Website builder BaseKit has partnered with many web hosts at this point, including HostGator and more recently providing the platform for UK web host Heart Internet’s website building tool SiteDesigner. On Wednesday, it announced that it has established its first partnership in South Africa, a completely new market for the four-year-old technology company.
South African web design firm Freedom Studios is BaseKit’s latest partner, and has white-labelled its platform under the name Berrry to sell directly to end-users, mostly small business customers. Freedom Studios founder, Graham Holtshausen, says he is exploring the possibility of partnering with web hosts in South Africa as well.
The South African market is dominated by a handful of web hosts, and the top five web hosts are offering basic website builders with limited functionality, Holtshausen says in a phone interview with the WHIR.
“I see a lot of them are using free builders or ones that come with cPanel but nothing quite professional,” Holtshausen says.
“I’ve looked at other website builders in the past, and a lot of the builders that are offered by hosting companies are not really great,” he says. “It’s kind of like a Google site builder – kind of bare bones and not really attractive at all. The sites that are created with it are often amateurish and don’t look great at all.”
Aside from the five major providers, which Holtshausen identifies as Afriost, Web Africa, MWEB, RSAWEB and Hetzner, there are reseller hosting providers and smaller companies that don’t own their own infrastructure. These smaller web hosts will likely be the target for Freedom Studios Berrry site builder.
Freedom Studios is not focused on providing web hosting, but it does offer reseller hosting to its clients as a value-add.
Freedom Studios also illustrates an interesting customer opportunity for web hosts. As web design firms look to expand their services, and grow annuity income by offering DIY, drag-and-drop site builders like BaseKit, web hosts can not only provide the means for these companies to resell hosting, but also be assured that as their clients’ small businesses grow they will require more storage, domains, and additional features like ecommerce.
“We started out doing basic web design, and then sort of piggy backed on some reseller hosting as well and then got into a lot of WordPress design and development,” Holtshausen says about his seven-year-old web design firm. “Sort of just growing our hosting base, renting a VPS server, and then we kind of got to the point where we thought that having a look at our pricing and the general South African market, we thought that our prices are not really affordable for the average small business. We’re not very expensive like the top agencies, but we’re not dirt cheap like the guys in their garage. We are sort of in the mid-point, and as a result we have to lose a lot of business or turn down a lot of business because it’s not worth our while.”
Holtshausen says he chose BaseKit because of its design and simplicity, two important considerations when catering to entrepreneurs and small businesses.
“What we saw what was being done with BaseKit, the sites were really something special, looking really good, and their builder was really intuitive and simple and I think for us, especially in the South African market, the vast majority of people starting businesses are people that don’t necessarily have jobs or can’t get jobs and they’re starting their own business. They may not have the best education either so it needs to be really simple,” he says.
BaseKit vice president of global sales David Meers says in a phone interview with the WHIR that its partnership with Freedom Studios is an example of how close the world is since Holtshausen approached BaseKit. Before this partnership, Meers says BaseKit had no plans to launch in the South African market.
“It’s a new territory for us over in Africa, something that we haven’t really thought about before, but South Africa in particular has had a lot of interest recently, with the FIFA World Cup,” Meers says. “There’s a lot of big business that’s gone over there, and we’re very happy to have these guys on board. We think it’s a great opportunity.”
In addition to its US and European partners, BaseKit has expanded into Brazil, Mexico and India, offering its site builder in localized languages.
“The next step is to see how the partnership goes and you never know, it might take off, but I don’t think we have any plans to launch BaseKit direct in South Africa,” he says.
Talk back: Are you offering hosting services in South Africa? What is your perception of the South African market for web hosts, and website builders? Let us know your thoughts in a comment.