JOHANNESBURG - Ridhwan Khan cannot visualise himself in a suit and matching tie for a 9 to 5 job. That is just not his style. His aversion for formality led him to something that would be more meaningful to him and suit his style. 

The result was the creation of Mobicel. Khan says his mission was to tap into the lucrative mobile phones markets.  

He spent months knocking on Edcon, Pep and The Foschini Group (TFG) doors in the hope of securing a distribution partner through their retail stores. Although the mission faced difficulties, it is beginning to bear fruits.

“I challenged retailers to put Mobicel devices in their stores at no cost,” he says. “I found a way to minimise their risk and maximise my own potential to thrive.”

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Khan says Mobicel’s journey started in 2001 when he headed for London to find a new purpose in life. 

He says it was there that he befriended people in the cellular industry, and started a business refurbishing old cell phones. In 2002, he moved the business back home to South Africa where he concentrated on the informal sector – a market he identified as in need of better user experience without the bigger price tag. It was a market he understood well because he grew up poor in Polokwane. 

But his background did not suppress the inherent entrepreneurial spirit in him. From its humble beginnings, Mobicel is now one of South Africa’s fastest growing mobile technology suppliers. 

The company launched with a bold tagline “You Deserve Better,”a business and social case for what technology can do in African people’s lives. Khan says technology is a force for change and an enabler of growth.

The company is expediting the migration of South Africa’s vast mobile market from 2G to 3G by providing low-cost high-innovation devices. 

“There’s a definite gap in the market. People are hungry for affordable products with a great user experience, and our vision has always been focussed on delivering exactly that”.
Juggling multiple roles from new business manager and consumer analyst to packer, cleaner, and driver, Khan quietly built up his enterprise. He is now supplying most retail stores around the country with Mobicel devices. So confident is Khan of his company that he is not even scared of competition, whether it comes from local manufacturers or abroad. 

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The 37 year-old entrepreneur says university was just not for him. He says he knew he wanted to do something that will have an impact; something that will make the world a better place. Khan says he has been married for 12 years with four children but has managed to balance his work and family time with the help of his wife “I have a very strong and supportive wife, she works so hard to take care of the house while I’m away because I travelled a lot but I tried to balance my family time and work”.

He encourages SA entrepreneurs to always think beyond what market conditions suggest. “It’s all in your mind. If anyone puts you down, just stay away from them, and then find a way to become a better version of yourself. You need to decide what you want and have a vision of where want to be. Nothing can stop you if you have a positive attitude and positive thinking. 

You need no special talent, only resolve. I love it when someone says that I can’t do something. It’s like medicine. When someone says I can’t do it, it is exactly when I will. The key is to find a new way to get it done.” 

Khan says budding entrepreneurs need to be able to give people who spend half of their salary on their devices more than just a box. They need to provide service, value, after-sales warranty and a genuine love for the product. Over the next two years Mobicel plans to go far beyond the entry-level smartphone market. This plan keeps the commitment to making technology more accessible to all South Africans as the first priority. With this, Mobicel aims to achieve shared value and growth by improving design and tech specs that give consumers access to better and more exciting technology.

“I would like to achieve 25% market share in South Africa’s market share and also want us to expand to Africa”.