Vukile Lindani Manzi (24) shares how he started a mobile business brand that specialises in smartphones and tablets with no money and experience. We chat to him about how he is conquering the world of technology
By Fundiswa Nkwanyana Pictures Peter Caldwell
I had to drop out of school while doing matric in 2012 because my mother was struggling financially. This was not an easy decision, but it was hard seeing her suffering. So, I decided to get a job in order to help. I had to put my childhood dream of becoming a technology expert on hold. Nevertheless, I continued reading up on technology in my spare time while working as an administration clerk, barman, and waiter in order to make ends meet.
In 2014, a chance encounter with a truck driver led to my first business. I listened attentively to a man who owned a trucking business complaining about transport logistics in Africa. His problem fascinated me so much that I was inspired to start a business to help solve his issues, and also make money. He had difficulty in dealing with border legislations, paperwork and routes. I then shared my ideas of how we could fix his problems. He was interested, and shared his willingness to work with me as long as I had a registered business. So, I registered Zillionaire Empire – a logistics solutions transport company. With no experience in logistics but a desire to make money, I used my problem solving skills and learnt the rest on the job. I helped him to manage his routes and with the collection, clearance and delivery of stock between countries in Africa. He had contracts worth millions, and I got on board, working as his broker and offering logistic solutions to him and other truck owners. I worked hard and eventually in 2015, had saved enough money to close Zillionaire Empire and start a technology-driven business called Zillionaire Mobile.
My products are distributed across Africa. While working in logistics, I had a chance to travel around the continent. This was to meet with engineers, technology leaders and experts for advice on how to start and run a technology-driven company. I also travelled to China where I received in-depth information on starting my own brand of smartphones, laptops, tablets and watches. After doing my research, I designed my products with the African market in mind. This is because I knew what people wanted and needed in a product. This enabled me to have a range of products that suit every budget – my prices range from R1 500 to R15 000 depending on the product and model.
As an emerging entrepreneur, I find the technology sector competitive and challenging. It is tough to compete with international brands that have large amounts of capital backing them. However, I’m able to keep my competitive edge because I offer affordable and quality-products. I find it disheartening that many people find my products inferior because they are made by a black person. As Africans, we need to stop doubting ourselves. It is also challenging to deal with customs and import legislation of all the different countries, but I’m able to overcome this because I worked in logistics and am familiar with the laws. Despite all the challenges, I’m glad that my products are selling and business is growing at a stable pace.
My willingness to learn and work hard helped me to reach my goals. Even though I don’t have any information technology qualifications, I own a tech company because I consulted with experts in the field and learnt from them. Looking back, I’m glad that I grew up poor because it forced me to work hard to change my circumstances. Today, I’m a self-taught entrepreneur who is building an empire one step at a time.