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Volatility the big challenge for SA small business

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More than two thirds of South Africa’s small business owners see economic volatility as their biggest challenge, according to research from Xero.

The research, conducted in partnership with World Wide Worx (WWW), is based on a survey of 411 small business owners. It reveals that 68% of small business owners find volatility a challenge. It also found that 35% of the country’s entrepreneurs  are kept awake at night by cashflow worries, while 23% worry about future sales.

Despite economic uncertainty, South Africa’s small business owners remain optimistic about the challenges ahead: 40% predict company  growth over the coming year, while 45% expect their organisation to stay the same size.

The rate of technology adoption is also increasing: 49% of South Africa’s small business owners say that technology is essential  to the running of their business, while 74% use mobile apps for business daily.

Other key findings from the research include:

  • 89% of small business owners are confident in managing their companies’ finances.
  • 92% of small business owners have not missed a tax deadline.
  • 89% say the small business department has not helped their business.
  • 48% want the government to provide more funding.
  • 43% think the government should grant tax breaks for their business.
  • In 2017, small business plan to invest in marketing (36%), equipment (28%) and product development (22%).

“Small business owners face turbulent times ahead, but this country’s entrepreneurs are nothing if not resilient,” says Darren Upson, EMEA Director Small Business, Xero. “In fact, 40% still expect to grow this year. It’s those businesses able to adapt to these challenging circumstances that will succeed regardless of economic volatility.”

Vusi Thembekwayo, CEO of MyGrowthFund and Iconoclast Knowledge Bureau, comments: “It’s been a difficult year for South Africa’s enterprise community, and I say that as a card-carrying member. As economic turmoil has intensified, the challenges facing businesses of all sizes have multiplied – with small businesses especially being affected. Technological nous, agility, and adaptability will be key to navigating the choppy waters of the next few years, and the country’s small businesses have them in droves.”

Upson believes the local small business community is determined to succeed and rise above the current economic climate.

“They have the necessary skills and ambition to do this,” he says. “It’s not altogether surprising that they’re not only looking to survive, but are actively pursuing growth.”

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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