SA craft producers are getting “ripped off”, e-commerce startup looks to resolve

South African startup WavuNow, which aims to utilise e-commerce to give local craft producers a fair deal, is among 15 businesses in with the chance to visit the UK as part of the International Training Bootcamp.

HumanIPO reported yesterday 15 selected South African entrepreneurs pitched at the BT Global Services International Trade Bootcamp, at the University of Stellenbosch Business School in Bellville, Cape Town, last week.

Among those selected was Veronica Shangali Aswani, co-Founder and director of WavuNow, who was also the only female entrepreneur present.

“At the bottom of the pyramid you have almost 50 percent of the population – [it] is [the] rural community, but there we have extremely skilled people that are sitting at the bottom of the pyramid.”

Aswani pointed to Statistics South Africa’s information, revealing tourists spend around R68 million (US$ 7.6 million) per year in the country, of which around 13 percent is on tourism related products and 22 percent on non-specific goods.

“I believe that a portion of 22 percent also goes to tourism related products, for example those from the road side with no recorded receipts, who are attracted to buy these craft items from curio shops,”she said. 

 However, craft shops are generally unfair in the treatment of the local artists, making in some cases up to 200 percent profit.

“They rip them off,” Aswani said.

Paying 100 of invoice value to crafters, WavuNow aims to give suppliers what they deserve, while still making the business profitable.

The company also delegates training for suppliers to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) which have existing platforms to assist the community, such as Siyakhula Trust and Topsy Foundation.

With 250 artists on the database, 25 selling over 100 products online and 50 willing NGOs to assist with 10 actively involved, the online business is well on the way.

“Everybody can make something, but can it sell?” Aswani asserted, and added that she also offers ideas to artists and negotiate in a process of developing an original product to avoid the typical reproduction.

Targeting a vast array of companies for production, including event organisers, travel agents, retail groups, sports merchandise, arts and craft shops, interior decorators and logistical companies, the entrepreneur is determined to expand WavuNow to various fields.

The business was launched in July 2012 and is already active in the South African provinces of Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Gauteng and the Western Cape with townships such as Khayelitsha and Alexandra all benefitting from the enterprise.

The next step for WavuNow will be to acquire transport and a warehouse for mass production. For now the products are shipped directly from the suppliers via the national post office service or FedEx.

Regarding being the only female contestant, Judi Sandrock, Chief Executive at Micro Enterprise Development Organisation (MEDO) which runs the International Training Bootcamp, said: “What is interesting though is that we had over a 100 applicants and only Veronica has made it through all the steps.”

“She’s been able to stand her own and come through because she’s so much more determined. She’s decided to do it and the whole thing is she’s got it up and running and she did on her own,” Sandrock added.

Posted in: Startups

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