Weekend Camping Checklist

It is that time of the year when outdoor events, camping and music festivals become the order of the day weekend. Summer has come around (not quite in Cape Town), the sunny outdoors are calling and there is really no good reason to stay cooped up indoors! Some of the music festivals around this time of the year include Lake of Stars (Malawi), Rocking the Daisies (Western Cape, South Africa), OppiKoppi (Limpopo, South Africa), Synergy Live (Western Cape, South Africa), Vic Falls Carnival (Zimbabwe).  My inspiration for penning this camping checklist is that every time I start packing for a music festival or a camping trip, I can never seem to find the checklist I would have used before and have to write a new one. This will particularly be  useful if you are new to music festivals and/or camping!

Essential Campsite Items

  • Tent, Pegs and Rubber hammer
  • National Flag(s)
  • Torch, Headlamp(s) & Batteries
  • Camping Chair(s)
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Camping Mattress
  • Sleeping Bag, Blankets and Pillow(s)

Personal Items

  • First aid kit (include tablets for Headache, sinus, rennies etc)
  • Toiletries (include Toothbrush, Soap, Tissue rolls, Wet wipes)
  • Insect repellent
  • Clothes (don’t forget Slippers, Sunglasses, Cap / Hat, Sunscreen, Warm clothes for chilly nights)

Food

  • Food – Cereal, Milk, Canned Food etc (Depends on whether you will be preparing your own meals or buying food from food trucks if it is a music festival)
  • Snacks – Nuts & Raisins, Cereal bars, Bananas, Apples, Biltong
  • Drinks
  • Cooler boxes (1 cooler box with drinks and ice, another with ice only so you still have ice after a day or two)
  • 5L Water (2 or more)
  • Black bins

Miscellaneous

  • Cellphone, USB cable & Powerbank (hardcore campers will probably be upset about this one)
  • iPod, Portable Speaker & Aux cable (hardcore campers will probably be upset about this one too)
  • Action camera, Mini-tripod & Chest harness
  • Physical Cash
  • Identity document and Festival ticket

Optional Items

  • Gas Tank and Cooker Top
  • Cutlery and Crockery
  • Gazebo

Happy camping and cheers to sleeping under the stars!

 

Luxury Bamboo Socks, Impeccable Service and Niche Retailing

Over the last few months, I have had a string of conversations with different friends about bright coloured and bold socks commonly referred to as happy socks. In particular, I was trying to understand the rationale behind purchasing them as they are on the pricey side, wearing them as they are rather daring and ofcourse the business mechanics and success of the different fashion brands making these kind of socks. Ironically, following on from these conversations, just over two weeks ago, I was lucky to attend a talk where the stylish Nic Haralambous was sharing the journey he has been on, building his luxury men’s style brand – Nic Harry and some thoughts on e-Commerce in South Africa. I thoroughly enjoyed the talk as I found it to be very practical and quite relevant especially as I have a handful of friends with small businesses that have a retail component to them. Hence I decided to pen this article.

The Why and How

One of Nic’s motivations in starting the Nic Harry brand was that he felt that the sock space in South Africa was boring and lacking in imagination. Typical retailers stock bland or plain coloured socks for the most part, hence the bright coloured, fun and bold Nic Harry socks provided (and continue to provide) a fresh and exciting alternative. To differentiate the brand from other similar sock brands, Nic Harry opted for bamboo instead of cotton for the fabric and local South African production as compared to mass production in China. Bamboo has advantages of being organic, eco-friendly and anti-bacterial whilst local production meant job creation in South Africa. Over and above this, Nic Harry have zeroed in on providing exceptional and personalised service, something that typical traditional large retailers and other service providers have spectacularly failed at. For example, the Nic Harry sales team do not wear shoes inside their stores. Why? To stoke the potential customers imagination and make them see, first hand what it looks like to wear the socks and presumably how comfortable they are.

When Nic Harry was first launched, it was only available online without a physical store. Three years down the line, they opened  their first physical store in Cape Town. Interestingly, the total first month sales of the physical store rivalled the online sales of the first three years combined. That was a game changer for them and no doubt suggests the need for brands to look at online stores and physical stores as being complimentary instead of the former being the eventual replacement of the latter! Nic Harry have since gone on to open a few other physical stores in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Niche Retailing

As far as the future of e-Commerce goes, Nic put forward his view that Takealot has pretty much broken away from the rest of the pack in terms of being a leading online retailer in South Africa. Given the scale of funding that Takealot have received and their growth in the last few years, it would be very difficult to build a similar e-Commerce offering in South Africa from the ground up today. That is potentially a blessing and a curse for Takealot. The blessing lies in them fast becoming a household name synonymous with buying online in South Africa (and potentially the rest of Africa?). The curse on the other hand is that they generally cannot afford to have depth of service/experience and a variety of options for most products (e.g. socks) thus leaving a gap in the market. This is where the opportunity potentially lies for other players in the retail space, niche retailing – creating experiences and selling very specific niche products to targeted groups of consumers. Some of the advantages of niche retailing include the ability to better control the entire chain from manufacturing to product distribution, cutting out the middle man and the ability to learn about the customer at every touchpoint.

My experience

At the end of Nic’s talk, I understood some of the sock business mechanics as well as why one would want to wear these socks. I had also made up my mind that I would purchase a pair, not that I had made peace with the cost but so I could experience the brand as Nic had described it and go on to write this blog post. So, without too much delay, I made plans to head over to the Nic Harry store at the Waterfront to purchase a pair. Surely enough, when I got to the store, the salesman was wearing Nic Harry socks and no shoes, he engaged with me enthusiastically (seriously Anele was on point given it was 8pm on a Friday) and sold me the rules must be broken / be daring pitch when I struggled with picking a pair to buy. After paying, my new pair of socks was packed into a Nic Harry branded box (that had been sprayed with the unique Nic Harry scent) and carry bag. Talk about making you feel damn special! I walked away feeling good about having bought my most expensive pair of socks to date, the service had been impeccable and experience all round memorable. Do I still think they are a tad pricey? Yes! Will I buy another pair of Nic Harry socks in the future? I will fight the urge but given that my achillies’ heel is excellent service, I will not be surprised if my sock drawer looks like a rainbow by the end of the year.


Footnotes
  1. Happy Socks is technically not the actual term for bright coloured socks, it happens to be a Swedish brand (established in 2008) that sells funky colourful socks
  2. It is interesting to compare the boring socks vs bright coloured fun socks phenomenon to that happening in the beer space – same old boring styles by commercial brewers vs new, seemingly exciting craft beers
  3. Nic also spoke on the future of retail and gave examples of:
    • Amazon Go – Amazon’s futuristic grocery store, no cashiers, no cash registers and no lines
    • Experiential stores – providing customers with memorable experiences to encourage them to keep on visiting the store e.g. do-it-yourself restaurants
  4. I am not affiliated with Nic Harry, just a curious mind and somewhat liker of things

AfrikaBurn 2017 – Desert, Dust and Dance

It has been a little over three weeks ago since I took part in AfrikaBurn, the annual Burning Man like festival in the Karoo.

Describing AfrikaBurn as a festival probably conjures up thoughts of a dance / music. However, AfrikaBurn was so much more than that, it was more of an experience. Some of my best highlights included experiencing a gifting economy in a decommodified society, being exposed to a heightened form of creativity and expression that is otherwise lacking in everyday life and meeting a group of Zimbabweans (my birth country) who drove 41 hours from Zimbabwe to the Karoo in a nineties Land Cruiser!

Below are some pictures which hopefully are a glimpse of the experience.

Tankwa Padstal between Ceres and Calvinia in the Northern Cape Karoo desert of South Africa. A must stop when travelling through the Tankwa Karoo on the R355

 

Ostrich at Tankwa Padstal
Ostrich at Tankwa Padstal

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react-native development

7 Takeaways from Investigating Sluggish Performance of an HTML5 / JavaScript mobile app

I recently spent a few days investigating sluggish performance (particularly slow navigation) on an HTML5 / JavaScript based mobile application. Below is list of the main takeaways from the exercise:

  • If necessary, use libraries that result in faster touch events on mobile e.g. FastClick library to eliminate 300ms click delay between tapping an element on a screen and the corresponding click event being fired
  • Implement lazy loading for lists and tables (most HTML5 / JavaScript libraries have support for this on the respective List / ListView component)
  • Read more

Varsity Podcasts

The Varsity Podcasts Story

The Beginning

Breaking into radio and television is ridiculously tough, the industry is cutthroat. This holds true not only at a national level but university level too. Consider the case of a South African university with 5000 students (conservative estimate), the university radio station club will have say upto 50 active members. That translates to approximately 1% of the student population, leaving so much potential radio talent untapped and undiscovered.

Considering my personal experience, the first university I attended did not have a radio station during my era. However, some friends and I attempted to put together a podcast show and unfortunately the rigmarole of getting approval from the university administration stopped us dead in our tracks. The next university that I then enrolled into did have a radio station which I auditioned for, but unfortunately the demands of my studies did not afford me the luxury of time to make a meaningful contribution thereof. However, both of these experiences did lead me down a path of questioning whether something could be done to tap into undiscovered university radio talents, bypass the formal structures and admin that are part and parcel of traditional university radio stations as well as create curated online content available on demand. Read more

Entrance to The Sleeping Cave sign

Caves, Views and Deep Blue Waters

At the beginning of this year (2017), whilst recharging my batteries, I embarked on a day trip to Chinhoyi Caves National Park. The park is located in the small town of Chinhoyi,  approximately 120km away from Harare (Zimbabwe’s capital city). There was something rather special about walking through the lush green vegetation and seeing the fish swimming in the deep blue water illuminated by the piercing sun rays.

Sunlight filtering through to the Sleeping Pool
Sunlight filtering through to the Sleeping Pool

 

Fish swimming in the Sleeping Pool
Fish swimming in the Sleeping Pool

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4 Thoughts on Excellent Service

Most individuals, whilst going about their day to day life and engaging with various service providers, can attest to experiencing customer service with varying levels of excellence. In some cases, the service has been so amazing and memorable, that they could not stop raving about it to their friends and family. In other cases, it has been average (just okay, nothing to write home about) and in cases not worth remembering, the service has been horrible, to say the least. I have experienced these different scenarios myself and began to reflect on what made a particular service interaction superior over another, especially when it involved two different service providers in a similar line of work. Read more

2016 Annual Review

It is literally the last day of January 2017, this blog post is rather late to the party but hey, rather now than never. After a fairly hectic end of year and travel in the new year, I am happy to have finally had a chance to sit down and pen this. Over the course of last year, I had been itching to setup this blog and start writing regularly (I get flooded with euphoria when I sit down to write or get up to speak and cringe at the sight of a poorly assembled set of presentation slides), so I am particularly stoked to have gotten round to doing so! On this blog, I will share some thoughts and ideas on Technology, Business, Travel and anything else that I find to be of interest to me. Read more