StokFella to awaken a multi billion-rand sleeping beast.
Cape Town – The stokvel industry is a sleeping billion-dollar phoenix that just needs the right match to ignite its fire, Soweto born-entrepreneur Tshepo Moloi, founder of newly launched StokFella told Fin24.
StokFella is an app-based company that helps stokvels – saving or investment societies – manage their savings via a smartphone.
The app targets stokvel members who have a smartphone, in particular the administrators
“who carry the burden of managing and communicating the stokvel activities”.
Moloi is not deterred by the fact that his target market could be illiterate.
“We are not ignorant of the barriers for the older generation in relation to adopting technology, building trust or financial illiteracy.
“To tackle all these factors, we realised early on that we have to approach these individuals directly (through face to face or direct marketing) and through someone they can trust.
Hence we plan to host monthly demonstrations of the solution in communities which will be conducted by a person in that community (old or not) who is currently using the application in their stokvel.
Moloi introduced his app in February and according to him the uptake has been phenomenal.
“Nothing is more powerful than evidence-based ambassadorship. Our first event in Soweto was very successful and we plan to spread this model throughout the country as we grow.
Furthermore, we designed the application with older and semi-literate users in mind, thus ensuring navigating the application is user friendly,”
“Smartphone penetration in South Africa sits at 53%, and with more affordable smartphones entering the market, we believe it is a matter of time before all stokvel members own a smartphone”
, he says.
“The illiterate will depend on the treasurer or any other literate member to facilitate their capturing on the app. This is why we created the ‘On behalf’ functionality which allows any member within the stokvel to capture payments and claims for another member who is illiterate or does not have a smartphone.
“When the illiterate is educated on how to use the app, as they download the app we auto populate all the history that was captured on their behalf. This way, we save them time and the stress of feeling left out of our innovative solution,”
Moloi says although banks seem to be his competition, his business concept is still unique.
“Our direct competition is online stokvel platforms but our focus is mobile. Direct competition, one may argue, is financial institutions; however, we see synergies between us and them that will push the stokvel market into the next level.
“We also believe that our success model is our business’ agility and efficiency, and our team is vastly experienced with our target market.”
According to Moloi all of the StokFella staff members have been part of a stokvel or a burial society on a personal capacity or indirectly from a young age through their mothers and fathers.
He admits that their concept is not unique as there are many concepts out there.
“What we have done is take the time to develop the solution closely with stokvel members over the past two years.
“We are confident we know how to service this industry from a unique mobile technological perspective, giving our product a strong market fit.”
Moloi says he believes the stokvel is an under-serviced industry that could positively impact the country’s economic growth, if channelled correctly.
“For example, the Gauteng government is spending R3.5bn for new Gautrains, a R7.2bn road infrastructure upgrade and R2bn for an Aviation Simulation and Training Centre.
“They will likely do this using taxpayers’ money or loans from formal financial institutions.
“The stokvel industry is worth an estimated +R44bn – reserves that could easily finance this infrastructure development and structure share schemes if channelled correctly, could give ordinary South Africans a stake in the economic wellbeing of the country,”
According to Moloi entrepreneurship in South Africa, particularly among the majority of the black population is still in its infancy and therefore he believes collaboration is probably the most critical consideration for start-ups in the current environment.
StokFella has collaborated with Pluritone, an IT service industry specialist in software, which helps with the development of the app.
They also work with Definitive Edge for PR exposure and GoSocial SA for social media presence.
“Most black entrepreneurs are first generation entrepreneurs. This makes collaboration so crucial to acquire skills they do not have which their peers may have”
, says Moloi.
“You don’t know everything about your business to make it succeed and the sooner you accept this, the better your chances of succeeding.”
Moloi advises that when looking for partnerships, start-ups should look for someone who will embody their vision and share their passion.
“The last thing you want to do is argue with your partner/s about the vision. This will leave you with no end destination and no way forward in your business,”
Moloi believes every entrepreneur needs a mentor.
“I think the life cycle of your business should determine when and what type of mentor you need. As a start-up company, you need a mentor that specialises in how to lay a foundation and unlock the true value proposition of your product or service.”
Personally, Moloi has two mentors; a personal mentor who guides him in understanding what is important in life and a business mentor who ensures he “executes the goals he has set.
“Both of these people play different roles but have the same mandate; to keep me focused,”
“We plan to expand the team beyond Gauteng in the near future. We recently had a couple of stokvels loaded on the platform from Limpopo and North West Provinces all through social media.
We plan to service these groups directly through our demonstrations.
To stay relevant, the current solution we have landed is the basic version; what one would call an Entry Level Value Proposition.
“We already have planned an advance version, which we will prioritise as the years go by, depending on the feedback we get from our users.
We have also received good feedback which could lead to us releasing the advanced version in two months’ time,”
The App is downloadable from Google PlayStore for Android devices and iOS for Apple devices.