How a varsity dropout brought US cleaning products to Africa, now in over 400 stores

Business Insider SA
Rishav Juglall (Facebook)
Rishav Juglall (Facebook)
  • Rishav Juglall launched Rocky Brands, a company that sells cleaning products to big retailers, and now supplies over 400 stores in South Africa and the continent.
  • The entrepreneur dropped out of UKZN to pursue his dreams of running his own business, then dealt with a lot of rejection.
  • After multiple attempts to get Game’s attention, Rishav was successful and, at 22, he was supplying Weiman products to more than 100 Game stores.
  • With half a dozen brands in its portfolio, Rocky Brands supplies big companies such as Game, Makro, Pick n Pay, Builders Warehouse, Hirsch, Spar, Defy, the Gautrain and Virgin Active.
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After dropping out of university, Rishav Juglall launched a cleaning services company called Rocky Brands in 2011, at the age of 21.

Today the company supplies cleaning products to 400 stores, including Game, Makro, Pick n Pay, Builders Warehouse, Hirsch, and Spar, as well as companies such as Defy, the Gautrain, and Virgin Active. 

Juglall, who is now 32-years-old, was a marketing student at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, but dropped out to pursue his business dreams.

"It all started when my mom sent me to buy a glass-top stove cleaner, and at the time there was just one in the market. They had a monopoly and were priced very high at around R300 per bottle.

"At the time I was studying marketing and economics on campus and one of our assignments was to understand how a brand has a monopoly in a county,” Juglall told Business Insider South Africa.

The young entrepreneur took that case study and applied it in an everyday situation. He studied the monopoly at the time to understand where they lacked, making it easy to introduce new competition.

"Their brand was extremely overpriced, they didn’t have too many products in their range, and the packaging was terrible.

"I was looking for products that were cheaper, better range, and more sexy in terms of packaging. I knew that if I found those three things… the competition doesn’t stand a chance," he said.

This is when Juglall approached a US-based cleaning service brand called Weiman. His passion got the attention of the company and Juglall was sent samples to try out.

"They supplied every other continent but Africa. They saw an opportunity, but they needed somebody with local knowledge to take it into the market.

"They sent the products over. I remember having that first initial thought and feel of the product, then I knew we were sitting on gold," he said.

Seeing just how much of a contender the products were, Juglall’s next step was to approach Game in 2016, but he was rejected for several months.  

Rishav Juglall (Supplied)
Rishav Juglall (Supplied)

"They couldn’t understand how a 21-year-old could add value. But after knocking on Game’s door every week for months, they finally gave me an appointment out of pure frustration.

"I had prepared a real hot marketing plan and within 15 minutes they had accepted the products and the pricing," he said.

Within just a month, the then 21-year-old waiter and varsity drop out was supplying to retailers across South Africa.

"Within the first month of having our product on the shelves of four stores, those stores sold out almost 90% of the stock.

"This told us that the South African pubic loved the brand, they loved the pricing, and the packaging was catchy," he said.

"Makro saw what we were doing in Game and called us to come to Joburg and share it with them. I couldn’t believe it, I thought it was a prank call.

"From Makro came Builders Warehouse. After that we went to Pick n Pay, Spar, Leroy Merlin, and others."

In addition to Weiman, Rocky Brands currently half a dozen brands in its portfolio, 38 employees.

Looking back, Juglall doesn’t regret his decision to leave tertiary education in pursuit of his dreams.  

“A lot of the people follow the book smarts, and they don’t have the street smarts to complement it. My advice would be to go out there, find something to sell, and sell it. The most important character trait of any entrepreneur is the skill of selling. If you can’t sell, you won’t last very long."

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