Smangele Dladla is no stranger to the streets; for years, she eked out a living selling food from the pavement. Five years on, she’s still there. But now she trades in tyres, as an entrepreneur and an employer.
Dladla is not alone. She’s one of more than 80 entrepreneurs with Dunlop container tyre outlets in township areas throughout South Africa, and joins many other tyre business owners in KwaZulu-Natal benefiting from the iconic tyre manufacturer’s innovative programme. To date, more than R50 million worth of tyres have been sold from township container outlets nationwide.
“For five years, I was a vendor selling food on the roadside,” said Dladla, now the proud owner of Stormza Tyres in Ntuzuma, outside Durban. “Today, I have my own business and employ two staff.”
The Dunlop Enterprise Development Programme - launched by parent company Sumitomo Rubber SA - to empower township entrepreneurs through employment creation, skills transfer and training, is the first of its kind in the industry.
Said chief executive of Sumitomo Rubber SA, Riaz Haffejee: “The programme was initiated to develop micro-entrepreneurs trading within or serving marginalized communities. It provides branding, tyre training, mentorship and marketing support to container owners and their staff.”
It assisted government to accelerate transformation, Haffejee said, helping to alleviate the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality.
“By fostering greater entrepreneurial activity in townships and informal areas, the programme encourages self-employment and stimulates job creation,” he said.
KZN MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Mr Sihle Zikalala agrees. “When we talk about radical economic transformation, we are talking about programmes like this. True transformation can only take place when previously disadvantaged individuals are given access to more economic opportunities that allow them to participate in the mainstream of the economy.”
Haffejee said many informal tyre businesses operating out of containers had little access to reputable tyre manufacturers, despite there being a market for professional tyre services, including second-hand tyres and in-demand re-grooved tyres.
“As a responsible corporate citizen, we saw it as our role to make safe and high quality products available to this market and took the gap,” Haffejee said. The result has been “exponential growth and success” in the tyre market.
“The informal economy is not disconnected from the first or formal economy, but functions according to different entrepreneurial rules. We have acknowledged this, and can demonstrate that through proper skills transfer and training, township tyre traders can run profitable and sustainable enterprises that offer stable self-employment and sustainable livelihoods.”
Entrepreneurs in Durban, like Dladla, also benefit from the support of eThekwini Municipality. In conjunction with eThekwini’s Business support unit, entrepreneurs are upskilled in various business skills, processes and training.
And it’s not just existing tyre traders reaping rewards. Through a partnership with KZN Small Business Growth Enterprise’s Township and Rural Revitalisation programme, grants totaling R4.1 million have been allocated towards encouraging tyre retail business development in disadvantaged areas.
The first two container businesses from this initiative were awarded last November in the Estcourt and Ladysmith areas, and technical tyre training and business mentorship is currently being provided.
“We are proud to have partnered with several local and provincial government bodies to help realise these opportunities in the marketplace,” said Haffejee.
Speaking at the 2017 National Association of Automotive Component and Allied Manufacturers of SA show in Durban two months ago, eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede made special mention of Dunlop’s efforts: “The mentorship offered by Dunlop to the SMME’s in this programme is to be commended. This programme is not another opportunity without support.”
Indeed. Just ask Dladla; since becoming a Dunlop tyre trader, her business has “taken off”.
“I am proud to be offering top-class service with an established brand behind me,” she said. “I am thankful to Dunlop for its faith in supporting me to enter a male-dominated industry.”
SRSA is owned by Japanese listed company Sumitomo Rubber Industries Ltd (SRI), situated in Kobe, Japan, and is ranked the world’s sixth-largest producer of automotive tyres and industrial rubber products. It has manufacturing plants in Japan, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Brazil, Turkey, USA and South Africa. The South African plant in Ladysmith (founded in 1973) currently produces passenger car, sport utility vehicle and light truck tyres only, which are sold in South Africa and exported across Africa.