Having started life out as the company that first brought television to South African consumers, retailer Teljoy is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. It’s a South African company that has been innovative in its responses to the changing needs of the market. Theo Rutstein, Teljoy’s founder, takes us on a journey through some of its memorable moments.
June 1969 – An auspicious start
As a 27‐year‐old entrepreneur, the grainy black and white broadcast of the moon landing beamed all over the world set in motion the steps that would establish Teljoy in June of that year – the name literally meaning ‘Television Enjoy’. Even though I was working with my father at the time to build a highly successful property and liquor empire, the popularity of TV around the world made me realise that, when it eventually arrived in the country, demand would exceed supply.
I discovered a rental concept while in the United Kingdom and, upon my return, founded Teljoy on this model called rent‐to‐own. After an extensive media campaign, Teljoy had signed 5,000 contracts within a week and more than 30,000 in our first month. What makes this even more amazing is the fact that there was no actual product to sell yet and people would only start paying their rental contracts once the first broadcast aired.
December 1974 – The first installation
The very first TV set Teljoy installed was in December 1974 at the home of Gideon and Helene Meyer who signed their contract in September 1969. Their photo appeared in all the local papers at the time along with their brand new Telefunken set that had eight circular buttons for the channels, topped by a ribbed sound box, and sliding buttons below for volume, colour, brightness, and so on. When the first broadcast went out in January 1974, Teljoy was a household name with over 100,000 subscribers.
Heady 80s – VCRs and listing
Not generally one to rest on my laurels, I wanted to continue innovating and providing customers with world‐class products to meet their needs. To this end, Teljoy became the first company in South Africa to bring in VCRs (video cassette recorders) and hedged its bets on the VHS format. We listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) in 1987 and was the first company to employ and train black apprentice technicians.
1993 – Embracing cellular
The need for product diversification has always been integrated into the DNA of the company. I saw an opportunity to embrace mobile phones, making Teljoy the first company to have them available in the local market. We wanted to sign 30,000 cellphone contracts over the next four years, but such was the demand that Teljoy hit that target within two months. Not only was the company the biggest supplier of TV sets and VCR’s in South Africa, but we quickly became the largest mobile service provider as well. Fearing that its success could allow the company to dominate the market, Vodacom acquired Teljoy Cellular in 1999.
2000s – A digital revolution
Thanks to the growth of the internet and the popularity of online stores, Teljoy began offering customers a selection of products online through its website – www.teljoy.co.za from 2014. It proved such a successful step that we gradually started phasing out retail stores to focus exclusively on this online platform.
Today, Teljoy offers customers a selection of appliances, baby goods, electronics, furniture and of course, TV sets through its innovative rent‐to‐own purchase model. This gives the options to many consumers to get the things they want the affordable and flexible way on a monthly contract with the option of upgrading, downgrading or cancelling at any time as their financial situation changes.