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Now SMEs can also sell prepaid products

Until recently, only larger retailers could sell consumers airtime, data and prepaid utility services digitally. Now small business owners across South Africa have been empowered to start selling these products without any cash outlay. Those that have adopted are seeing a sharp increase in foot traffic and sales.

Leading fintech company iKhokha, which provides mobile payments solutions to independent businesses, has in partnership with the Massmart group launched its new prepaid products and services offering, which facilitates payments for electricity cellular services such as prepaid airtime and data bundles, prepaid utilities such as electricity and water, as well as payments for DsTV, Telkom, Pay@, Easypay and even the payment of traffic fines and municipal bills. 

iKhokha was launched in 2015 to increase sales and minimise cash risk in the SME sector by giving entrepreneurs the ability to process card payments and become part of the digital economy.

iKhokha CEO Matt Putman says, “In the informal market, prepaid has always been a heavily cash-based service. In this tough economy, our small and medium enterprise (SME) customers are looking for increased security as well as new income streams, so we developed a digital solution called iKhokha Vend. We have built on our existing retail distribution partnership with the Massmart group, which enables SMEs to purchase a card machine in any Game, Builders Warehouse or Makro store nationally. The prepaid partnership now allows us to take advantage of Massmart’s significant buying power with prepaid suppliers, so that we can collectively pass on the additional value to our iKhokha SME merchant base.

“We tested the solution with a select group of merchants and recently launched it into the market based on their positive response. iKhokha business owners can diversify their revenue streams while offering their customers a convenient value-added service and importantly reduce their burden of holding dangerous levels of cash onsite."

iKhokha was launched in 2015 to increase sales and minimise cash risk in the SME sector by giving entrepreneurs the ability to process card payments and become part of the digital economy. It is now processing more than R4-billion worth of transactions on an annualised basis annually.

“Many people buy airtime and data as and when they need it, so they will pop into the closest store that sells it. They also need to be able to pay utility bills quickly and easily,” says Putman. “With more than 2 000 iKhokha devices going into the SME sector every month, iKhokha Vend is being taken up very quickly as small business owners realise what a customer drawcard it is.”

Putman continues, “Adding iKhokha Vend to our existing set of financial services products is another step forward in our strategy to expand access to financial services in South Africa and build entrepreneurial businesses. iKhokha also currently provides funding of more than R100-million annually via iKhokha’s merchant cash advance to SMEs that need a capital boost to grow and which are not supported by the mainstream financial services sector. Eighty percent of these businesses would be unable to access capital from the traditional banking sector.”

The only requirement to use iKhokha Vend is that the merchant must have an iKhokha card machine with the app. “SMEs that have delayed digitising their sales systems are now making the move to cashless in to sell these services to their customers. This is how financial inclusion occurs - one SME at a time,” adds Putman.

Merchant Cynthia Ntshingila of Cynthia’s, a retail store, comments, “iKhokha Vend has increased my foot flow.” Kerry Lee of Bella Dern, a hair and beauty business, adds, “iKhokha Vend is super convenient and my customers are loving the fact that I am now a one-stop shop.”

iKhokha Vend is easy to use. Merchants simply log into the iKhokha app, select Vend, follow the quick tutorial, select the prepaid service they want to vend, and then accept the customer’s payment via their iKhokha card machine. 

For the merchant, there are no costs and for each iKhokha Vend sale, the business owner receives a sales commission. After the sale of prepaid products or services, a sales commission is allocated, and the commission accrues in the merchant’s iKhokha Wallet. 

To find out more contact or 087 222 7000.

Smollan and DYDX transform informal retail

Retail innovation can increase revenue, reduce plastic and serve consumers’ unmet needs. Leading international retail solutions company Smollan and DYDX, a global product and service design practice, partnered to deliver an innovative solution for the informal market that could both change how fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) products are sold and reduce the use of single-use plastics.

The combined informal market represents 35% of all retail sales in SA. This market, however, is notoriously difficult for brands, as the unstructured distribution channels mean very little effective data can be gathered. Furthermore, due to low levels of affordability, brands have resorted to smaller packaged units to reach this market, mostly single-use plastics. This has created a gap between affordability for customers and brands’ responsibility to the environment.

The Gcwalisa dispensers created by Smollan and DYDX allow customers to purchase food and home care products in values from as little as R1. Spaza owners can provide the amount requested by customers quickly, thanks to onboard computers with Internet of Things (IoT) sensors measuring volume while dispensing. Goods are dispensed into reusable containers, allowing brands to deliver bulk into the informal channel and for the shop-owners to distribute in micro sizes without single-use plastics. This takes significant costs out of the channel and creates new opportunities for consumers to purchase their preferred brands, even at very low volumes. The dispensers are connected IoT devices, providing brands with detailed sales data from each shop, giving data granularity and insight that could revolutionise distribution, understanding of buying patterns and price points.

The joint team, headed by Rudi Nienaber, innovation executive at Smollan, supported by DYDX, created a new way to sell products through the informal channels. “Innovation requires asking different questions and lots of on-the-ground research and prototyping,” said Nienaber. “Our starting point was to turn products into services which led to a series of new ideas, of which Gcwalisa was the best one.”

“We know that people have real affordability challenges, and price is often linked to distribution constraints of minimum-sized packaging. We wanted to change how pricing worked, allowing people to purchase FMCG products like they do airtime. Another key factor is a positive social impact. By eradicating single-use plastic and packaging, we not only save brands and consumers money but also benefit the environment, which is critical. With major brands looking to reduce plastic usage but not impact sales this approach makes perfect sense,” says Mike Smollan, chief growth & innovation officer at Smollan.

The project has already attracted interest from a number of brands. “Distribution into informal markets is not a 'one size fits all' approach. While we can re-use the technology and approach, we are working with brands to understand both the unique dynamics of their market and the technical properties of their products to optimise the solution for them,” says Nevo Hadas, managing partner at DYDX. For more information visit:

SMEs could qualify for short-term funding in just 10 minutes with VodaLend from Vodacom

Vodacom launched its new business financing product for small to medium-sized businesses called VodaLend Business Advance. This digital proposition will ensure that SMEs have access to the funding they need to grow.

Access to funding has been identified as a major stumbling block in the current SME landscape in South Africa.  SMEs are often forced to source funding in their personal capacity either from friends or family. In the interest of stimulating economic growth, Vodacom hopes to provide such businesses with quick and easy access to business funding. 

“Small and medium-sized businesses are the backbone of South Africa’s economy and contribute significantly to employment in the country as well as the gross domestic product (GDP) which is why ensuring their growth and success is vitally important,” says Vodacom financial services chief officer Mariam Cassim. “Providing access to SME funding not only benefits the business owner by allowing them to grow their business but also creates job opportunities and positively impacts the economy as a whole.”

VodaLend Business Advance’s qualifying criteria requires SMEs to be registered and operational for at least 12 months with an annual revenue of more than R500 000 and have a good credit standing. The size of the advance varies from R10 000 to R1.5-million and is repayable over 6 to 12 months. The application process is fully digital, hassle-free and could take a business owner less than 10 minutes to complete. This means no need to print out long application forms or take time out to go to lending institutions with the hope of obtaining a business advance. This can now be done in the comfort of your office, your home or on the go.  Once the application is submitted with all the required information, a decision is immediate and, if successful, the money is transferred into the business account within a day.

Over and above the short-term finance, qualifying SMEs will also receive Business Legal Assist at no further cost, which will support the companies in their day-to-day business legal questions for the duration of the advance term.

“Vodacom Financial Services intends to go beyond just providing funding and is looking to be a partner in growth for SMEs. With the trust we have built as a leading telco, we want to ensure financial inclusion for all within the financial services space and will continue to deliver best-in-class services and products,” adds Cassim.

Business owners can access the product or obtain further information through