National Entrepreneurship Intervarsity Competition 2019

Empathy drove him to develop a used books selling platform, founding the business he named Quillo

Tamir Shklaz (22) is a fourth-year electrical and computer engineering student at the University of Cape Town (UCT). Like many students, he has had to contend with the burden of expensive textbooks, especially because when he arrived at UCT, second-hand alternatives were hard to come by. Seeing this gap in the book market, Shklaz created a computer application for buying and selling second-hand textbooks.

He does not forget the shock, during his first year at university, of finding out that a new textbook could cost up to and often beyond R1 300. "I thought back then, that if this is my experience -- coming from an affluent background -- it must be a tad overwhelming for my peers with limited financial resources." Having always had a passion for computers, building software and coding, Shklaz happened to have dreamt, among other things, of creating a product that would make a tangible impact on people.

"That is how Quillo was born," he says. Quillo is a marketplace for second-hand textbooks. At the Entrepreneurship Intervarsity Competition finals in September, the judges were so impressed with the high standard of contenders in Category 2, of Existing Technological Businesses, that they picked two runners-ups. Quillo was one such runner-up alongside a business run from the University of the Free State, which was also featured on this platform. Shklaz prides himself for selling used books at vastly reduced prices, adding that, on average, Quillo users, i.e. his customers, save anything between R700 and R1000 on a used textbooks. His pricing philosophy is driven by empathy to others.

He says his business, which is completely digital, is inexpensive to run. Quillo collects a ten percent commission from the seller on each textbook purchase and that is what he uses to keep the business running. He says the more people utilise the platform, the more sustainable Quillo stands to become. "For every additional user on the Quillo platform, the other users gain more value which then attracts even more users to join the platform," he adds.

Tamir Shklaz
Tamir Shklaz, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Quillo.

"I have learnt more from running this business than through my degree," Shklaz declares

Shklaz fully encourages student entrepreneurship. "I have learned more from running this business than through my degree. It has been the most empowering and incredible experience." He tells of the critical role that the network he built through the EDHE Entrepreneurship Intervarsity competition will be playing, in assisting him expand Quillo to all 26 public universities. This speaks to scalability, one of the key characteristics that the EDHE programme encourages in student businesses.

He says he entered the national Entrepreneurship Intervarsity after being encouraged by an associate who felt that he would be a strong contender. As things turned out, he made it through to the final round with impressive outcomes as shared above.

He acknowledges the role that UCT played towards his victory at the intervarsity competition. "UCT News was very pivotal in exposing us to a wider market. I also want to single out the MTN Solution Space at UCT's Graduate School of Business (GSB) where I first got exposed to entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial thinking." He says the GBS has an e-Commercial Pitch Night where South Africa's top e-commerce start-ups pitch their ideas to a group of judges and investors. Quillo won the event. "The lesson I've taken from that is the importance of being where things are happening, and of giving one's all while there."

He also credits Ms Nadia Waggie, Head of Operations for UCT's Careers Service and the university's Entrepreneurship Intervarsity liaison officer, and UCT's Vice-Chancellor, Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng. "There's a kind of support that they bring in that is encouraging."

Quillo team member
A Quillo team member painting the UCT main campus blue.        

As previously mentioned, Shklaz's long term plan is to penetrate the broader education sector. "I really want to align Quillo with my passion to enhance efficiencies in the sector." He says Quillo's goal is to democratise information and university resources, and to make university life far more meaningful, especially for students. "We want to use the success of Quillo, the textbook platform, as a springboard to get there."

Tamir Shklaz SABC radio show
His unique business idea recently saw Tamir Shklaz being interviewed and featured in a SABC radio show.

His strategy of expanding Quillo to other universities is to trade through and with students, and with the institutions themselves. "Utilising students is easier due to the bureaucracy of large academic institutions. However, if we can gain the support of a university that is certainly the first prize."

Tamir Shklaz may be reached via his website, www.quillo.io




His unique business idea recently saw Tamir Shklaz being interviewed and featured in a SABC radio show.


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