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 the technological advancements seem to ignore this economy.
These were the questions Mmabatho Mokiti, John McDonald and Douglas Hoseck had, 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 neighbours and how they would protect themselves. There are entrepreneurs in my neighbourhood, 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 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 classed 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 MSMEs operating in domestic trade (wholesale and retail). The current lockdown has seen a boom for large food retailers and established chain stores, which have benefitted from panic buying, but presents a serious blow to the prospects of small independent retailers in township environments.
“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.
In support of small businesses in South Africa, Redshift (supported in part 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.