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Passion for info tech

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MARS MOBILE CAUSING A STIR ON EARTH

Though there are still challenges for the information technology industry, a former Botho University star student is aware that passion knows no obstacles.

His company Mars Mobile is proof of that.

Recently almost everybody has been singing from the ICT hymnbook with the President HE Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi leading the choir.

However, 35-year-old Steven Retshabile’s passion dates back to way before the sector became ‘trendy’.

The Maun native’s enthusiasm for technology and technological solutions led him to study for a Bachelor of Sciences in Computing, specialising in Software Engineering.

“Technology is taking over and is changing our lives and how we do things. I want to be one of those who shape the direction of things,” he explains assuredly.

After completing his studies in 2016, Retshabile sought to improve access to information, reduce cost of advertising and save the environment by reducing the need for paper.

And thus Mars Mobile was born.

The company develops applications and websites, designs graphics, animations, games, commercials and edits videos.

Mars Mobile has already launched an advertising application available on android 5.0 or later versions.

Retshabile says this app gives Batswana a chance to sell their products outside the country and provides information about available products and services via mobile devices.

Now with over 2, 000 subscribers across the country, the company’s first application was developed in 2018 and launched at the Northern Trade Fair the same year.

It has been exhibited at other shows like the Global Trade Fair last year, with Retshabile describing the response as overwhelming.

Customers who can use the application to put their information in the virtual world include corporate companies, smmes and individuals.

Unfortunately, not everyone is able to use information technologies due to the costs associated with access.

Most people access social sites like Facebook and Whatsapp because they are on cheaper data packages.

MARS MOBILE BOSS: Retshabile

“Tech adoption is also slow with some still using old versions of platforms while we are on version 9. This affects progress because in this business we need numbers,” notes Retshabile.

Another challenge Retshabile faces is startup capital, which he is having trouble securing.

Despite these obstacles, Mars Mobile is forging boldly ahead.

They have already approached network providers in a bid to get their app under the cheaper data packages so the app can be accessed by all.

They have also embarked on an outreach programme, which they use to educate the nation through exposes, radio shows and road shows.

It may be tough but Retshabile says they are going global soon.

“In five years we will be global and selling Botswana artifacts and other products to the rest of the world. By then we will have a staff compliment of about 100 highly skilled people. We would also have integrated functionality into our existing apps and hosting in our own data center,” he states.

He further reveals that they have just completed World Tourism Experiences Shared in Harmony (WOTESH), a social media based application designed for sharing tourism experiences and for bookings.

For that, they have instant private chat for consumers and business.

Retshabile’s simple advice for those wishing to go into business, particularly this type, is to keep the passion burning.

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Business

Battling for booze

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Battling for booze

Liquor industry wants alcohol sale ban lifted

Botswana Alcohol Industry Association (BAIA) is lobbying for government to follow the example of neighbouring countries and lift the ban on alcohol sales.

Their main reasoning being that citizens who live close to the border may be tempted to sneak out of the country in their desperation to buy liquor. They note this would be detrimental to the economy as well posing a serious health hazard.

The Association Chairman, Mothusi Molokomme told Voice Money they believe the ban – in place since 27 March – should be lifted to allow the public to purchase alcohol and consume it at home.

As much as the main focus is for bottle stores and wholesalers to open for trade, Molokomme revealed they also want bars to be opened, noting they are the only centres of distribution in some of the country’s remoter areas.

He stressed that bars should be allowed to operate on a ‘takeaway’ basis but only after they satisfy Covid-19 prevention protocols.

“The main worry is that there will be loitering around the bars. But it is our belief that operators will strictly adhere to the regulations and allow for takeaways only,” stated Molokomme.

The Chairman pointed to the recent surge in homebrews as indication that the ban should be lifted.

During the period of lockdown, the police have recorded escalating cases of homebrews, which in some instances have even led to the loss of drinkers’ lives.

“There is also a regional factor because South Africa has announced it will be opening next week. Namibia is opening as well and Zambia has always remained opened and because of our porous borders, we may see the illegal coming in of liquor,” continued Molokomme.

He said areas located along the borders of these countries pose a threat to liquor contraband.

While the association advocates for the ban to be lifted, he says as the industry, they will also intensify their message for safer consumption and promote good behaviour among consumers to exercise precautionary measures.

“We are hoping that we will reach an agreement. It will be difficult to convince government when it comes to opening of bars, but we cannot sideline the bars because, in some areas they are the only available points of sale,” reiterated Molokomme, who doubles as the Managing Director of Distell Botswana.

The association was scheduled to meet with the Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry (MITI), Peggy Serame this week to map a way forward regarding the sale of alcohol.

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Business

Crafting a new life

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Crafting a new life

The Enterprising Welder Me and My Business

Absorbed and happy in his work as a car mechanic, an unlikely request from a client three years ago changed the course of 35-year-old Bokamoso Selthabi’s life forever.

The self-taught welder now designs and makes various products from metal, including troughs, trailers, cages, kraal fences and other farm implements.

Having initially set-up shop in the North West of South Africa, his home of three years, the Morwa native retraced his steps back to Botswana to continue Bucha Rest Welding.

Recalling the meeting that altered his existence, Setlhabi told Voice Money he was working as a mechanic when a customer asked him to build a trailer for him.

“I made the product for him. After that he brought two more guys wanting my services. From there it grew into a fully-fledged business,” he explained.

“The business has now been running for two years based in South Africa. It is only at the beginning of this year that we relocated to Botswana,” continued the multi-talented craftsman, adding he briefly explored the Namibian market as well.

While he is still new to the local market, with much of that time blanketed by Covid-19 restrictions, Selthabi admits he is yet to reach a point where he can say business is as good as it was in South Africa.

“So far it has been a bit difficult locally. Some of the products that we do like metal kraals are still not highly rated here but we are working hard to market such products as a good alternative to wooden kraals,” he noted, a steely determination evident in his tone.

Setlhabi explained that one of the perceived disadvantages of products like metal kraals is because the metal conducts heat.

However, he points out that this can be overcome by simply applying paint.

“The good thing about it is that it is durable and lasts longer than other materials used to construct kraals,” he highlighted.

Despite the current low uptake of his products, the enterprising welder is optimistic his fortunes will soon turn around.

“It is promising because, when you work with customers who are not used to what you are doing, you have to carry out extensive marketing of your products. We hope when life goes back to normal after the pandemic there will be some improvement,” he said, adding that items such as feeding containers have proved popular and are in demand.

“We also have customers waiting across the country,” he added.

Other challenges – and the one Setlhabi describes as his biggest – is copycats who attempt to duplicate his work ‘but often fail to match my skills’.

“We have social media pages where we post our products. People would want to do exactly the same but often do not succeed because our designs are unique and the quality is top-notch,” said the National Craft Certificate (NCC) holder proudly.

As the business is still at infancy stage, he has engaged one person to assist but hopes as the enterprise grows he will be able to employ more.

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