Mpumelelo Mahlangu, an orphan that was raised by his grandparents, is on the path to develop the first-ever entry-level laptop in South Africa. The young entrepreneur from Soshanguve spent three years researching how this could be done, managed to find a backer and mentor, and is planning to launch the DTC400 – which will be priced at R4,999. Mahlangu not only wants to disrupt the laptop market in South Africa, but to build an electronics company that will be competitive against foreign-owned brands. This is not the only passion and flair that Mahlangu has – growing up in the township, he was the go-to-guy when people discovered snakes in their houses. He told BizNews what prompted this leap into technology. – Linda van Tilburg
Mpumelelo Mahlangu on what prompted his leap into technology:
I’ve started my own brand because I saw a huge gap [in the market]. In South Africa, we hardly have [local] brands – especially in the household [appliances sector]. I’m talking about TVs, DVD players [and] Wi-Fi [routers] – it’s always foreign brands that are dominating our [market]. I thought it will be much better for us to have a brand that is from South Africa and try to dominate various foreign markets. I’m trying to put South Africa on the map and say that it’s time for us, as the youth, to start developing our own things – in order to grow South Africa as much as we can.
On the company development:
At the moment, we still manufacture our parts in China. But now, with my investors (Havingstone Group) we’re trying to build the hub in South Africa and manufacture everything locally. We want to do everything as a South African brand. Making sure that [parts are] produced here and [the laptop] is manufactured here. In a way, this is going to help us with employment.
On the laptop development:
We have already done the DTC400, which is our first entry level laptop. I think they’ll be arriving in South Africa on the 25th. Basically, we are done with it. We are now focusing on the DTC400 Pro Smart – it’s going to be a little bit more advanced than the DTC400. We’re going to up the level in terms of specification and design.
On his investor/mentor:
For now, I’m trying to raise R5 million. I’ve received communication from people who are very interested in this. They’re trying to get into this business and invest. I have an investor called Tandisizwe Dotyeni. He’s a very well-established businessman who’s helping me in terms of funding. He’s been funding the project from the beginning. He’s also the person who’s been motivating me [and I see him as a mentor].
[Tandisizwe Dotyeni] has a very big business. He’s been trying to nurture young folks, especially young men, with whatever they are doing – sports or business – because entrepreneurship has its own challenges. You have to have a tough skin in this industry anyway. He sits down with us, and we talk about what we want to do. He helps, in terms of financial back-up and he’s also gives advice. Every time I have issues with my business, he tells me, “this is business. If you’re going to be a cry baby, this is not for you.”
On his passion for computers:
My passion started in high school. I was raised by my grandparents, so I grew up living out of their pension fund. It wasn’t much money for me to get everything that I needed in terms of going to university. I had to drop out of UNISA and get a new job. I always loved laptops, especially computers, but I couldn’t even afford one. It broke my heart that I couldn’t even afford one. This started as a conversation between me and my friends. I saw a gap, did my research for three years and then I just introduced the idea.