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Township businesses must strive for high standards

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Township businesses must strive for high standards

23rd September 2016

By: Sydney Majoko

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Dorcas Mashitiso, the owner of Glamour Beauty Spa runs a very professional setup.

The appointment booking system is highly professional and she insist that all staff members of her beauty salon, herself included, wear a uniforms.

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Clients are welcomed with an offer for juice or tea. It is very tempting to say that this is the sort of welcome that clients would be used to receiving from establishments in town. Not in the townships. Yet Glamour Beauty Spa operates in the dusty streets of Tembisa.

Dorcas is fond of saying: “Just because we are in the township does not mean that we must offer a service that is township standard.” Although that might sound like a disparaging remark, it holds true for a lot of services offered in the township economy. It seems acceptable that the offerings of the township economy do not meet the standards of those in town.

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“Not so,” says Dorcas, “we offer everything that a beauty salon in town offers, including full-body massages, which are not commonplace in the townships.”

Dorcas has equipped herself with experience gained while she worked for franchise outlets in and around Johannesburg and has not held back in ensuring that her clients receive a service equal to, or better than, a service they would get in town. And the result of this is the number of repeat customers she has.

The township economy, being the ‘secondary’ economy, should benchmark itself against practices that make the mainstream economy work. There should never be a need for the township economy to reinvent the wheel when it has already been shown that world-class practices exist in the mainstream economy. Duplication must always be the first port of call when considering how to improve the township economy.

One does not need to go back very far in time to remember when there was not a single world-class mall in Gauteng’s second-largest township, Tembisa. But, in the last ten years, malls have sprung up at a very fast rate, giving credence to the duplication theory. There have always been perceptions that, because townships are historically underdeveloped, they are generally unsafe, compared with suburbs. Recent political events that led to unrest in Tshwane townships proved that instability is not a factor that affects townships only – it affects major metropolitan cities too.

Chain stores such as Edgar’s, Clicks, Shoprite and Spar have discovered that doing business in township malls is very much like doing business in malls in town, as long as the basics are in place.

The South African government, working hand in hand with the private sector, must identify potential centres of excellence and nurture these centres so that they continue to grow and alleviate unemployment, government’s biggest problem.

While enterpreneurs like Dorcas will always come up on their own, ensuring that they are not merely isolated incidents of excellence will take deliberate effort on the part of government and the private sector.

Just as the big boys in retail have seen that operating a chain store in a mall in the township is not mission impossible, budding entrepreneurs must be encouraged so that they too can see that duplicating themselves or their services is not something that is beyond them, if they have solid support.

The closeness of the community also allows establishments like Glamour Beauty Spa to ‘off-road’ their services at the point of need, more like doing house calls, especially for functions such as matric dances, which require beauty spa services to a large group of people. This shows that, even though township establishments can copy and duplicate services offered by franchise boutiques in town, they can improve on those offerings.

Glamour Beauty Spa offers not only paid-for services for the community but also beauty treatments for the residents of the Tembisa Old Age Home. This means that, even if a business is in its infancy, corporate social investment initiatives can be included on its ‘to do’ list.

The township economy, if well managed, can serve as an the springboard to addressing many of the ills that are a result of our unequal past. Duplicating what works in the mainstream or primary economy is a proven way of creating sustainable businesses in the townships.

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