Growing up in the dusty streets of Ntshuxi village in Limpopo, the soft-spoken Donald Valoyi has always been fascinated with computers and technology.
After completing his Bsc in Applied Mathematics at Wits, coupled with a Sun-certified Java developer credit, Valoyi went to work in the corporate world as a software developer. He worked for big corporations including the likes of EOH, Tibco SA, Telkom, and later at FNB.
Zulzi starts out…..
In 2014, after going through frustrations of following orders, Valoyi realized the corporate world just wasn’t for an ambitious guy like himself.
While still working for FNB, Valoyi had a light-bulb moment, urging him to start an e-commerce store to deliver goods and electronics to students.
When his brother’s University friend, Michael Netshioise heard of this, he took a liking to Valoyi’s idea. At that time, the two were working together at FNB.
The two then became more than corporate colleagues, they formed a friendship and encouraged each other’s business ideas.
In 2014, both Donald and Michael quit their jobs at the bank and began building their own separate e-commerce ventures.
Baloyi started Zulzi as an e-commerce site focused solely on selling student materials including textbooks, stationary, writing & drawing books, electronics etc
During that time, Valoyi spotted another window of opportunity in the market for a one-hour delivery service that offered everything from groceries, drinks, student materials, small appliances and electronics.
According to Valoyi, the success of Uber played a huge role in the new version of Zulzi, it dawned on him that he could build a delivery network system without even having to invest in a network of vehicles and drivers.
With the revised idea of Zulzi, he could even pay Uber drivers to deliver goods using the platform. He realized If he can sell stuff and get it to people within 60 minutes, then people will become much more interested in online shopping.
When he told Netshipise about this, he was completely sold on the idea, so Donald brought him on as his business partner as they shared the same interests.
With Valoyi as CEO and Netshipise as CTF, they spent a total of 6 months creating, designing and building the Zulzi platform, which went live on the 16th of September 2016.
The two further spent another 6 months, earning their dues doing deliveries as the startup worked to entrench itself in an e-commerce segment, renowned mostly for poor penetration and low margins.
According to Valoyi, Zulzi is a contraction of the isiZulu word “zuzile”, which means to achieve something.
How Zulzi Works
When a client enters his/her location address on the Zulzi app, it shows them what’s available in their surrounding area, from supermarkets to restaurants. More often than not, prices online are the same as those in-store.
Once a client places an order for a variety of stuff from Shoprite, Pick N Pay or any major retailer, a personal shopper from Zulzi will be alerted via their smartphone, then they will begin shopping.
After paying, a driver will then collect the parcel from the shopper and takes it to where the client is located.
The amazing thing about Zulzi is that it has feature where the buyer is able to monitor the progress of their order via the app through live-tracking.
They stuck with the Zulzi idea, constantly fine-tuning and iterating their offerings to the point that in mid 2018, they were already recording healthy growth figures.
The momentum continued as the company was reaching a turnover of R700 000 per month.
In 2017, to further expand the platform, the team decided to raise R1 million from IDF Capital but that investment waa bought out in 2019.
In May 2020, Zulzi raised R30 million from a JSE listed company, the team decided to remain mum on the name but nonetheless, the investment will help Zulzi grow its technology, marketing, and operations teams.
Zulzi continues to grow…
Zulzi’s massive growth caught the attention of major retailers in the country. The team received calls from the likes of Checkers who wanted to partner with them in order to improve their shopping experience online.
So far the Zulzi app has been downloaded over 200 000 times since launching 5 years ago. About 99% of Zulzi’s orders are conducted on the mobile app and the remaining 1% on the website.
The company has delivered goods in excess of over R400 million and now processes more than 2000 orders per day, with 70% of these coming in Gauteng Province.
According to Valoyi, the lockdown has been a really good for them as online orders surged.
He’s also excited the opportunity lying ahead. He reckons South Africa has R1 trillion grocery market and less than 5% of that is bought online, making the market highly under penetrated.
With Zulzi, Valoyi and the team will try by all means to fast track the growth of online grocery delivery in the country.