Insurers first noticed a small 5-year old glass repair outlet – Pretoria Glass and Aluminium Supplies – in November 1985 after a catastrophic hail storm battered Pretoria and Johannesburg. The hail caused immediate and extensive damage to both property and motor vehicles, estimated at R400m (R2,4 billion in today’s terms).
Many glass fitment companies jumped at the opportunity to clinch this unexpected extra business, but even while insurers battled to cope with the surge of claims, they had due diligence systems in place. Their audits uncovered many fraudulent practices – and highlighted the trustworthiness of Pretoria Glass which sailed through insurer audits and drew widespread, positive attention to itself as a serious contender in the glass industry.
At the time, the glass replacement industry’s entire value chain was largely controlled by a single company. In an undifferentiated market, consumer choice was severely limited in terms of service and product options.
It was time to take on this monopolised industry… The founders of Pretoria Glass took on the challenge by opening additional fitment centres, building a glass manufacturing factory and developing distribution channels.
In 1989, based on this spirit of entrepreneurship, a trading company – Glasfit – was established to deliver product to the retail market through a franchise network of previously independent, carefully selected, outlets all trading under the Glasfit name and identity. Even the name “Glasfit” was chosen with care. It said what it did, did what it said, and was easily pronounced and recalled. A brand that would stand out from the competition and sit comfortably as a major player in the market.
Starting with its David and Goliath breach of the glass manufacturing and supply industry, its edgy advertising and marketing campaigns and pioneering vision, Glasfit had developed a reputation for innovation and market disruption. Uniquely, its maverick business approach was combined with the solid values that still underpin Glasfit today: family, community, trust, quality and service.
As its franchise network and product ranges grew, so did the company, its market share and its close affiliation with the insurance industry.
This was firmly cemented in 1997 when Glasfit launched a cost-effective paperless claims processing system, termed the “Corporate Electronic Branch”, or CEB, supported by a 24-hour free call-in line for insured customers (the foundation of what is now Digicall Solutions). The call centre was one of the first in South Africa to introduce B2B operations and, together with the CEB, transformed the way insurers handled their glass replacement claims transactions.
In 2000, encouraged by a need expressed by a major insurer, Glasfit launched its Vehicle Inspection Certificate service. The VIC, as it became known, fulfilled the vital requirement for insurers to verify the actual existence of a vehicle before issuing cover. Glasfit’s national network acted as a proxy for the insurers and was – and is – regarded as an indispensable and cost-effective service.
In 2014, the company developed a ‘blended’ product strategy. By this time Glasfit offered the market a choice of windscreen brands and, by using a mix of product and their windscreen repair service, Glasfit was able to reduce the average cost of insured claims.
Today, Glasfit has over 115 fitment centres, offering the market a wide choice of motor and building glass, and affiliated products.
It operates in a vibrant and demanding industry, one that is reliant on partnerships that only succeed when there is a common purpose and understanding. And its relationship with the insurance industry is stronger than ever: it’s currently accredited with most leading South African short-term insurers, brokers and underwriters.
South Africa’s insurers, who have put their faith in Glasfit’s ability to offer value, quality, consistency and reliability, will always be an integral and valued part of our business. From that 1985 hail storm, today, and for the next 30 years! – Glasfit thanks you for your trust and support.
Article written by: Safiera Mall, CEO Glasfit