says McDonald.

While the lockdown regulations allow food retailers to continue trading, they must formally apply for a license to do so. There is lack of clarity as to whether independent retailers such as spaza shops are allowed to trade from their premises, and social distancing protocols have discouraged shoppers from utilising their services. This has resulted in most shoppers flocking to large chain stores as evidenced by the long lines seen at shopping malls and large outlets.

Also Read: These two Africans are helping businesses and individuals spend less time doing expenses with Xpensi

In support of small businesses in South Africa, Redshift supported by FinMark Trust will focus on using digital means to connect township food retailers to their customer base. The Redshift platform provides small businesses the opportunity to list themselves and accept orders from shoppers. These orders can then be pre-packed and readied for collection by the customer or for home delivery. As part of the on-boarding process, the platform facilitates MSME’s formally registering as essential businesses, which then allows them to continue to trade during the lockdown.

Subsequent phases will include introduction of digital payments and digital generation of management accounts that will assist in securing funding for working capital and expansion.

Redshift’s Online Store Connector functions in two ways:

  1. It allows retail MSMEs to register their stores in order to access the local marketat no cost; and
  2. It allows customers to shop from their local stores by simply submitting their grocery list and collecting their them after receiving confirmation, again at no cost. Thus, avoiding long queuesand the risk of getting infected and spreading the virus, while enabling food security for households.

The Local Shop Connector

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aYo Uganda delivers value through pandemic

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Microinsurer aYo Uganda has underlined its commitment to the economic wellbeing of its customers in the country by paying out more than UGX 760 Million Shillings in 2020, through the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. The company offers Hospitalisation and Life Insurance Cover through its two insurance products, ‘Send with Care’ and ‘Recharge with Care’. Commenting on the company’s performance, the CEO of aYo Uganda, Allan Lwanga, said consumer anxieties around Covid and its related economic challenges had heightened awareness of the need for protection and help in the event of either loss of life or hospitalisation.

“Despite the challenges brought about by the containment measures and an uncertain pathway of the pandemic including over three months of lockdown, the company was able to onboard up to 1 million new customers for the Recharge with Care product, and over 200 000 new customers for Send with Care products,” said Mr Lwanga.

Microinsurance is seen as a powerful enabler of financial inclusion in African markets, providing a much-needed social safety net that helps vulnerable people and particularly people with low incomes to stay afloat when the unexpected happens. This is particularly important in a developing country such as Uganda, where lower income households and informal traders have been hard-hit by the pandemic, as it has reduced their ability to generate an income.

aYo Uganda’s ‘Send with Care’ and ‘Recharge with Care’ products cater for all MTN subscribers. aYo Recharge with Care offers life and hospital insurance cover every time customers recharge their MTN airtime. Subscribers can sign up by dialling *296# on their mobile phones, and use the same process for filing claims. Valid claims are paid directly to the claimant’s mobile money wallet without any hassle. With Send with Care, aYo provides up to triple the amounts that customers have sent via MTN Mobile Money over the previous four months. Life cover pays out to their family in the event of their passing, and hospital cover pays straight into their MTN Mobile Money account if they spend one night or more in hospital due to an accident or illness. When customers send money, they simply select aYo Send with Care when prompted*, or dial *165*1*4#.

 

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CEO Corner

African Bank Appoints Kennedy Bungane, CEO

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African Bank New CEO, Kennedy Bungane (Press Release & Image: African Bank)

African Bank (“Board”) announces the appointment of Mr. Kennedy Bungane as the Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”) and as an executive director of the Bank and its holding company, African Bank Holdings Limited (“ABH”) effective 14 April 2021. The Bank confirms that the appointment of Kennedy was done in accordance with African Bank’s policy on the selection and nomination of executive directors, and in order to fill a vacancy as well as add to the skillset on the Board.

Kennedy brings over 20 years of banking experience with him, having started his career at Standard Bank in 1991, holding a number of senior positions, including Head of Global Markets Sales, Head of Institutional and Corporate Banking, CEO Corporate and Investment Banking for Standard Bank South Africa, and a member of the Standard Bank Group Executive Committee. After joining Barclays Africa in 2012 as Chief Executive of Barclays Africa Limited and Head of Absa Group strategy, Kennedy led the sale of Barclays Africa Limited to the ABSA Group. More recently, Kennedy headed up the Phembani Group as its CEO. He also brings investment and strategic experience gained as the founder and chairman of Nokeng Telecoms and chairman of Idwala Capital.

Kennedy holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree, a Master of Business Administration, and completed the advanced management program at the Harvard Business School (USA).

Commenting on Kennedy’s appointment, the Chairman of the Board, Thabo Dloti, stated, “We welcome the appointment of Kennedy as the new permanent CEO. Kennedy has a keen sense for managing complex stakeholder issues. He has a proven track record in identifying and nurturing leadership, which promotes strong teams to deliver successful results. His passion for the role that banking can play in transforming society resonated strongly with the Board.

As an experienced banker, he also critically has a good grasp of the strategic challenges facing the Bank, within a muted South African economy and competitive landscape, as well as the required regulatory and governance framework.

 

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Investment

Platform Capital invests in USA-based innovative peer-to-peer financing platform SoLo Funds

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Platform Capital Chairman, Dr. Akintoye Akindele and Rodney Williams, Co-Founder of SoLo Funds Inc. (Image & Press Release: Platform Capital)

Platform Capital (“Platform”), a leading growth markets investor, is pleased to announce its investment in and partnership with SoLo Funds Inc. (“SoLo”), an innovative and proprietary peer-to-peer financing platform based in USA that has revolutionised the access to and supply of short-term funds for individuals, entrepreneurs, and businesses.

Twenty-five percent of Americans are unbanked or underbanked, whilst 80% of American workers live paycheck to paycheck, and don’t have adequate savings to cover unforeseen expenses. In addition, implicit and explicit biases mean that women and people of colour are three times more likely to see their credit applications rejected. As a result, they are left with no other options, and fall prey to payday lenders, where a small loan can accrue over 400% APR, trapping them in a cycle of debt.

SoLo replaces payday lenders with a community-based, market-driven model for access to short-term funds for individuals. Through its community, individuals are able to access funds ranging from $50 to $1,000 for up to 2 weeks, that are delivered within hours through a simple and non-approval sign-up process powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning. The platform connects users directly and determines a SoLo score based on ability to repay, spending habits, payment frequency, behavioural data, and location-based data. There are no fees or compounding interest paid to SoLo or the member of the community providing the funds, avoiding the debt trap that is common in traditional short-term lending.

Since launch in 2018, the SoLo community has grown to over 300,000 users. The company has seen significant adoption of its model in states with large populations and high cost of living. Over the past 12 months, SoLo’s community has experienced more than 2,000% growth, introduced a new product feature “lender protection service” that safeguards the financed amount in case of a default, and has partnered with Kiva to enable access to funds for entrepreneurs and business owners ranging from $1,000 to $15,000.

SoLo Funds mission is to replace payday lenders with a community-based, market-driven model for individuals, entrepreneurs, and businesses to access financing. The company has raised $10 million lead by international investors including ACME Capital, Impact America Fund, Techstars, Endeavor Catalyst, and CEAS Investments to further develop its technology, scale its team, and expand across the USA.

Dr. Akintoye Akindele, Chairman of Platform Capital, joins the Board as an observer & adviser.

Rodney Williams, Co-Founder of SoLo Funds Inc., said “We’re excited about our partnership with Platform Capital, we look forward to expanding our services into Africa. This partnership enables us to achieve our vision of being the number one access to funds provider for people and businesses in need. We believe that our platform will certainly impact and change conversation in Africa around how businesses and individuals can access funds.”

Dr. Akintoye Akindele, Chairman of Platform Capital, said: “We are proud to partner with SoLo Funds. Access to funds is a problem that affects millions of people globally. We believe that SoLo’s alternative approach to laccessing funds will impact millions of lives and position them as an innovative disruptor in the funding space. We look forward to working with SoLo Funds to scale their innovative solutions to positively impact people’s lives.”

 

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