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Sbu Khoza, the founder and CEO of classifieds platform Sirtch saw a gap in the classifieds market that he believes none of his competitors are filling: providing listings in local languages.
“I realised that none of the current major classified players had gone the extra mile of catering for everyone’s preferred language of choice,” says Khoza (pictured above). His platform currently offers users the option of Afrikaans, English, isiXhosa, and isiZulu, with more languages to be added soon.
He believes the ability to choose languages — in a country with 12 official languages — enables Sirtch’s users to connect with the platfrom from “the heart”.
“It opens up the opportunity for our users to have the option of understanding better how to navigate our platform in their home language and comfortably communicate the selling point of the product they are trying to sell,” he says.
Sirtch has between 2500 and 3000 monthly users, and receives between 60 000 and 92 000 hits per month, claims it founder and CEO Sbu Khoza
Khoza, who used to buy and sell second hand items online, found that a lot of people were complaining about how complicated and unsafe it is to sell online.
Between 2016 and 2017 he developed the platform from conception to the beta version which he launched last year.
The platform is owned by two other companies, Industrial African Resources (which Khoza fully owns) and software developer Noborox. “The ownership structure allows me to control 75.5% equity of Sirtch through my 100% ownership of IAR and my 51% ownership of Noborox,” he says.
Khoza says the platform currently has between 2500 and 3000 monthly users, and receives between 60 000 and 92 000 hits per month
Khoza says he is yet to secure funding for the platform. “It’s a personal sacrifice I believe will be worth it when we reach a point where are able to grow the platform to be popular, profitable and continue to be useful to our users,” he says.
“The fortunate part is that I have over seven years software development experience and was able to absorb most of the development cost myself by putting in personal time to see to it that the vision of Sirtch is realised to beta stage,” he adds.
He adds that if the startup is to raise funding it would be used to recruit more personnel, invest in marketing and brand building, and business development, as well as protect intellectual property.
“Fortunately, at the moment we are able to cover basic operational costs like office space, internet, utilities and servers. Investment raised would be there to assist us accelerate our growth,” he says.
‘Safety, local relevance and simplicity’
He believes Sirtch offers “innovative solutions to a number of issues plaguing online classifieds platforms — safety, local relevance, and simplicity”.
“We have a feature called Plan A Meet which aims at helping users plan a safe place to meet a buyer or seller,” explains Khoza.
The feature makes use of Sirtch’s spatial intelligence capabilities to suggest the closest points of interest — like police stations, restaurants, and filling stations — where available.
“This feature empowers users with knowledge to plan ahead for a safe public meeting location closer to help, if necessary. This feature puts Sirtch at a unique position as the only platform that goes an extra mile to put its users’ safety first. No other classified platform has done a safety feature to this level. We will continue to improve this feature over time to make it even better,” he adds.
The platform only focuses on five categories electronics, cars and bakkies, real estate, housewares and jobs. This, Khoza says, makes it easier for users to navigate the platform.
“These are the core needs for our users over their lifetime. At some point, they change cars, look for a better house to stay, want to change their smartphone or that couch in the lounge and always looking for a better paying job,” says Khoza.
‘Difficulty operating on a shoe-string budget’
Khoza says operating on a “shoe-string budget” is very difficult, “especially when all the operational needs are personally funded”
“It requires a constant self-reminder of where we are going and why we are doing this. It also brings out the best in our creativity to get the best out of every rand we spend,” he says.
He says the startup has plans to launch native mobile apps of the platform — particularly for Android users — that would enable instant messaging, navigation and push notifications.
“Due to limited resources, we have to move at a pace and scale that is affordable to us yet fast enough to service the need of mobile access,” he says.
In addition, Khoza says he has plans to launch the platform in Swaziland before year end.
“This is driven by the fact that there is no classified platform servicing Swaziland and with me having been born there and still have a lot of connections, makes us uniquely positioned to enter the market with less barriers of entry,” he explains.
The startup, which has not yet monetised its platform, is exploring ways in which to generate revenue. Khoza says at the moment monetising Sirtch is not a priority, instead he says growing the user base is the core focus.
“Through our partnership with Noborox, we have access to a platform that serves real-time location sensitive adverts. The ad platform has already served over 17 billion ad impressions and we are working on research and design for a look and feel of ads that will seamlessly integrate into Sirtch’s design language with profiled targeted impressions,” he says.
Khoza says in the long term he envisions Sirtch not only providing classifieds but extending into a search engine technology company.
“Our long-term goals include providing email services, an ecommerce platform and an Africa-focused search engine. With a billion people on the continent and rising internet penetration, we would like to position our business at the center of African information, products and services access,” he says.
Featured image: Sirtch founder and CEO Sbu Khoza (Supplied)