By Tanya McClean
Melusi Jamela grew up using gas because it was cheaper. Little did he know that it would help him open his own business.
“I come from a poor community where I saw the need for alternative energy which was cleaner and much more affordable. We also have a problem with load shedding and gas can power essential appliances such as stoves, fridges, lights and heaters.”
Using gas is a cheaper and cleaner option as opposed to electricity for many South Africans, particularly due to recurrent load shedding and the recent confirmation by Eskom of a whopping 15,63% electricity tariff hike starting on April 1.
And choosing gas over electricity was an obvious choice for Jamela (37), owner of gas supply and delivery company Jammel Trading in Nigel, Gauteng, who said one of the main reasons he started his business was due to the affordability of gas for businesses and households, especially for struggling families.
Unfortunately, there is an idea that gas is dangerous, but a house can just as easily burn due to a faulty electricity connection.
“We have been trying to educate people on the benefits of gas, it is just as good as electricity and far more cost effective,” said Jamela.
He highlighted that using gas for a family of two adults and three children would cost in the region of R225 per month for a geyser and stove, while using electricity for the same family unit costs an estimated R700 per month.
“People are discouraged by the initial outlay, but if you look at the longer-term savings, it is worth changing to gas. Even during load shedding, that family has hot water and can still cook on the stove,” he said.
Jamela started his business in 2014: “During my younger days I was waitering in Gauteng and Cape Town, but I got tired of it and wanted to start something of my own.”
His company’s core focus is to supply gas primarily to schools, restaurants and shisa nyamas, but he also supplies to both the commercial and industrial sector including factories and the motor industry, as well as domestic installations.
Jamela said the arrival of the Covid pandemic and the hard lockdown had a terrible impact on his business as his primary customers shut down.
“Everything was totally closed and since then some of the restaurants have not re-opened, while others have opened but have not been busy.
“However, with schools re-opening for the 2021 school year , we have seen an upturn in business in February,” he said, adding that Jammel Trading supplies gas for school feeding schemes which provide meals for anywhere between 500 to 1000 learners. He also provides gas to schools with chemistry laboratories.
As a result of the lockdown, Jamela decided to add new income streams: fire extinguishers and studying to be an estate agent. The latter as he is interested in the property market and new property development which could require gas installations.
“I’ve survived a lot of difficult situations and I’ve had both good and bad times in the business. When I started out I did not have much experience in being an entrepreneur,” he said, adding that he gained in confidence when he was chosen to join various incubation programs for entrepreneurs.
“It made me feel as if I was on the right track. When starting a business, all people talk about is getting funding. I did not borrow money to start my business, I would collect gas from my supplier, deliver and pay the supplier after delivery, while at the same time building cash reserves to stock up.
“You don’t need funding to start or grow a business, you need the right tools, especially mentoring and coaching to acquire business skills. You need to invest in your business, you can’t grow careless or relax with your funds. I learned the hard way,” he said.