Entrepreneur Luvuyo Rani, founder and managing director of IT services company Silulo Ulutho Technologies, is a former teacher who started his company as a micro business from the boot of his car in 2004, selling computers to teachers as his primary target.
Today, Silulo Ulutho Technologies has 42 branches in South Africa, and has also started to expand beyond the borders of the country. “Africa has so much opportunity despite its challenges. I’m a dreamer and see the possibilities of this continent,” he says.
Rani shared his incredible story of perseverance and resilience during his keynote address at the annual Association of African Business Schools (AABS) Conference hosted by the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) earlier this month.
“When I began this business, I had no capital. My brother had to make a personal loan of R10 000 as seed capital for the business. Within two months, all that money was gone.
“When I went to schools, people said that I was crazy for leaving teaching to sell second hand computers. Others suspected that I was stealing computers from schools and selling them back to the schools,” he says.
But he saw an opportunity to raise funds and encouraged teachers to form a stokvel. “In a group of six, each would pay R400 a month and within six months each one of them would have a computer.
“In some schools, I would tell the teachers to give me 70% of R2400 in order for me to buy the computer and they pay the remainder the following month. In dealing with the negativity, I developed a thicker skin and kept on going to the schools and built a relationship with some teachers. Some of these relationships are ones I have still maintained to this very day,” he says.
Steadily he started setting up internet cafes in Khayelitsha, where he is from, and also realised the need to offer training to people, especially teachers and students, about how to use computers and other IT functions.
Rani is also a member of USB’s Small Business Academy (SBA) steering committee, which offers a nine-month development programme to small business owners.
His advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to really focus on what they are doing. “Only once you have achieved success in this can you then go on to venture on new projects. Always remain as passionate as you can about what you do because you will face some extremely challenging times where passion will keep you sustained and breathe a fire to your spirit.
“You should always have an attitude that is positive and believe that anything is possible as long as you put your mind to it. And lastly, work hard, dream big, start small but always have a bigger picture in mind,” he advises.
The AABS network, created in 2005, is a network of business schools striving to improve the quality of business education around the continent. The conference was attended by almost 120 delegates from Africa, including seven non-African countries like the United Kingdom, Italy and the USA.
Themes that were discussed by panels included one on the Future of Work, while Deans and Directors of African business schools shared their thoughts on the Fourth Industrial Revolution.