Over half of South Africans are living in poverty and struggle to buy food. Entrepreneur Miles Kubheka saw this as an opportunity to introduce a model that enables those living in a township to buy food with whatever amount of money they have. Kubheka is the founder of Gcwalisa, a unique tuckshop in Alexandra in Johannesburg that uses refillable dispensers to allow customers to buy a selection of basic food items through a weigh-and-pay model, for as little as R5.
This model has proven very popular in the township since he launched the business in April of this year. Kubheka told Vutivi News that the store sold maize meal, maize rice, sugar beans, rice, samp, sugar, tea, coffee, spices and herbs, cooking oil, peanuts, flour, salt, beef and chicken stock. Customers bring their own containers and plastic bags. Kubheka told Vutivi News that there was a great need for this model in the community due to the current social and economic climate.
“We recently conducted a market research study with our customers to gauge their perceptions of the business model and the feedback was almost all positive,” he said. “We did our utmost best to ensure that Gcwalisa not only fits the communities’ needs and circumstances but positively impacts their lives and communities.” Kubheka was a recipient of the South African Breweries Innovation Awards, and he used the winnings to start the tuckshop. It currently has two permanent employees and two part-time staffers.
While this business model has its own set of challenges, Kubheka views them as an opportunity to learn. “We find ourselves constantly having to understand the challenges of the market we are serving and providing a solution that is an actual fit,” he told Vutivi News. “Most solutions to the biggest challenges in society are implemented through a top-down approach. This means that what the market wants is assumed by those at the top, and oftentimes this approach does not work.
“We constantly have to remind ourselves to have an empathetic approach when looking for solutions to better serve our customer, and for me, empathy allows us to provide solutions that actually speak to the problems.” Kubekha plans on expanding the model to other townships in the country following positive feedback from the Alexandra community. “Our biggest achievement is definitely the feedback from the community,” he said.
“Every day community members who buy from us have told us about how this model has been such a great help to them. “Knowing that we are achieving our mission to democratise access to nutritious food within low-income houses gives us great comfort.”