The Yswara Experience: Luxury Business In Africa Is Not For The Faint Hearted

The Yswara Experience: Luxury Business In Africa Is Not For The Faint Hearted

This article was first published by Business of luxury in Africa 

Meet Yswara, a luxury company that retails products such as tea, home accessories and artisan jewelry.

The products are created using natural resources from Africa with the aim of preserving and promoting Africa’s cultural heritage. The company is based in Johannesburg, South Africa and has entered 10 African markets.

According to the Founder and CEO of the company, Swaady Martin, Yswara is focused on broad based wealth creation and providing meaningful income to the involved stakeholders who contribute to the creation of the luxury products.

“For the global luxury industry, Africa has always been a source of raw materials and inspiration for wealthy consumers globally, it is time Africa played an active role in the luxury industry,” she expounded.

Creating her company has brought joys to celebrate and mountains to climb.

“Sourcing financing for my company was tough. I managed to raise $20 000 for the start-up capital that was used to finance the basic and essential business costs,” said Martin.

“As luxury is a new sector in Africa, access to capital is difficult. But this has been a positive situation for us as it has prompted us to be innovative, solutions driven and think creatively in the business.”

The Challenge

Swaady Martin, Yswara Founder and CEO (Image: Yswara)

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Being in the luxury industry, there are industry specific challenges that Martin has encountered.

The logistics of exporting luxury products out of Africa brings a high bill to the business thus affecting internet sales for consumers who would like to purchase the goods online.

In addition, it costs 10 – 15 times more to produce ceramic teapots in Africa in comparison to the costs of doing in it in Asia.

“There is a huge skills gap in the continent for the luxury industry as it is new in the continent. We need luxury trained professionals such as designers, retail and brand experts,” Martin added.

“These skills specific to the luxury industry are critical and almost non-existent, we need to build these skills while learning from the developed luxury markets.”

Production of high quality goods is critical in this industry but the costs are high in Africa. This is a setback for small and medium sized luxury companies in the continent who are competing with international companies.

“Product sourcing, supply chains, export and logistics are our toughest challenges in Africa. In our kind of business, we can’t compromise with quality or integrity of our products as we are competing with international brands in the luxury sector and shifting perceptions of Africa from negative to positive.

Currently, Yswara has a store in Johannesburg while retailing through various options in the continent and using an online platform.

Yswara products have won several awards in Africa and Europe for quality and aesthetics, thus playing a role in turning Africa’s name from negative to positive.

“We create products conceptualized and produced in Africa but our packaging is done in Europe. It is luxury therefore we can’t compromise the products as experience, aesthetics and quality are fundamental,” she added.

“This means that the products come at a price while providing a beautiful and memorable moment.”

Maryanne Maina is a Kenyan luxury consultant and writer. She has an MBA in Luxury Brand Management from HEC Paris, School of Management.