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Kasi entrepreneurs seize the day as delivery orders boom

Online delivery services are gaining traction during lockdown, including in townships.
Online delivery services are gaining traction during lockdown, including in townships.
Image: 123RF/David Sandonato

After losing his office space during the Covid-19 lockdown, entrepreneur Thulani Mkhabela saw a gap for an online delivery service in Tembisa, Ekurhuleni, that could bring in an income.

The founder of Siyeza Delivery, an online courier service for fast food, grocery, clothing and pharmacy orders, had recently left the corporate world to build a company that would service his township.

"We started a company called Midembev in 2019 and were distributing beverages to local spazas in townships when this pandemic came in and kicked us out of our offices," he said.

"With a staff of four and bills to pay, I saw a gap to tap into a market that was never seen as fertile enough to produce profit."

Mkhabela said e-commerce was novel in the township market, so he had to take time to inform and educate clients about the company’s personal delivery services and how this would be beneficial to them amid the pandemic.

"Siyeza Delivery means ‘we are on the way’ and guarantees our clients that their order is coming. Funnily enough, when they receive it, they too believe it’s possible to trust in online delivery services," he said.

The company has partnered with local shops and food outlets, laundromat services and pharmacies. Delivery charges vary based on the distance covered.

I saw a gap to tap into a market that was never seen as fertile enough to produce profit.
Thulani Mkhabela

"Our most popular services are pharmacy deliveries. We have a lot of people who live in fear of Covid-19 and prefer we deliver medication for them. After medication, it has to be food - specifically local food such as your kotas and African cuisine," he said.

With business booming, he is helping to fight unemployment by contracting drivers who own scooters and paying them a percentage of every delivery.

"If you have a scooter, you can come to us and register to deliver under Siyeza and earn an income that way," he said.

Mkhabela said they were planning on rolling out their service nationwide in the future.

"We have an app on the way to make things easier for clients - which has cost us an arm and leg - so we can compete with the likes of Uber Eats and Mr D," he said.

In the Eastern Cape, meanwhile, Hombakazi Kobo and two of her friends have begun an alcohol delivery service to assist those who cannot physically go to bottle stores due to a lack of transport, underlying health issues or fear of going into public spaces amid the pandemic.

As the only person with a car in her circle of friends, the 21-year-old initially decided that she could start earning money during level 3 by buying and delivering alcohol to them.

"I had this idea and shared it with my friends. I got a good response from them. But then they started calling, saying that their cousins also wanted to have alcohol delivered. After their cousins, it was their neighbours. I said, why not take this to another level and deliver around East London?"

Popular items among her clients' orders include ciders, beer, wine and whiskey.

Kobo hopes her service can help reduce the number of people who are out in public during the pandemic.

Mkhabela added that it's up to township residents to create their own opportunities.

"We are the solutions to our problems, I believe, and we need to rely on ourselves and be confident enough that we can do it," he said.

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