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First Mara Phones franchise store opens in SA’s ‘heartbeat’

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 05 Nov 2020
SA’s first Mara Phones experience store has opened at Maponya Mall in Soweto.
SA’s first Mara Phones experience store has opened at Maponya Mall in Soweto.

Residents of one of SA’s most advanced townships, Soweto, can now experience the look and feel of Mara Phones devices at the newly-opened Mara Experience Store.

Today, SA’s first Mara Experience Store officially opened its doors at Maponya Mall in Soweto.

This comes a year after Dubai-headquartered Mara Corporation opened its high-tech South African-based smartphone manufacturing facility at the Dube Trade Port Special Economic Zone in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).

The KZN-based smartphone manufacturing facility is in line with government’s focus to promote local production to boost economic growth and create much-needed jobs.

Chanté Jantjies, SABC news broadcaster and entrepreneur – the owner of the first Mara Experience Store – told ITWeb she feels honoured to be opening her first franchise store of the Mara brand.

Jantjies explains that Mara’s “high-quality” but “very affordable” device offering is what attracted her to the brand, adding the fact that the manufacturing plant is in SA was another key aspect.

“Mara as a brand, the group brand, their brand strategy in respective countries, is that the countries where they have franchise stores have factories in those countries,” she says.

“I love the fact that it’s an international player and competitor, but it’s trying to make space within a local context, and one that wants to uplift and develop the countries in which they operate.

“The main thing for me was just the fact that I’m able to part of a proudly-produced South African phone.”

Sylvester Taku, head of growth at Mara Phones SA, adds: “The launch of the first Mara Experience Store cements our commitment to expand our retail footprint in South Africa and to make it easier for customers to experience and purchase our smartphones, and we are thrilled that the first store is opened by Ms Jantjies, an astute and renowned South African businesswoman and broadcaster.”

SABC news broadcaster and entrepreneur Chanté Jantjies is the owner of SA's first Mara Experience Store.
SABC news broadcaster and entrepreneur Chanté Jantjies is the owner of SA's first Mara Experience Store.

Nestled in one of the largest shopping centres in a township, the first Mara Experience Store is located at Maponya Mall in Soweto.

Jantjies explains she was able to choose where she wanted her first store to be, and settled on Soweto because it is “Mzansi’s heartbeat”.

“Having researched consumer spending habits, it just didn’t make sense to have it anywhere else. At the same time, you want people to have access to resources and knowledge, and the next best thing in the way that’s being done in the 21 century is by having a handset. We are always on our phones and we use our phones for almost everything.

“We capitalised on the fact that a post office is there, the SASSA and home affairs offices are there – the footprint is always there.”

About the franchise store’s staff complement, the business owner says she hired young South African staff, comprising of four employees, two men and two women. “It’s 100% South African-owned, and it’s 100% black-owned.

“I also wanted to provide a skillset to my employees, so we started training them from last year. When you look at the components of the staff that we have, in terms of drive, passion, skillset and know-how, it’s an incredible combination that has come together.”

The store currently displays five of the Mara Phones brand devices. These are the Mara F, which retails for R899; the Mara X, retailing at R1 999; the Mara Z, which is on sale for R2 999; the Mara X1 for R3 999; and the Mara XZ1 for R4 999, according to Jantjies.

“We have all of the accessories and handsets that are on display…we also have an option where you can have your name engraved on your phone, so you can have a phone made for you at our factory.”

She notes the store will also cater for repairs, with a technician based at the head office in Sandton who will deal with basic repairs.

“If there is something that’s more detailed with regards to the extent of the damage, it’s then sent to the factory in Durban. If the phone is beyond economical repair, we have a swop out system whereby the customer will receive a new phone.”

According to Jantjies, her aim is to own 10 Mara Experience Stores. “I’ve managed to negotiate a deal with Mara directly that my first 10 stores, if I do open them, I don’t pay franchise fees or royalty fees. They’ve been really supportive of young empowerment and women empowerment, so that has been really great.”

In terms of the immediate future, Jantjies says she would like to see the store to be profitable and operational. “I’d love for it to be a blueprint of all the other stores in terms of experience, quality and the overall service that customers will receive.

“I’d also like to use my store as a head office in having a distribution deal for Southern Africa, to distribute to the other countries that Mara won’t have franchise stores in,” she concludes.