Cape Town - Silulo Ulutho Technologies has launched a first-of-its-kind incubation programme for township-based businesses at Watergate Mall in Mitchells Plain.
The hub will offer the hiring of offices, as well as boardroom and training rooms, and will house 18 businesses.
The initiative is a partnership with Vodacom, which will offer connectivity to small businesses and IT services.
“This vision [of the incubation] has been there from the beginning. We’ve always wanted to create this type of a centre - a one-stop place - but we didn’t have funding back then. We had a plan, but there was no money. You find this type of co-working space everywhere but in the townships,” Rani said.
Vodacom Managing Executive for SMME and Indirect Channel, Ismail Gani, said in a statement: “Our partnership with Silulo is one of several initiatives to empower and grow small businesses. The drive towards the ‘Digital SMME’ is a key initiative of Vodacom. It is critical that big business ensures that our small to medium enterprises are part of the fourth industrial revolution.”
“Our partnership with Silulo extends beyond the Incubation Centre. Vodacom is confident that this partnership will empower the SMME community towards digitisation and enhanced productivity,” Gani added.
Rani said the main challenges when it comes to this type of business are infrastructure and funding.
“Silulo is a pioneer and we can go anywhere, there are no boundaries in business. This is a flagship store. We want to replicate this in every province. Silulo’s success lies in partnerships,” Rani said. The incubator already has three tenants that have signed up.
Deputy Minister of Small Business and Development Cassel Mathale said: “For many years we’ve been trained to be workers and not as business people. This mindset must change. We need to educate our people at an early age to be entrepreneurs.”
Rani, a former teacher, together with his brother Lonwabo started selling computers from the boot of a car more than ten years ago. Silulo Technologies now has 42 branches in three provinces: the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal and 22 franchise stores, some of which are owned by former Silulo employees.
“My brother always tells us to think about the bigger picture. It was that bigger picture that kept us going. Back in 2006, what you see today is exactly how it was when we envisioned it," said Lonwabo Rani, who is the business's technical director.
In 2017 Silulo reached a total of 29 000 students trained since inception. It trained 65 students through MIC SETA in both the Eastern Cape and Western Cape.
Rani also remodelled his business in 2017 by offering a walk-in iPhone repair service at the Khayelitsha branch.
Rani, who was part of the Team South Africa to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland in 2018, has received numerous accolades for his social impact business.
He was also awarded a Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2016 among his many accolades.
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