Image: Budding entrepreneur Sibusiso Khoza

CAPE TOWN - Budding entrepreneur Sibusiso Khoza has his company which he founded, Sirtch, a classified ads platform, competing with local giants in the industry such as Gumtree and OLX.

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Khoza was born in Swaziland from South African parents who moved to Swaziland during the Apartheid-era in order to receive better education opportunities. 

Between 2015 and 2017, Khoza was supplementing his income by buying items from garage sales, second-hand shops and people online and sold them at a profit. 

This ultimately inspired the creation of Sirtch which launched in 2017 explains Khoza. 

"I created a database of people I knew traded items also online genuinely and were also looking for a simple platform where they can post their items. Those were the first people I approached once Sirtch was online", said Khoza. 

"The website has been under development for a year and half since 2016 and was developed by myself."

Khoza explains that he previously tried with two other projects but they had failed but this helped turned Sirtch into a succesful operation. 

"I have been involved in a number of Business such as consumer projects including developing two social networks called Wayami and Catchup which both have failed."

"Technical and operational lessons learned from those failed experiences have been useful to the development of Sirtch. I have over 8 years experience in software development."

Sirtch is owned by two companies, Industrial African Resources (IAR) which Khoza owns and then is shared 50% with Noborox, a software development company. 

" Through IAR, I was able to build the whole project from concept to a beta version. Thereafter I brought in Noborox to provide access to data needed to make the platform even more unique (e.g. Spatial Data necessary to build algorithms that serve features like “Plan A Meet”). A team of three, including me are there to build the platform to a point where we can start attracting investment to grow the team", says Khoza. 

When asked about how Khoza was able to fund his business, he explains that he put his own funds into building the product.

" At the moment all operations of Sirtch are personally funded. 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", said Khoza. 

Sirtch has over a 1000 ads placed on the site and have an average of 2500 to 3000 unique visitors on the website. 

"We receive 60 000 to 85 000 hits from the traffic we have", said Khoza. 

How does it work: 


Sirtch focuses on 5 categories (Electronics, Cars & Bakkies, Real Estate, Homeware and Jobs). 

1. To post a Free Ad on Sirtch you need to have signed up and to have verified the email address you used to register by clicking the verification link sent to your email address.

2. Once verified and have signed in on the platform, 

3. You can simply click on "Post Free Ads" button located on the main menu and will take you to a form that allows you to enter your ad details.

4. Advert Detailed Information

5. Uploading Photos of your advert to the platform 

6. Once completed, you can review your advert.

"All ads posted are moderated to make sure compliance to our terms of service. We do not allow any offensive material on our platform and offenders are immediately blocked from accessing our platform. We strive to provide a safe platform for buyers to meet sellers and visa versa", said Khoza. 

Challenges

When asked what was the biggest challenge he faced, Khoza explained that previous failed projects help him understand that the startup environment in South Africa is not as easy as compared to Silicon Valley in terms of raising funds. 

"In South Africa you need to be able to sustain the initial growth of your business to a level where it gains enough traction to be potentially viable financially and start attracting investors because they see it working. Understanding this allows one to plan for a long journey that will be lonely at times and tough as every operational matter will come from your pocket", said Khoza. 

Other challenges include sustaining the consistency of trying to market your business at a shoe-string budget and not giving up when it seems to be a slow day. 


Competition

Sirtch is different from its competitors as it provides multiple SA languages for users to feel at home.

 "No other classified platform in South Africa has provided this to their users", said Khoza.  

Sirtch offers multiple South African Languages such as English, Afrikaans, isiZulu and isiXhosa. 

They also plan on launching a new the “Plan A Meet” feature, that will attempt to solve one of the major issues plaguing classified platforms of not being a safe place to trade goods.

" If users are able to plan their own place of meeting in a public safe place, knowing before-hand where to access ATMs, police if need be etc, it will give our users a peace of mind when setting up a meeting with a buyer or seller. This will differentiate us from all other platforms currently offering classifieds in South Africa", said Khoza. 

Future plans 

In the next two weeks, Sirtch will be releasing a feature called “Plan A Meet” which will allow users to enter a suburb name they plan on meeting a seller or buyer.

( Image: An image of what the new feature will look like) 

"We will show on a map the suburb boundary with points of interest on it as pin markers. These points will include the closest police station, filling stations, ATMs and restaurants where they could meet and help facilitate a safe transaction", said Khoza. 

Additionally, Khoza and his team would like to expand the web version into an Android app. 

"Because of the limited resources, we have to move at a pace that is affordable to us yet fast enough to service the need of mobile access", said Khoza. 

"The vision is not only providing Sirtch Classifieds but extend the business to a search engine technology company. In our long-term goals include providing email services, eCommerce platform and an African focused search engine", concluded Khoza.  

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- BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE