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Kuloola: how digital mapping helped to launch the first rural grocery delivery in South Africa

Residents of previously excluded suburban districts can now order food and other basic supplies straight to their newly mapped homes.


Kuloola origins: from a mobile app to a life changer


The idea of launching a grocery delivery service originated from the digital mapping project started by impact startup nClude, and Chimera Prime support as a tech partner. The aim of that project was to provide villages in the KwaZulu-Natal province (Durban region) with home addresses. It was possible thanks to mobile apps that were specially developed to tackle this issue. As a result, previously excluded communities have access to such essential services as call for an ambulance, police, receiving mail, or voting in elections. What is more, having an actual address also means these areas could be included in government infrastructure programs for providing water, electricity and sanitation.


While the pilot project caught the interest of authorities, it will most likely take some time to get things going with their official support. But in the meantime, Siyanda Mthethwa, nClude founder and the mapping project originator has came up with a spin-off solution that makes the lives of rural inhabitants a bit easier. By using the digitally assigned addresses it was possible to launch Kuloola delivery service which helps residents to equip themselves with most needed groceries, cleaning supplies and hygiene products.


Local transport in the suburban areas of South Africa is very expensive. This means even travelling to a shop in the nearest town is pricey, and most often ends up with going there by foot or by other modes of unreliable and expensive transport. Carrying the heavy stock for many kilometers is exhausting, and this task is usually done by women. Even with the delivery cost included, ordering from Kuloola is still much cheaper than a day-long shopping trip to the city, not to mention sparing the ordeal of carrying items.


How it works?


Kuloola in Zulu language literally means “it’s easy”, and surely it is really simple to place an order. Village dwellers choose from predefined combo sets with basic products like rice, flour, sugar, oil, vegetables, dishwashing liquids, or toilet paper. Then, they can order a delivery via mobiles in three convenient ways: make a phone call / ask for a call back, write SMS or send a Whatsapp message. Kuloola collects orders thanks to the app with digitally assigned addresses. Drivers use these addresses also to navigate to particular households. The shipping goes to the location the next day. Mobile payments are widely popular in Africa and a preferred method but cash is also accepted.


kuloola delivery service
Kuloola grocery delivery service in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa

Cooperation with local vendors and further steps


Kuloola has the rural community at heart and strives to improve people’s quality of life. That is why it wants to partner up with small local shops rather than drive them out of business. Apart from that, by developing the delivery service Kuloola creates new workplaces and boosts growth of the region in general. For the time being, the company has 2 trucks and employs 5 persons but there is a bold plan to “uberify” the delivery system so that more residents will be able to transport goods and have a positive impact on the community.


Currently Kuloola operates in three villages, eleven villages were mapped during the nClude pilot program, therefore enlargement of the delivery area is only a matter of time. Another step for Kuloola and Chimera Prime will be to introduce more features in the mobile app. Thanks to that users will be able to select and order grocery sets of their own. With so many ideas and potential for growth the future for inhabitants of KwaZulu-Natal province looks bright.


kuloola food service
Kuloola plans to expand their delivery service to other villages in the region