By: Zandile Majavu
Smaller Internet Service Providers (ISP) now have the grit to compete against their larger counterparts through collaborative and merged services that eliminate archaic methods with smarter network solutions. Tholo Lerotholi, co-founder of the new platform Merge X, which seeks to consolidate smaller ISPs to eradicate issues such as limited capital and skills that small businesses face, said that the platform was long overdue and represented a pivotal moment for South Africa’s ISP industry.
“We have been agitated by the lack of transformation in the ICT and telecommunications industries, to the point where we have now created a platform that seeks to add immeasurable value to our targeted ISPs. Our unique approach will see less bullying from the Goliaths of the industry, who compete on price, and a complete shift in strategy from the Davids,” Lerotholi said. Lerotholi, who is an established entrepreneur in ICT, co-founded the platform with Farhad Suleman, who leads several start-ups and has experience in technology and retail.
The modeling and conception of Merge X have been simmering for a year, while the business has been in operation for the past six months. Lerotholi said that the brilliant customer service offered by smaller ISPs had helped them penetrate the market and gain a greater share.
This left Mega X with the function of building strategies and offering operational services such as smart network solutions, sales, and revenue-generating activities, as well as introducing customer billing technologies. “Gone are the days when the price was the only differentiator. Because we understand this, we believe in the transformative power of collaboration, where shared resources and expertise propel niche ISPs into a new era of competition,” he said.
“Our vision is bigger than commerce; it’s about empowering local businesses, solving real problems, and ensuring that no one is left behind in the digital revolution.” The platform has complied with the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) regulation that mandates 30% ownership equity for black South Africans and highly disadvantaged groups.
“Merge X acquires a minimum of 50% equity in the ISPs it partners with. This then allows owners to unlock value as well as provide working capital to expand. Being a level 1 B-BBEE value-added partner means we then assist our subsidiaries to meet the Icasa regulatory requirements for ISPs,” Lerotholi explained.