The village of Ntshuxi outside of Giyani in Limpopo may not be renowned as the home of tech start-ups, but it is this remote outpost that produced the founder of a company that is making waves in an app-based business.
Vutlharhi Valoyi is the Founder and CEO of Zulzi, an on-demand delivery service app that brings groceries to the doors of its customers within an hour. Zulzi took first place in the Best Breakthrough Developer category of the recent prestigious MTN Business App of the Year Awards.
Zulzi is already making an impact in a number of suburbs in the north of Johannesburg, and already has in excess of 9 000 active registered users. Further to this, the company has delivered over 15 000 orders since the company was started in 2016. These orders were delivered within an hour of the order being placed.
Valoyi says he has always followed the progress of start-up companies that have won the MTN Business App of the Year Awards, including the likes of Wumdrop and SnapScan, and was impressed by how winning the awards bolstered their profiles.
“When the opportunity to enter the competition arose, I submitted an entry and got the opportunity to showcase the app to the adjudicators, who were amazed by its ease of use and utility. It is still early days to fully assess the impact of the competition on Zulzi, but since we won in the Best Breakthrough Developer category, there has been a lot of interest from users and potential funders and investors,” says Valoyi.
“People want to be associated with winners. Being endorsed by a big, reputable brand like MTN has helped to boost the credibility of the Zulzi app. This has also given prospective users the much needed assurance that they are transacting on a platform that is legitimate and safe,” adds Valoyi.
One could be forgiven for saying that the career path that Valoyi chose was pre-destined. The self-confessed computer geek admits that he has always been passionate about computers, a field that was introduced to him by his older brother.
After spending three years at the University of the Witwatersrand studying a BSc in Applied Mathematics, Valoyi worked for a software company in Cape Town.
He then relocated to Johannesburg where he worked for a number of companies in the information and communications technology sector.
“It was in 2014 that Zulzi was formed as an e-commerce company selling textbooks and electronic equipment to university students online. Our turnaround time for delivery was 24 hours. In the second year of operation, we identified a gap in the market to provide a speedier service and reduced the delivery time to just 60 minutes. The response to this was phenomenal! We immediately saw a 30% spike in demand for our services and a significant increase in market share,” says Valoyi.
To sign up for the service, all that prospective customers need to do is download the app, either on Android or iOS, where they can register their details and activate their location. When they wish to order, the app will show them the outlets that are available in their vicinity. The retail outlets that Zulzi works with include Pick ‘n Pay, Woolworths, Dis-Chem, Riverside Liquors and Pick ‘n Pay Liquor, in addition to a number of restaurants and fast food outlets.
Once a customer places an order, a Zulzi personal shopper located closest to the outlet where the order is placed is notified and begins shopping for the customer. When the shopping is completed, the nearest driver (including Uber and Taxify independent drivers) is notified to pick up and deliver the order to the customer’s doorstep. Customers can monitor the progress of their orders on their smartphones in real time.
Among the MTN Business App of the Year Awards categories was the People’s Choice Award. This gave members of the public the opportunity to vote for their favourite app in the competition. In addition to winning in the Best Breakthrough Developer category, Zulzi took first place in the People’s Choice category as well.
“By introducing the People’s Choice Award, MTN Business gave the public a voice and an opportunity to be part of the adjudication process. Through this category, MTN Business has demonstrated that it truly values the participation and feedback of the public,” says Mandisa Ntloko, MTN Business South Africa General Manager for Enterprise Marketing.
“In addition, the People’s Choice Award has served as a valuable dipstick telling us what consumers want. At MTN, we are committed to really understanding what our customers want so that we are able to deliver meaningful solutions that create brighter lives.”
“When members of the public gave us the thumbs up, that was the most rewarding and special experience for me and the team. It was humbling to receive such a significant affirmation from the public. It really meant a lot to us, and provided us with reassurance that we are on the right track,” says Valoyi.
Responding to questions about other online delivery services by some retailers and online on-demand apps like UberEats, and their impact on his business, Valoyi says he doesn’t consider these services as competition. He attributes this to Zulzi’s competitive edge in terms of turnaround times and the wider bouquet of services it offers.
“We don’t only deliver food. We also offer grocery delivery services. We have cornered the market and have built a loyal customer base that derives value from the services we offer,” says Valoyi.
Looking ahead, Valoyi says he plans to expand Zulzi to other metropolitan areas, including Durban, Pretoria and Cape Town.
Through the MTN Business App of the Year Awards, MTN is affirming its commitment to champion the app development movement and creation of home grown solutions.
“This initiative has acted as an enabler for innovators and entrepreneurs to not only create solutions that assist society, but also to launch and grow sustainable businesses that provide cutting-edge solutions to customers, contribute to economic growth and create much-needed employment opportunities,” says Ntloko.
“Keep abreast of technological developments that are taking place internationally and learn as much as possible about the field you wish to get into,” concludes Valoyi.