The business of e-logistics... My chat with Justin Drennan



Ladies and Gentlemen, year-end is here- which is the time for us all to reflect and review what we have achieved in 2014. For me it’s been one hell of a roller-coast ride, which can best be described as, the year that I took a journey on the road less travelled. I found that anything worth having or doing, does not come easy, that when first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try, try and try again.

What I have come to appreciate about our events so far, is that we focus a lot on the interviewees’ early failings, how they overcame those obstacles and how these hindrances, were the necessary battle scars that would shape them, in becoming the great African talent that they are today. So for this month’s event, I had to sit down and chat to an individual who is considered by most South Africans, to be a pioneering instrument that has helped transform the landscape in which goods flow between the point of origin and the point of consumption: Justin Drennan.

Justin Drennan is the CEO and co-founder of is an online shop based in Johannesburg, South Africa that sells over 14 million products. WantItAll has over 25 employees and is ranked as the third largest web store in South Africa in terms of sales and the second largest in terms of visitors as per Alexa Internet rankings, with 200 000 customers and over 150 000 products shipped from the US to South Africa.

Drennan kicked off the fireside chat with a great case study presentation on the role that he and his WantItAll team played in developing a business turnaround strategy ,for the then embattled Superbalist( formerly CityMob). The pretty concise presentation gave the audience a glimpse on what WantItAll is about and how it is relevant in the South African e-logistics landscape and mostly importantly stellar customer service.

Once Drennan wrapped up his presentation, I sat down with him and chatted a bit about his formative years in the Eastern Cape. Whilst chatting, Drennan pointed out that the Eastern Cape is where the tech scene really began in South Africa, which I (Just like Drennan, I’m from sleepy Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape) found rather interesting and kind of peculiar.

Similarly to previous amazing tech superstars, Drennan stressed the importance of being goal orientated and accepting that risk is an intrinsic part of the entrepreneurial process. However he pointed out that, when it’s time to move on from an ailing venture; cut your losses, move on and chalk the failure up to a learning curve. What was also interesting about this particular chat was that Drennan discussed how WantItAll has become a springboard for social investment and empowerment of previously disadvantaged groups, particularly women.

When WantItAll was a fledgling business his then domestic worker who helped pack stock, ensured stock was available for shipping etc. eventually became operations manager for one of WantItAll’s warehouse’s.  Drennan’ described WantItAll as a family orientated business and that regardless of his senior role in the business if more manpower is needed at the frontlines, he’s not too good to pack and seal a box himself.

Once the Q&A session commenced, the audience took it upon themselves to really quiz Drennan on his business strategy, entrepreneurial beginnings and basic business skills. Being the enthusiastic and engaged speaker that he was, Drennan made it a point to answer all questions in a relevant and helpful manner.The evening wrapped up with guests making merry with refreshments and snacks and more networking. The evening would not have been a success without our amazing sponsors; JoziHub, SIR JUICE, Black Swan Events and STME Group.