Retail still an innovative category in S.Africa - CNBC Africa

Retail still an innovative category in S.Africa

Southern Africa

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South Africa continues to have a steady supply of innovative products, such as Hygizone's. PHOTO: Getty Images

Hygizone, a South African company that specialises in odourless toilet solutions, is one of many retailers targeting everyday problems with more practical solutions.

Hygizone products extract odours directly from toilets and urinals using various fan and suction systems.

“The product has been specified by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health for health benefits. A lot of your viruses [such as] severe acute respiratory syndrome, swine flu and even tuberculosis are in fact seven times more contagious through diarrhoea than through coughing and sneezing,” Dylan Ross-Kent, co-founder of Hygizone, told CNBC Africa.

While Hygizone is a start-up service and product provider, Ross-Kent explained that the company is looking to expand globally as well.

Ross-Kent's biggest challenge with the product has however been the fact that its first-world products and services have been launched and are targeted in a third-world country. South Africa is nevertheless significantly developed to accommodate the product.


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According to a survey by the Building Owners and Managers Association International, South African tenants were found to be in the lead as the least happy with their health and hygiene facilities in buildings.

This provides an opportunity for large commercial property managers such as South Africa’s Growthpoint and Atterbury to introduce the product into the commercial property market.

“Once it’s installed, it’s an invisible product, but it’s compared to back in the early days when air conditioning and radios came into cars, it was the same response: ‘it’s a luxury item, we don’t need that;”, Ross-Kent explained.

“Our society at the moment [is one where] we’re all about comfort and convenience. Once people experience comfort, they never go back. I think that’s what’s happened with us.”

Since its establishment, Hygizone has created the world’s first urinal odour extraction system, and is also a member organisation of the Green Building Council of South Africa.

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“There are so many more opportunities that crop up just as people understand the changing consumer trend. What drives us as a company is continually listening to the clients and what has come up from that,” said Ross-Kent.

“All the talent has come from South Africa. There’s so much expertise out there. If you can unleash and use these pockets of expertise, you ultimately get a better product.”