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Mapha Logistics offers delivery and small business solutions to townships

Published on May 5th, 2021

Mapha Logistics is a tech-based delivery service with an emphasis on servicing townships and other lower LSM locations. Co-founded by Loyiso Vatsha, Lesego Mokou, Noble Nyoni, and Tshidiso Vatsha; the startup is essentially an errand running service that allows individuals to order any goods from any local store within their area. It provides the same convenience and ease offered to suburban locations by big name services at a rate that is more reasonable and affordable.

For CEO and co-founder Loysio Vatsha, launching Mapha Logistics presented something of a “chicken and egg problem”. As a fledgling business, money was needed to make moves that would impress potential investors, but the capital wasn’t offered unless backers could see real traction being gained. Despite this conundrum—one that’s faced by many startups—Vatsha and his team were unswayed from their path, driven by a mission to provide underserved communities with access to delivery infrastructure and cashless payments.

In its original iteration, Mapha Logistics was actually conceptualised as a food-sharing platform. Vatsha, then a busy banker working long hours, saw an opportunity for a localised platform that would allow young professionals like himself with little time for cooking to see which of their neighbours had any plates available. And though this particular venture didn't end up panning out, the Mapha team was able to build a good database of individuals who indicated that what was missing was the delivery element. Armed with this insight as well as a desire to penetrate lower LSM areas like local townships, Vatsha and his co-founders set to work establishing Mapha Logistics.

Hailing from Alexandra in Johannesburg, Vatsha understands firsthand the barriers of access these communities face when it comes to participation in the economy. Thanks to an enduring spatial planning divide engineered during Apartheid, most of the larger malls and shopping centers these communities frequent are on the outskirts of townships, and getting there can be a time-consuming and expensive exercise.

“If you want to buy a loaf of bread for R10 and it costs you R7 to get a taxi to the store, your [pocket] already becomes affected,” Vatsha explains. “Having efficient delivery infrastructure within these areas would address this issue, as it would be a lot cheaper overall if we could subsidize these costs by optimising logistics.”

In order to add real value to this space, they are looking to provide cashless payment and financial solutions to both businesses and consumers. Currently, they’re having a tangible real-world impact through their employment of youth in the area as bicycle runners.

“The most validating moment for me is seeing… those [who were] previously sitting without a job now having a bicycle gig… and starting to make an income.”

As an AlphaCode Incubate programme participant, Mapha Logistics has used the lessons learned from mentors and fellow candidates to implement strategies that have not only increased their impact, but helped them effectively navigate the choppy waters and increased demand for service presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the next two years, they see themselves moving into even more townships and possibly expanding nationwide.

“2020 really increased the presence in the e-commerce space and markets don’t unlearn behaviors, so it can only go up from here. There’s space for many within this industry, but we want to be at the forefront.”