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Radio 702 Interview With Lars Veul And Refiloe Mpakanyane On Saving The Academic Year

Refiloe Mpakanyane:

It is 07:53, welcome to it if you’ve just joined us, the Saturday edition of Weekend Breakfast.  Usually, in this time, we have a small business wellness check-in and in this instance we’re talking to a homegrown company, the CEO of a homegrown company, who have during lockdown and during this COVID-19 pandemic decided that ours is not only to provide a service to a commercial clients and customers but to actually help out our fellow South Africans and I’m very happy to welcome on the line, Lars Veul he is the CEO of Pargo. Lars welcome to weekend breakfast. Thank you so much for your time today

Lars Veul:

Hi, good morning thank you for having me.

Refiloe Mpakanyane:

It’s an absolute pleasure. Lars with your company Pargo, you guys entered into a partnership with UCT and Rhodes University in order to help them essentially save the academic year for under-digitised students.

As a smart logistics company you, I guess and you’ll correct me and tell me what the situation is but I imagine that you might have seen an uptake or demand for your services grow and perhaps shoot up due to lockdown and restricted movement for all, all sectors in the economy but you’ve also decided to take upon yourself the added duty of helping out the 10 to 20% of students who don’t have online, who don’t have access to the online curriculum and then, therefore, require physical study materials to continue coursework.

Tell me first of all how lockdown, number one, affected your business and then the decision to now partner with UCT and Rhodes, what compelled you to do that?

Lars Veul:

Yeah so we started Pargo almost six years ago and our reason to start the company is because we saw a gap in the market when it comes to last-mile logistics, basic delivery of parcels.

And to your point, we’ve seen obviously the lockdown affecting our business initially but a lot of our clients are in the E-commerce space and after we went from level 5 to level 4 and E-commerce was allowed again, we’ve seen a major uptake of online sales, online purchases. So, you know we’ve slowly been coming out of the kind of the bad situation and for us, as a business, it’s getting a bit better.

But I think what is essential to what we do is try and solve the delivery problem in areas that are typically seen as challenging to service so rural towns, townships and the way we solved that problem is that we have created a network by partnering with certain stores throughout the country and allow people to send and receive parcels at those stores.

And obviously one group that’s been affected quite hard by the lockdown is students. All universities are closed. What the universities have done is adopted e-learning and adopted online curriculums but not everybody in the country has access to that, not everybody has good bandwidth internet in the areas where they live. They might have a tablet but not a laptop, they might not have the study materials and we’ve been able to work with a few of the major universities in the country by helping them to solve that problem and to actually access their students and to help the students to continue studying and being able to access their study materials.

Refiloe Mpakanyane:

I love that. So now education providers can send the coursework. Tell me what happens in the instance of assignments? What do the students in those underserved and difficult, even remote places, then do to get the work back to the Varsity.

Lars Veul:

Yeah so the universities, if the student didn’t really have the infrastructure, the hardware, the internet to access that assignment online, they need to send it to them. The problem with working with a normal courier would be that it’s either very expensive or very difficult to get to that student.

So what we’ve done is we’ve recognised that and found where the students live and looked for a pickup point close by to their residential area, send out the assignments but also allow the students to then return the assignments because obviously the assignments have to be filled in and then sent back to the universities. So helping the students to do both, both ways.

Refiloe Mpakanyane:

So you’re also providing them with that flyer as well as a waybill as well, so it’s a holistic approach. I really really like that. Tell me Lars and, very quickly unfortunately because we’ve only got about 30 seconds left, but I’m keen to find out if it was just you know your own will as the CEO of Pargo to solve this problem but what is why is that last-mile delivery and just the logistics thereof why is it a problem that not many people seemed too keen or interested in addressing.

Lars Veul:

It’s, I think it’s starting to grow. I think you know more and more E-commerce has, especially COVID-19, has really changed the way E-commerce works in the country. It’s become much more important and not just E-commerce but things like you know study materials being sent out all of a sudden are essential.

We’ve also been deemed an essential service and essential company so I think the need and demand for services especially in small towns and rural towns and townships has grown almost overnight. And maybe to add to your first question obviously it’s not just me or the amazing team we have had Pargo that’s behind actually the whole project has been carried out and executed by an amazing team that we have.

Refiloe Mpakanyane:

Ja, we’ll have to leave it right there Lars, unfortunately. But thank you so much and congratulations on the great work. That’s the CEO of Pargo, Lars Veul and of course you can find them online if you are an educational institution.

Interview transcribed from the Radio 702, Weekend Breakfast Show, which aired on the 1st of August, 2020.