Kalahari: obituary for a fallen ecommerce giant



Full Name: Kalahari Dot Com
Age of Death: Died at 16 Years Old
Residence: Naspers Head Quarters, 40 Heerengracht, Cape Town, 8001, South Africa
Day and Date of Death: Tuesday, 07 October 2014
Place of Death: Takealot Head Quarters, 7th Floor, Atlantic Centre, 14 Christian Barnard Street, Foreshore, Cape Town, 8000, South Africa
Cause of Death: Merger

From humble beginnings in 1998, just two years before the dot com bubble, Kalahari.com was launched, and in no time would become the largest ecommerce outfit in South Africa.

Year of Birth: 1998
Place of Birth: 40 Heerengracht, Cape Town, 8001, South Africa
Parents: Naspers Holdings Limited
Grandparents: Die Nasionale Pers
Siblings: DSTV, Tencent Holdings, News24.com
Awards: Best ecommerce site in South Africa in 2014
Hobbies: Selling goods to South Africans via the internet
Unusual Attributes: Named after a desert with nothing in it

Traditional brick and mortar stores in the United States of America had seen sharp declines in the number of people entering the stores. The culprit for this were the likes of Amazon.com. There would be the same outcome in South Africa as well, where the likes of CNA were under threat. To capitalise on this opportunity, Naspers Holdings Limited, then under the stewardship of a certain billionaire, Koos Bekker, conjured up Kalahari.com.

Legend has it that the name Kalahari was taken from the name of Southern Africa’s largest desert. Its vastness was likened to the Amazon in Latin America, where the name Amazon.com is taken from. Kalahari.com grew up very quickly, but as an adolescent, Kalahari.com became a lesser favourite of its parent, Naspers. Thus for a long time Kalahari.com was neglected. It was not something surprising, however. Its siblings like DSTV and a Chinese distant cousin began supporting their parent, while Kalahari remained dependent.

At a family meeting, also called a strategy planning meeting, the sole parent, Naspers, and the older siblings, MIH (representing DSTV), decided they were done with Kalahari and it would have to find its own way. Thus, Style 36 and Kinderelo, just to name a few, were born and given attention. There was much funfair, and Kalahari had to take the bitter pill.

During the past few years, a younger, more nimble outfit called Takealot.com took shape, and became more popular than Kalahari could ever be.

Now that the dust had settled, and seeing the limited success that Style 36 and others had, Naspers decided to close shop and refocus on the then neglected Kalahari. It was a success, and Kalahari got a new face. Immediately after this, fierce competition erupted between the new Kalahari and more popular Takealot.

Unlike Kalahari who thought magic tricks would work to help it gain popularity, Takealot was more realistic and more aggressive. In a most daring move, Takealot killed the trolley! The villainous strategy caused Takealot to lose out on the best ecommerce website award in 2014, and Kalahari’s magic trickery won them the award.

Soon after this, the brute that was Takealot stealthily closed in on Kalahari just as it was rejoicing its award. Takealot struck a blow, and it was reported on the morning of Tuesday, 07 October 2014, that Kalahari was no more. Takealot had gobbled it up and would rise as South Africa’s own Amazon or Alibaba.com.

Siphiwo Ntuntshe


Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest in digital insights. sign up

Welcome to Ventureburn

Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest in digital insights.