When Luvuyo Rani opened his first internet café in 2006 in the sprawling township of Khayelitsha in Cape Town, he never imagined that his business would be at the forefront of delivering IT skills to poorer communities.
Born in 1974 in Queenstown in the Eastern Cape, Rani is the owner and director of Silulo Ulutho Technologies, a one-stop-shop IT company that provides computer access; MICT SETA (Media, Information and Communication Technologies Sector Education and Training Authority)-accredited computer training; computer hardware and software; and computer sales and repairs in the Western and Eastern Cape.
“We offer courses which are needed by the communities; such as end-user computing with social media and the element of mobile,” said Rani. “Our prices are affordable for people to attend our classes and they can pay the fees over a six-month period.”
Rani believes that technology is critical in the growth and development of any economy.
“Everything needs technology and people need to be skilled enough to embrace and use technology. There is a huge gap in many rural areas where people do not even know how to touch a mouse,” said Rani.
“We also offer training to the pastors free of charge for them to manage their administration and also give training to the many women who run educare centres,” he said.
Rani completed his studies in Bachelor of Technology in business administration with the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in 2002, while teaching at Kwamfundo High School in Khayelitsha.
When the government introduced new curriculum standards that required high schools to teach computer skills to pupils, Rani immediately saw an opportunity; he quit his job and applied for a loan to buy second-hand computers from a supplier in Cape Town. He started selling the computers to local teachers. His move surprised colleagues, who thought he was making a mistake, but Rani, who grew up helping his mother in her shebeen, was not about to give up without a fight.
SILULO’S HUMBLE BEGINNINGS
Rani says, “I started the business from the boot of the car and I had no offices, and people questioned me about the location of my business. Some even thought I was stealing computers from the schools and selling them back to the teachers.”
He encouraged the teachers to start a stokvel (a savings scheme, sometimes with revolving credit) and to contribute R400 a month. Within six months, he says, all of them had computers.
But while selling the computers, Rani realised the teachers didn’t know how to use them.
“They would buy the computers and display them in their homes and their children would laugh at their ignorance.”
He soon started training teachers to use the computers and, by 2006, had saved up enough money to open the first internet café in Khayelitsha. With the help of his brother,Lonwabo, he started off with just 10 computers and dial-up internet access. His business soon grew, with a demand for additional services such as printing business cards and faxing documents. But customers also lacked computer skills.
“I started training my customers on how to use a computer in the internet café before opening an academy which changed our business and allowed it to grow,” he says.
The academy now offers courses in basic and advanced computer skills, using email and the internet, and even typing. It also offers advanced courses such as web design, graphic design, office administration and video editing.
Currently, Silulo has 107 employees and its revenue has grown from less than R50 000 in 2004 to a multi-million rand business in 2013. Rani plans to open more centres in Cape Town, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State and the Eastern Cape.
“We want to make sure that we have Silulo in every township in South Africa. We can do that by franchising and also by owning some of our stores.”
Rani attributes his success to the skills learnt while helping his mother run a shebeen. “I think that’s where I learnt so much on how to be an entrepreneur,” he says.
PLAYING HIS PART
Thorough hard work, dedication and perseverance, Rani has shown that there are many opportunities for young South Africans out there also have an option to become entrepreneurs rather than looking for employment elsewhere. He has Played his Part toward building a better South Africa by creating an organisation that not only provides employment for others, but also helps educate people in the communities in which its stores are based by providing them with computer literacy skills.
Silulo and Rani have won a number of prestigious awards; in 2007, Rani was awarded the Cape Times/ KPMG Editors Award for Business Excellence and was selected as an Endeavour Global Entrepreneur by Endeavor South Africa in 2011.
In 2008, Silulo won the Western Cape regional for South African Breweries’s SAB Kickstart entrepreneur competition, and in 2012, clinched a gold in the Productivity SA National Productivity Awards as an Emerging Sector leader.