New start-up aims to shatter glass industry monopoly

[Editor – article provided and may not necessarily be the opinion of The Gremlin]

In a move evocative of the biblical David and Goliath story, a new start-up in South Africa’s glass industry aims to become a trailblazer by introducing cheaper brands of automotive glass which are as safe and reliable as established players who have so far dominated the industry and dictated prices to consumers.

My Glass, which was started in Nelson Mandela Bay by glass industry veteran Gary Stieger last year, already boasts a national network comprising of 26 partner stores – and many more have indicated their intent to sign up.

The new brand breaks from the traditional glass business model in that it offers customers a wide range of automotive glass brands to choose from, instead of just one or two.

From Richards Bay to Pretoria, Cape Town, Bloemfontein and more rural areas like Bethlehem in the Free State and Cradock in the Eastern Cape, independent fitment centres have been keen to partner with My Glass.

Bestfit Glass has partnered with My Glass in George, Mossel Bay and – as of this month – Oudtshoorn because of the brand’s national reach.

“We deal with a lot of insurance brokers, so the national network works very well, especially when customers are in another town,” said Bestfit My Glass owner Wouter Wentzel. “Many people’s insurance brokers are not in their home town, but helping them is easy because of the My Glass national reach.

“The main attraction for me in partnering with My Glass was to be able to help the customer immediately.”

The rush to join has been in large part due to Stieger’s unconventional approach to business, eschewing the restrictive and dictatorial franchise structure. Rather, My Glass partners with existing independent insurance-approved fitment centres, adding value to their existing and established local brands.

Because My Glass has a national network, it is able to offer independent partner stores the buying power normally only associated with large national chains.

According to Stieger, the democratic-styled business model meant all the My Glass partners actually contributed to how the brand was managed, as “the one-size fits all approach simply wasn’t suitable”.

Already a member of The Independent Glass Association (TIGA), My Glass has the endorsement of major insurers such as Hollard, Santam, Zurich, Mutual and Federal and national brokers such as Aon, Compendium and PSG, among many others.

“This effectively means that we can register and process insurance claims directly for our customers”, said Stieger.

By offering top global brands of glass like Fuyao, and Grandmark, traditionally unavailable at most glass outlets, My Glass has been able to undercut more expensive locally-produced products, although it does offer the local brands and agents glass to customers too.

Vehicles brands such as the Volkswagen, Chevrolet, BMW, Volvo, Hyuandai, GWM, Chery, Mini and Landrover’s Range Rover and Evoque are among the vehicles that have Fuyao windscreens fitted, underwriting the brand’s international safety standard.

Co-owner of the Bloemfontein-based Perfect Auto Glass & Aluminium My Glass store, Jopie van Eeden said joining with the My Glass brand for their automotive division “just made sense”.

The launch of the partnership was held at the store last week.

“We decide to join the network because we’ve seen the potential of being part of a national brand network. It is hard work being an independent, and the national network will allow us to negotiate price structures, service level agreements, and reduce marketing costs through collective agreements,” said Van Eeden.

“My Glass does not align itself with just one supplier, as is the case with our competitors.  This effectively means that My Glass partner stores have access the widest range of stock of any of its national competitors, helping us improve our service delivery ” he said.

Gary Stieger (left), the managing member of new national automotive glass network My Glass, stands outside the founding branch in Port Elizabeth with network partner Mahlubi Sipamla. The company aims to tackle the monopoly which a couple of companies have on the industry.
Gary Stieger (left), the managing member of new national automotive glass network My Glass, stands outside the founding branch in Port Elizabeth with network partner Mahlubi Sipamla. The company aims to tackle the monopoly which a couple of companies have on the industry.
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