A Botswana Success Story E D I T I O N
1 . 0
Everything you need to know about starting and building a successful business
CONTENTS PUBLISHERS NOTE, Matshego Letholo, Legacy Communications EDITORS NOTE, Victoria Nish, Millenia Publishing
COURAGE WAS HIS ONLY CHOICE:
LEAVING A LEGACY:
A GRAND AMBITION:
Janneman Van Niekerk
A PURPOSE DRIVEN FUTURE:
DISTELL - NOT JUST ANOTHER BUSINESS: Mothusi Molokomme
DELIVER, DELIVER, DELIVER:
BUILDING A LEGACY OF OPPORTUNITIES AND SUSTAINABLE GROWTH: More Power Investments
SUIT UP, SHOW UP, SEIZE THE DAY!:
THE QUEEN OF RADIO:
THE WORK OF MY HANDS:
ASSURING YOU PEACE OF MIND:
KeNo Custom Suits
Lekwalo Leta Mosienyane
Chartered Insurance Brokers
KeNo Custom Suits
Publisher’s Note A Call for Courage! There comes a time when we are called to answer simple yet difficult questions. What LEGACY is this generation going to leave behind for generations to come. The idea of leaving a legacy is the need or the desire to be remembered for what you have contributed to the society you live in. In some cases, that contribution can be so special that your environment is irreversibly changed. For most people walking this earth, however, will leave a more modest legacy that doesn’t necessarily change the world but does leave a lasting footprint that will be remembered by those whose lives you touched. For a very long time our economy has relied heavily on natural resources, our copper and diamond mining industries. It’s hard to have missed the global commodity slump that unfolded in the past year, resulting in the retrenchment of workers in that sector and closure of some mining companies. The closure of the mines had very large social and economic consequences, families suffered and companies trading within those areas got hit badly. Is this the LEGACY we would like to leave behind? NO! Only by looking inward and exploring other alternatives ways of doing things will we be able
to give ourselves a better position to absorb such blows. We will be able to position our Botswana at a place of strength. It’s a tough time to be launching a magazine but the challenge is one that we relish. It’s a question of an intrepid publishing adventure. The idea of LEGACY magazine came at the time when Legacy Films (another LMH subsidiary) was producing a business documentary series titled ‘Business Leadership Insights’. The contributors of that show challenged us to create a spin-off media property with similar efforts. It has been an exciting journey to get this far, coupled with thoughts of giving in when the numbers just didn’t add up- BUT this is only the genesis of more to come. LEGACY focuses on the historical and business achievements of Batswana, their contributions to the sectors they operate in and societal developments. Each issue of Legacy offers firsthand accounts of inspiring stories that will leave readers in wonderment, and looking forward to more. Our stories includes those of game changers, industry leaders and first time entrepreneurs. Sharing the journeys of these men and women who are doing amazing things in our country is insightful and inspirational. The people featured succeeding in their creating a legacy and enterprises as a result assured vision.
in the magazine are respective industries, leading their respective of sheer focus and self-
We urge you to join us on this intrepid adventure documenting stories of LEGACY builders. Our purpose is clear- is to give insights, intelligence and interviews with those leaders who are defining the business environment around us. To offer leaders a space to express their views, fears and hopes, without fear. We would to thank those who supported us throughout this endeavour.
To leave a Legacy requires one to leave a gift or a bequest, that is handed down, endowed or conveyed from one person to another. It is something descendible one comes into possession of that is transmitted, inherited or received from a predecessor. Our industry legends leave their mark on society and our economy in profound ways, endowing the community with wealth and opportunity that would not have been evident without their efforts and contribution. But I would like to add the value of the sacrifice, struggle and challenges that these industry moguls face on their journey. It is a never ending path through growth phases and economic curve balls. One doesn’t simply wake up one day and the strife is over. Respect for these Entrepreneurs is wholly due. We should take the time to study their strategies, glean from them sound gems of wisdom and take courage in our own journey and purpose. Often we think these incredible people have it easy, we wish we were them and we desire their success. I ask the question: Do you have stamina, faith of self, shrewdness of mind and calibre of integrity to achieve these colossal goals? Read their stories and answer for yourself. What an inspiration they are!
Solomon Rodgers Victoria Nish, Millenia Publishing Shaka Senwamadi & Dana Vyver, Millenia Publishing Victoria Nish, Millenia Publishing Tebogo Mapogo, Vincent Moleki Matshego Lethola BenDan Photography, Kabo Olesitse www.unsplash.com Legacy Communications
LEGACY CONTENT THAT MATTERS
Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information in ‘Legacy’ Edition 1.0. The views expressed in the magazine, represent those of the contributors, and not of the staff, management or owners of Legacy. Neither ‘Legacy’ nor Legacy Communications assume any responsibility for errors, omission or submissions by participators. The editor reserves the right to amend and alter copy and visual material as deemed necessary. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form without prior written permission of the publisher. Permission is only deemed valid if approval is in writing.
Courage was his only Choice Base Sebonego, founder of Mosele Legal Services
There are many things to say about Tshegofatso Base Sebonego but perhaps the most fitting description of him is that captured by the words of a German critic and poet, Heinrich Heine, when he said: “ordinarily he was insane, but he had lucid moments when he was merely stupid.” It is the fusion of insanity and stupidity that one might say made Sebonego try the unthinkable and create his own version of reality, otherwise he would not have become the business luminary he is today.
identified the business opportunity. At that time, a subscription based legal insurance scheme was non-existent. Sebonego moved to pioneer that industry and offered a lawyer friend a stake in the business. One had the role of building a network of lawyers and the other of business and product development. With just the two of them Mosele Legal Services was birthed. Sebonego used the little he had made from one of his earlier business ventures, to fund the legal insurance business.
Sebonego’s story is one which many people may relate to, but only a few are audacious enough to attempt. From sleeping under the tree in his car, to weaning himself off of his most prized possessions, to relegating to a backyard shelter, to having his bank account frozen, to surviving a hostile takeover, all these things he endured in the name of making his vision come to life. He recalled selling his house and furniture to which he said, “It’s called having skin in the game. At that point my vision was clear. I knew what I was getting myself into. It didn’t matter how long I would take to get there, it was just a matter of following the plan I had envisioned.” When the hardship, rejection, heartache and sabotages were over Sebonego came out with a leading, multi-million Pula revenue legal insurance company, Mosele Legal Services.
The company’s business model is such that a policy-holder (client) pays a monthly subscription against potential costs of legal action brought by or against them. The company’s formative years proved to be challenging. The business relied on subscriptions to survive. Like most start-ups, it was a daunting experience for Sebonego. He leveraged on relationships he already developed with clients from his cleaning and micro-finance business ventures. “As time passed, we needed to scale-up the company. During this time I was fully running operations and the marketing of the business,” said Sebonego. With two options available to scale the business, being organic or inorganic growth, the company chose to grow naturally. This meant that growth had to be driven within. The company had to increase its output, introduce new products and services, sell more products or services to new and existing customers, build the customer base so as to organically increase profits. Mosele also engaged an in-house lawyer, Mc Bain Kaang, until the company cash flow was sustainable enough to handle outside claims.
It was during a banter with his learned legal counsel friends that Sebonego picked up the idea of starting his company. His friends lamented about their clients failing to settle their legal bills and it was from this problem that Sebonego
From sleeping under a tree in his car…to a multi millionaire
“Recruiting an internal legal brain was very sensible because it made it even cheaper for our members and made legal advice more accessible. It was important for me to play my cards right and be cautious of the risk that laid ahead. If a client was to complain that we did not pay out his legal representation, we would lose our license. So I knew I couldn’t do this alone” said Sebonego. Following regulatory approval and securing an underwriter Mosele Legal Services quickly grew to more than 1000 subscribers within a space of eight months. The company waded off competition of entrant industry players, some coming with healthy balance sheets. Sebonego was approached by competition with merger/acquisition offers but he discerned that the propositions were attempts to swallow his company.
In 2008 Mosele was dragged before the High Court by its then underwriter, Botswana Insurance Company (BIC). BIC sought an audit of Mosele Legal Services on allegations of insurance malpractices, fraud and money laundering. BIC came with guns blazing and in the middle of it was Mosele Legal Services struck with a brand image nightmare. “I saw it as a hostile takeover. These guys are the captains of industries and I did not have any influence on my side,” he said, and added, “but the truth prevailed.” The high court dismissed the claims as unsubstantiated allegations. At that time competitors leveraged on Mosele Legal Services’ sullied reputation. Mosele’s subscriptions were seating at 20 000 but eight years after those dark three years their clients have doubled and are now approaching 50 000 subscribers. The local market’s success caused the company to seek new heights within the SADC region which has over 500 million market potential. “After so many challenges it’s now time for us to go beyond Botswana boarders. Over 45 000 policy holders is a great achievement for Botswana population, the whole of Africa is next,” Sebonego said. Namibia became the first door to be opened in 2017. “Namibia we are certain, we have already established office space, we are a signature away with underwriters then our license will be out” he enthused, and added, “We have identified Old Mutual to be our strategic partner in our expansion plan. You need to take time, study the foreign markets and explore all opportunities and
risks before committing money to any expansion exercise.”
The road to building a multi-million business was tapered and other times, uncertain but Sebonego exuded grit. “I would wake up, wash my face and brush my teeth from a bottle of water which I had in the car, then hit the road, marketing Mosele Legal Service to the people,” he recalled. His business portfolio spans across insurance, microfinancing, property and farming. The tale of Mosele Legal Services turned Sebonego into a newsmaker and it is hard to imagine what else he would be known for today. Had he not pursued entrepreneurship he would probably be in the livestock industry. In 1994 he Sebonego graduated with a certificate in Animal Health and Production from Botswana College of Agriculture (BCA) now called Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (BUAN). He narrated that this was a path influenced by his father who was a livestock keeper. He on the other hand went on to establish companies divergent from what he studied in college. While in college the entrepreneurial bug bit Sebonego. “I was going to stay in that place for years and I had to achieve more than just an academic qualification,” he said. He recounted selling watermelons along the road close to the University which he transported in a bicycle he had bought from an auction sale in Central Transport Organization (CTO).
“Entrepreneurship is solving existing problems in the market space and filling in gaps. I noticed there was always people waiting for transport along the A1, so I used this opportunity and sold those watermelons to them while they waited. I was not ashamed of it, it gave me extra cash,” he said.
“I was going to stay in that place for years and I had to achieve more than just an academic qualification.”
Sebonego was always destined to be a businessman. He was born and bred in Maun and it is there that his entrepreneurial spirit was ignited. He remembered that his father was always traveling in his job which meant that there was no adult supervision. He would then skip school to go to the driving school owned by his friend’s family. He became fascinated by the number of clients that came in and the money made from the driving lessons. It was those observations that developed the entrepreneur in him. Sebonego’s unwavering commitment to his vision could be traced to his faith. He combined his spiritual conviction with hard work. It was rather inevitable that his entrepreneurial journey would inspire those coming after him. He believes that young entrepreneurs need inspiration from the older business generation. He intends to identify promising entrepreneurs and give them exposure. “I will incubate and mentor them in their
Leaving a Legacy
A few months into my new role, I was sent for further training in Uganda at the Makere University. It was there, that I learned the value of being observant, attentive and analytical. An important skill every entrepreneur should learn.
He is one of the most successful entrepreneurs in Botswana, employing over 2,000 of his fellow countrymen but his journey to building the World Group of Companies wasn’t a smooth sail. Samuel Mpuchane holds his lean early years in abhorrence. The serial entrepreneur had the cards stacked against him from the day he left public service to start his quest as a merchant. “I had already done my part in public service, it was time I applied the knowledge I had been accumulating about business over the years,” he says. The man served under the two founding presidents, represented Botswana at the most important and critical diplomatic missions, architected and participated and led some of the negotiations that led to the setting up of the world‘s richest mine by value. It is a Thursday morning and the backdrop of this conversation is Mmokolodi. Samuel Mphuchane is dressed lightly; simple khakhi pants and a brown jersey with no brand. This is not how I had imagined a man with millions worth of assets would dress. But Samuel has done for bulk retailing what Michiel Le Roux did for banking and Mohammed Ali for boxing so maybe his level of success affords him that; to choose how he dresses and not be confined to societal pressures of a suit and tie. As we enter his house, we are guided to the living room by his PA, the walls in the room say it all; they are covered with trappings of wealth and numerous honorary awards. Samuel Mpuchane is an enigma of corporate Botswana. He shies away from
interviews-well the man works too hard, he barely has time managing his businesses and representing Finns in Botswana as their Honorary Consul. Very little has been documented about the serial entrepreneur who has made a fortune through various business endeavors, his business portfolio spans from real estate, telecommunications, financial services, wholesale business to petrol stations just to name a few. He is assertive and confident with a demeanor that commands attention without being arrogant. His personality is warm and engaging. What was to be a one-hour conversation went on for three hours. Born on December 15th 1943 Samuel Mpuchane grew up in a very tiny village called Senyawe in the North East district of Botswana. He started school at Tshesebe in 1952.Sub A to Standard four in 1958. He graduated to Francistown to read for standard 5 and 6. Samuel Mpuchane’s strength has always been that he was a good and attentive listener, observer and desirous young man who was eager to know, explore and understand everything around him. Being among the best in the whole of Tati district afforded him a bursary to proceed to St Joseph College in 1960. With little information about higher education he chose St Joseph College for the sole reason that he was granted a bursary under such admission. With his excellent performance Mpuchane was also offered a place in Thekwane in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe and later Moeng College before he went to start his University studies.
17 “I had Foreign Service training and educational qualifications and I was ready to deliver,” he says.
“After graduating from the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History and Political Science I was appointed for a position at the Office of the President where I worked as Assistant Secretary in the Department of External Affairs in February 1969. A few months into my new role, I was sent for further training in Uganda at the Makere University. It was there, that I learned the value of being observant, attentive and analytical. Important skill every entrepreneur should learn. At the age of 27, I was appointed as First Secretary in the Botswana Mission to the UN in New York and my only superior was Botswana's Permanent Representative to the UN. I worked there for a little while then got appointed to another role,” says Mpuchane as he talks to LEGACY about his humble beginning.
A twist in Mpuchane‘s career as a young civil servant was when he was sent to Makerere University in Uganda for a 6 month Foreign Service course conducted by the United Nations. The course was facilitated by the best foreign policy academics from across the world and was attended by young and mid-level diplomats from several African, Middle East and Asian countries. The successful completion of the course landed Mpuchane overseas for the first time when he was deployed on post-study training in the United States under the Department of State where he stayed for a month and returned back home to his Foreign Affairs position serving for 6 months before he was sent to the United States again for the permanent Mission of Botswana to the United Nation in New York. The United Nations mission marked the beginning of his formal diplomatic career outside Botswana. “I had Foreign Service training and educational qualifications and I was ready to deliver,” he says. At independence Professor Z.K Matthews (former teacher, professor, nationalist, politician, and South African liberation struggle veteran) was appointed by President Seretse Khama as Permanent Representative of Botswana (Ambassador) to the United Nations, as well as Ambassador to the United States. By the time Mpuchane arrived in New York the two missions had being split. A year and a half later he moved from the Botswana UN Mission in New York to serve at the Botswana Embassy to United States in Washington DC at which he stayed for 2 years under Chief Lenchwe II and for a year under Amos Manyangwa Dambe.
Samuel Mpuchane left Washington in 1974 and rejoined the Department of External Affairs. At the age of 31 he was immediately appointed second in command, a position now called Deputy Permanent Secretary. The secretary at the time was Mr. Bias Mookodi, another post-independence icon. “I was Deputy Permanent Secretary until September 1976 when i went on study leave, to read for a Masters in International Politics in the United Kingdom. On my return in October 1977, I joined the Ministry of Mineral Resources as Deputy Permanent Secretary,” explains Mpuchane. During his tenure as the Deputy Permanent Secretary at the ministry, he was tasked with handling explorations, deals and agreements on the Botswana economic turnaround mineral resource, Diamonds being at the forefront. Samuel Mpuchane served under the late Julian Nganunu, the Permanent Secretary Dr Gaositwe Chiepe was Minister. One of Mpuchane ‘s memorable tasks at the Ministry and probably his entire public service life was that he arrived to a very crucial job of finalizing the Jwaneng mine deal. “My assignment was primarily water, mineral resources and I was part of the Botswana -De Beers’ negotiations, I led the government’s side of the project implementation committee. We were dealing with project commencement and setting up the Jwaneng Township up to 1978. In early 1979 Nganunu resigned and went into Private law practice, and I served as Acting Permanent Secretary for 3 months.” he narrates. From there he was appointed as Administrative Secretary in the Office of the President- a permanent secretary position. After Sir Seretse Khama’s passing in July 13 1980, he was replaced by President Masire. At the age of 37 Samuel Mpuchane left the President’s Office with only months under Masire and assumed the office of Permanent Secretary at the then Ministry of Lands & Local Government. He re-kindled his relationship with the Foreign Service when he was appointed to the United Kingdom as Botswana’s High Commissioner in February 1982, a role which extended to diplomatic representation of Botswana in a number of countries, the Soviet Union, Norway and Sweden. A mission Samuel Mpuchane executed until 1985 when he came back to Botswana to lead the foreign Affairs Ministry now as Permanent Secretary. He held this position for 5 years before hanging his civil service hat to venture into full-time entrepreneurship.
Traditionally around those years, civil service retirees would go straight to political activism, with some ascending to ministerial positions or retiring completely to become farmers. That was not the case for Mpuchane. At the age of 47, he entered the entrepreneurial space. Mpuchane shares that his entrepreneurship leap was a product of the observer and listener in him, “As per my own way of doing things, I have always listened, observed, and stayed open-minded to new opportunities.” He further explains how his civil service tenure influenced the entrepreneur in him, that his service at the Foreign Affairs, Mineral Resources, Local Government and Lands and most importantly as a diplomat unlocked his desire to solve existing problems and fill in gaps in Botswana‘s developing economy. “All those experiences gave me a picture of what Botswana’s economy was and the opportunities available. Remember, business is all about providing solutions,” says Mpuchane. Today the name Mpuchane signals a gatekeeper to growth who commands a significant allocation in the bulk retailing space. However, before retailing he had already tried a couple of businesses. He recalls his
first business was inter-border trade between Botswana and Tanzania, importing prawns from Tanzania and selling them to Botswana. Then he started a PVC pipe manufacturing company because then water connection and reticulation was one of the major activities by government and as a former employee in the ministry of water energy and mineral resources he saw a business opportunity. He and a friend founded Pipex, with a technical partner from South Africa. Pipex exist today as one of Botswana‘s leading PVC pipe manufacturer, producing PVC piping solutions, to meet the infrastructural needs of the country. However the two ended up selling their stake as the company expanded and they didn’t have cash to participate in other financing rounds. Between 1987 and 1991 Samuel Mpuchane was wrestling the odds to establish a bulk retailing business. The magnitude of the business he and his partner wanted to venture into immediately set the odds against them especially with the financiers. Mpuchane fresh from the civil service was well informed and aware of what exactly was expected from entrepreneurs by the market, and played a pivotal role as an anchor of setup operations.
“All those experiences gave me a picture of what Botswana’s economy was and opportunities available, remember Business is all about providing solutions,”
19 Mpuchane and his business partner who was already a well-established business man wanted to go straight into a large venture. During the last kicks of the Apartheid regime when oppression and repression were at their peak, the international call for sanctions against the oppressive regime was also gaining momentum. It was clear that sanctions against South Africa would also hurt Botswana as the country imported everything from South Africa including that which was not manufactured in South Africa. His first buy and sell business was Royal Wholesalers which started operating during his last months as a civil servant running as a general wholesaler in Francistown, in 1988. “We wanted to start a business that would supply across the entire consumer spectrum and be a one stop service for all required goods in Botswana,” says Mpuchane. The next was Building Material Supplies a year later in Francistown. In 1991 Mpuchane and his business partner birthed Botswana‘s premier building suppliers outlet Builders World and Parts World. After that followed, Trade World. Hence, the nomenclature World Group of companies. The challenges they faced would not downcast them. Business prospects were good, considering the vibrancy of the economy of Botswana at the time. They wanted to enter into something big right away and with little capital. Their first challenge was land and during those days it was an unusually piece of land they were seeking. “It took over a year to crack the authorities and the matter eventually caught the president’s ear,” he recalls. Then another year to try and present a business case to Barclays Bank Botswana. Just when they were ready to give up, they decided to approach Standard Bank Botswana and to their surprise they were told to open a bank account with the bank to allow for business funding. However, the Bank‘s requirement was that the business was only feasible if set up in phases and they started with Builders World because it was at a time when construction was booming in Botswana. With no salary from government and family obligations, Mpuchane had to mortgage his property and participated at a 30 % of allocation in the business while his partner controlled 70 % because he (Mpuchane) had neither money nor resource to get anything more. From 1987, 4 years of breaking the glass ceiling, the World Group of companies started holding a tight grip on the ground in 1991. After beating the land and right premises obstacle the business expanded rigorously with more branches being opened, with numerous competitors in the industry. Today Builder’s World remains one of the biggest building material suppliers.
After establishing himself in the bulk retail and wholesale space Mpuchane and his partner together with other different business associates started venturing into other business sectors across the entrepreneurship space. For example they went into the structural steel business and established a company called Steel Junction, which cut, burn, manufactured, bought and sold steel and steel by-products. The group also has a property division which develops various types of property, some which is leased by the trading companies. To motivate their executives across their various businesses, World Group of companies managers are allocated a certain amount of shares subject to their tenure within the company. To maximize and effectively monitor the performance of every business within the group of companies the businesses are run separately to see how each one of them performs. In his journey as an entrepreneur Samuel Mpuchane prevailed through many challenges to establish himself as a business mogul. His success story is that of, sweat, sacrifice, never ending perseverance, a lot of hard work and being able to ride on the wave of opportunity. “It is important to note that it has not been plain sweet sailing, there have been many business failures. First was the prawn business that didn’t perform well because supply dried out. Then followed Furniture World, which was a chain of furniture stores, which we closed down and sold off because of management problems. Family Grocer (a supermarket chain), we owned, also failed as it was not aligned with our business model at the time. Century Ranches closed down as well because of management issues and marketing of the business not done right,” say Mr. Mpuchane.
“They call me Rra Ramolelo because I spit fire,”
A Grand Ambition Janneman Van Niekerk Founder of FinTech company AfricaFunders
Since leaving school more than a decade ago Janneman Van Niekerk sculpted and carved himself into an astute entrepreneur who earned a solid reputation for closing deals. Now at the age of 30 Van Niekerk, a former economics student who dropped out in the last semester, is referred to as “the deal machine”, a name he derived from his ability to close complex deals. He is also known for his appetite of starting businesses from scratch. He naturally exudes enthusiasm, the first sign that tells of his passion. “They call me Rra Ramolelo because I spit fire,” he declared. Van Niekerk became fierier when future prospects came into the conversation. Despite the demonstrated passion he talks of the future with a measure of a man who does not want to reveal much. This is a subtle indication of his persona: He is patient, calculating and methodical. Traits that he has learnt through blood, sweat and tears in his entrepreneurial journey. Van Niekerk is the CEO of Africa Funders, an online crowd sourcing platform with the grand ambition of being a leading Financial Technology (Fintech) company in Africa. It pulls funders all over the world to bid on financing the deals posted online. The platform allows interaction and consultation. The users of the platform can rate deals and can also
assess the riskiness of the deal or the business that is seeking funding. Furthermore there is an option to report fraud or suspicious activities. Fintechs have already started to assert their authority in the continent with the most popular being M-Pesa in Kenya. While most Fintech companies navigating the African markets tend to be centred on peer-to-peer lending or online credit lending platform, Van Niekerk posited that with Africa Funders they are bringing a whole different beast to the market. Crowd sourcing is not a new concept, least of all in Africa, but what has changed is the way in which it is organised hence becoming far reaching in terms of coverage and depth. It has become an avenue for investors looking for healthy returns at the same time as giving emerging businesses access to cheaper credit. Van Niekerk explained that Africa Funders was started three years ago after identifying the disconnect that exists between SMMEs and the providers of capital. Given the commercial banks’ stringent credit policies, credit extension to start-ups is crudely limited. This led to governments establishing funding institutions to bridge the gap, unfortunately the processes of getting money from government controlled institutions has equally been difficult.
“We saw that there was a need for an alternative funding model that could be beneficial to all parties involved. We started the company with our own capital but we soon ran out of capital as it was heavily invested in the market due to the growing demand from our clients,” he said. Together with his small team, buoyed by the growing demand, Van Niekerk approached the international community to which the reception received was encouraging. Van Niekerk preferred to call them funders rather than investors. With more funders coming on board, a company started by entrepreneurs morphed into a crowd funding business model. In 2016, Africa Funders had 30 funders, a smaller figure compared to the more than 1600 funders as at 2017. The online platform boasts of funders spread over more than 20 countries providing financing to SMMEs in Africa. Van Niekerk could hardly contain his excitement when he recounted the phenomenal growth of the company since its inception, reserving his praise to the funders who he said harnessed the opportunity to make healthy returns through Africa Funders as well as SMMEs that showed faith in using the platform. He spoke fondly of the SMMEs, noting that it is their need for funding that has created the big demand for credit through crowd sourcing. “The backbone of most African economies is the SMMEs, sometimes referred to as the informal sector. Now, this is the sector that remains largely unappreciated by financing institutions who would rather direct the flow of capital to top tier firms instead of SMMEs. Africa Funders has been well received because there is an element of humanity to it, just ordinary people trying to help each other succeed.” The view Van Niekerk and his team have of African Funders is that it offers structured financing which has been missing in the local financial market. Unlike peer-to-peer models where clients deal directly with each other, Africa Funders enters into a partnership with the funders in every deal. It manages deals from start to finish, ensuring successful completion of procurement, paperwork, logistics and risk mitigation. The company currently allows for funding of short term deals as it considers them less risky. Van
Niekerk said that short term deals allowed funders to earn high profit margins in as little as 30 days. Businesses that require funding have to create an online account with Africa Funders and then fill in an online questionnaire for funding. Before the deal can be posted and made visible to potential funders, due diligence is carried out by Africa Funders to check the authenticity and viability of the deal. If the deal gets approved, it appears on the platform for funders to participate in. The businesses that seek funding are incentivised by the quick and efficient access to funds that carry zero interest. The businesses only share part of the profits with the funders, ensuring that no one is left saddled with debts. “We are very vested in every deal hence our hands on approach. We actively manage the investments and that means going the extra mile. For example we work closely with the businesses that seek funding to help them in negotiating better prices with suppliers and even with the logistics. That way we keep the costs down in the process realizing good profits for the client,” Van Niekerk said, before he added that the company also invests its own money alongside other funders to demonstrate commitment. He attributed Africa Funders’ commitment to its growth. The company is setting motion to expanding its scope after its success with SMMEs. With three years in operation the company has funded and closed more than 175 deals amounting to over 8 million Pula. Van Niekerk pointed out that behind the impressive numbers lies a story of resilience and perseverance in a tough operating market. He concedes that starting the business was not easy since they were introducing an unconventional business model. He said that as the pioneers of a professionally run crowd sourcing platform in Botswana, they had to overcome hurdles pertaining to regulations. The the regulator of non-banking financial entities registered in Botswana does not have an Act that governs Fintech business models especially crowd sourcing models. Van Niekerk said that they worked closely with the regulator and reached an agreement, with NBFIRA providing them with a set framework to operate within. The framework includes timely submission of audited financial statements of the company to NBFIRA.
“The backbone of most African economies is the SMMEs, sometimes referred to as the informal sector. Now, this is the sector that remains largely unappreciated by financing institutions who would rather direct the flow of capital to top tier firms instead of SMMEs. “
The company’s mettle was tested in 2016 when the slump in commodity prices continued to exert downward pressures on African economies. This resulted in lower spending by governments due to reduced revenues. With the government expenditure reduced businesses began to struggle which also meant that there were less deals to be funded. Moreover investors became jittery of funding deals in countries that were affected by the commodity slump as it presented increased risk. “You learn from experience. Yeah sure we have experienced failures during the journey of growing this company and that has really pushed us to work hard, and be more cautious, keeping our eyes on the ball,” said Van Niekerk. Despite the profitable financial markets in Africa, particularly the lucrative banking industry, the quality of data and low levels of financial literacy continue to be major impediments in the optimization of business processes and systems. Other than creating huge costs for companies, it also added to the prevalence of financial exclusion. Van Niekerk was quick to agree that there is lack of quality data in Africa, and this often results in businesses making bad decisions that have repercussions on
consumers. He narrowed down his insights to credit facilitation in Africa. “Look, data is very critical. From it you can infer insights and respond appropriately to trends. Unlike in developed countries, majority of SMMEs and individuals are excluded from the financial system, making it hard for them to secure credit. Credit checks and scoring in Africa tends to be lacking as it barely scratches the surface. The current credit checking in Africa is not as robust because of lack of quality data that is readily available,” he said. Under the leadership of Van Niekerk, Africa Funders is set to grow in stages. These stages are informed by the versions of the platform within which they operate. Version one was created by Van Niekerk, a self taught developer. Due to the growing demand, the funding activities were moved to version two of the platform. The updated version allowed for Africa Funders to grow rapidly as it could host and manage multiple deals. The company expects to implement version three of the platform. Van Nierkek itched to share details but then held back, only offering that they are on the brink of something major. But he did hint what they were working on.
“We have had success in short term deals and we are now looking at longer term deals. There has been big demand for that. We have received more than 600 applications just alone in Botswana. And we still receive more from outside, particularly from Kenya and Rwanda. Long term deals will be perfect for us because that is where we want to play,” he said. Transitioning to longer term deals means the company will enter a new territory in the form of Private Equity, a field that remains largely unexplored in Africa. Van Niekerk said that they have allowed the company to grow organically as they did not want to be greedy by jumping at every opportunity to make money. Instead the company’s organic growth has been fuelled by heeding to the SMMEs as well as the funders. The tight lipped Van Niekerk hinted that with version three they will be looking at deals such as in property development. Moreover, as a departure from version two, a deal will no longer be financed on a first come first serve basis. Instead they are going to throttle the funding; only allowing funders a certain proportion that they can invest instead of the whole amount in a single deal. This, Van Niekerk added, is intended to teach funders about the value of diversifying the risk through a varied portfolio. In version three, international funders will be protected from currency fluctuations as the new version will use the resilient dollar instead of the current Pula currency. “We want to be a leading Fintech in Africa, and that is why we take our work seriously. Hopefully by the end of this year we will have fully transformed to version three. Upgrading to the new version required extra caution on our side because we are dealing with sensitive data points,” said Van Niekerk.
A Purpose Driven Future LULU RASEBOTSA Managing Director for Liberty Life Botswana
Businesswoman, Lulu Rasebotsa is popularly hailed as “The Leading Iron Lady of Insurance”. From being a Managing Director of one the prominent life insurance companies, the mother of two is also a mentor to many up and coming business figures in Botswana. Before I met Ms. Lu as she is popularly known, I was told that she welcomes and supports all who seek her council. When Lulu and I sat down to discuss Liberty Life’s plans for the future, and how she leads a team of a little over 14 highly qualified personnel, I learned that her reputation was true. I was especially inspired by two influences she’s maintained throughout her career: An unwavering dedication to increase the economic participation of women in the corporate world which is evident through a team dominated by mostly female executives and building her success by making the development of those around her, her key priority. “If you want eggs, take care of the hen,” she says. “All that stuff about focusing on shareholders? Forget it, spend your time making staff happy instead, they will take care of your customers, which inversely results in more profits for you.” As the Managing Director for Liberty Life Botswana, a specialist life insurance company which focuses on providing group based and individual risk insurance products for death, disability, critical illness and other life changing events, Rasebotsa is tasked with strategically growing Liberty Life Botswana, building strong partnerships for the business, and ensuring the company acquires and retains the best talent. She truly believes in keeping the clients’ needs a top priority for Liberty Life Botswana.
“The Leading Iron Lady of Insurance”
“We must provide exceptional service and ensure our products add value to the people,” she says. This resonates with Liberty’s mantra of, “Making a difference in people’s lives”. Rasebotsa holds a BSc Honours in Mathematics and Statistics from the University of Kent. She also has a COP (Certificate of Proficiency) in Life Insurance and an ICiBS (Intermediate Certificate in Business Studies), both from the Insurance Institute of South Africa. She has over 19 years of experience in the financial services industry along with a wide-ranging experience in the industry from working for other Life Underwriters, to Broking, and finally Pension Fund Administration, which was her last role in South Africa before joining Liberty Life Botswana. Ms. Rasebotsa was appointed Managing Director of Liberty Life Botswana in June 2011. Liberty Life Botswana is a subsidiary of Liberty Holdings, a pan-African financial services company. Founded in 1957 by Sir Donald Gordon with the belief that everyone should have the opportunity to grow their wealth and leave a proud legacy for their family. The company has a strong presence in 18 African countries and has grown from being a South African life insurer to a Pan-African financial services provider also offering asset management, investments and health products. Its segments include individual arrangements, which provide insurance and investment solutions to individual aspirational and affluent customers and group arrangements, which provide insurance and investment solutions mainly to formally governed groupings of individuals, corporates and retirement funds across sub-Saharan Africa. Additionally, Liberty Life provides asset management capabilities under the STANLIB brand to manage asset flows. Under her leadership, last year Liberty acquired Prefsure (Botswana) Limited, a move she says was a strategic decision to turn the company into a “onestop shop”. In a market that has been dominated by one major player, she has identified gaps in the market and turned them into opportunities. Recently Liberty Life Botswana announced their strategic partnership with Orange Botswana, a partnership that will see the insurance company’s clients paying their policies through Orange Money.
“When we were interacting and listening to our clients, we learned that there was a gap in the market for the unbanked members of society,” she mentions. Another recent partnership was with Barclays Bank Botswana. The two joined forces to launch insurance products that provide customers with financial assistance during their first diagnosis of chronic illnesses. Bosele Life Plan, a scheme which gives customers the opportunity to access up to P15 million of life cover, with attractive optional benefits, such as physical impairment and permanent disability. Lulu says, these are some of strategic alliances designed to steer the company towards a purpose driven future. Another product, which was introduced to market is the Tshireletso Plan, which provides customers with finance to assist with the treatment and living expenses on first diagnosis of a chronic illness.
These chronic illnesses include heart failure and cancer cover up to a limit of P250,000 without need for medical tests. “See the idea is to avoid waiting periods, once the client has been fully accepted after having gone through medical underwriting, cover starts immediately.” Says Rapetswa, “All these partnerships resonate with our core as it is in our best interest to protect lives, she concludes.” As we were wrapping up, I asked her what legacy she would like to leave behind at Liberty when the time comes. She chuckles and responds, “Let me not be the judge of that… “However, her plans about growing Liberty Life Botswana are firm. She is going to continue developing talent, learning from those around her and being grateful for the love and support she has received to help her get where she is.
“All that stuff about focusing on shareholders? Forget it, spend your time making staff happy instead, they will take care of your customers, which inversely results in more profits for you.”
Not Just Another Business From afar, Mothusi Molokomme could easily be mistaken as shy and reserved. However, this is not the case. The man is something of an enigma. In boardrooms and interviews, he engages honestly and humorously, but speaks softly, yet firmly, never giving too much away.
He exudes the absolute self-assurance of a man who knows exactly what his principles and inner potential converge. Legacy sits with him to understand his thought process and the plans he has for Distell Botswana. Every morning, Mr. Mothusi Molokomme, Distell Botswana’s Managing Director, arrives at the office at 7am, an hour before the official start of business. The extra hour allows him to check his diary and plan ahead. “It is a very productive hour for me before I get distracted by other business of the day. In the industry we operate in, planning is very important,” he says, “the first thing I do is to review the previous day’s performance as this helps to enhance our capabilities to reach our set targets.” Distell Botswana is part of the larger Distell Group which is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange,
in South Africa, its home country. The company headquarters are in Stellenbosch just outside Cape Town. It’s a major distributor of alcoholic beverages with a portfolio of more than fifty brands. Molokomme has been at the helm of the local subsidiary for exactly three years now, and he says it has been a challenging yet exciting role. He assumed the top role at the time the alcohol industry was undergoing downward pressures from the challenging operating environment characterized by tough regulatory policies, stagnated disposable incomes and a shaky economy that was battling with a high unemployment rate. However, Molokomme has been battle hardened for his toughest assignment to date, with the most salient lessons learned from Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL), his former employer now turned competitor.
“I have been fortunate enough to have worked for companies that have shown faith in my capabilities by giving me important responsibilities. As you know KBL is a huge company, and probably one of the best employers in the country as some of its employees have gone out to assume senior roles in other big companies,” he says. His previous experiences have also shaped his view of what leadership entails, traits that he taps into daily to navigate his ship in the treacherous waters of the alcohol industry. Besides his firm belief in giving others a chance to learn, he is schooled in the art of decisiveness. He says the biggest thing organisations - even countries - grapple with is indecisiveness; when overworking the details takes so much time that the window of opportunity passes. “What I have found to be more profound is if you are sure that you have 65 percent chance of success, go with it. More leaders have been shown the door for indecisiveness than leaders who have acted and got it wrong.” Despite his impressive resume, Molokomme highlights that running a business is a not a one man show, emphasising the need to know your employees because they are the backbone of the company. “The trust you have in your employees is critical. The strategies can come after because they are built on that solid foundation you have with the employees,” says Molokomme. Since assuming the role he has recruited almost 25% of the current workforce with some who were already with the company leaving for one reason or another, Molokomme adds, “Its vital you resource for the right roles – skill sets with the right attitude, but also critical to have the much needed balance of the old and the new”. Of course Molokomme is quick to admit that finding talent in the job market is not easy. He noted that it is one of those difficult things they have to deal with because as an employer, you do not necessarily get the right people who share a common vision with you. “When I conduct interviews, I’m not particular with the content of the resume or the skill set. Yes the skills are important but what I have found to be just as equally important is the attitude,” he says. “I want to work with a person who is willing to learn and understand the vision of the company. The biggest thing to me is the right attitude and that is how I identify talent.” It is easy to understand why attitude matters most to Molokomme as he recounts his earlier career days. Again, he extends his gratitude to Debswana another former employer – that is not only known for
unearthing some of the world’s valuable diamonds but also talent. He joined the mining company’s management trainee programme soon after he graduated from University of Botswana with a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree. Despite the benefits he was enjoying at a younger age while still working there, he decided to enrol for a part-time Masters of Business Administration Degree (MBA) at the University of Botswana. “I believe in continuous learning because the world is not stagnated. Qualifications are good but it is continuous learning that will set you apart from other candidates,” Molokomme says. “I always ensure I deliver on what I do in all aspects of my life and that kind of attitude has served me very well.” He credits long term success to a delicate balancing of things. He explains this by drawing a contrast: most people will rather focus on one thing at a time, for example at the start of a career, the idea is to work hard and get that promotion then maybe purchase a car or house and later start a family. “I do not subscribe to that kind of thinking because everyone should set their own course and have a balance in life. You need to have a balanced way of doing things without losing focus,” he said before adding that he married at what many consider a young age and it was the best decision he ever made since his wife has provided the much needed support during the lows and highs of his adult life. He shares with Legacy that the highs walk alongside the lows, “This industry comes with its fair share of challenges. One of the biggest challenges we continue to face is that of over regulation with no clear cut on engagement. Fortunately we have organisations such as Botswana Industry Alcohol Association (BAIA), of which I am Chairman, is playing a huge role in terms of engagement, not only for Distell, but for the alcohol and beverages industry as a whole.” Molokomme further expressed that beyond industry challenges, the Distell Group of companies takes pride in uplifting the lives of the people in the communities in which they operate and he cites the Amarula Trust as one such initiative under their Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy. The Amarula Trust which is a not-for-profit entity derives its funding from the Amarula proceeds and Amarula is one of the spirits that is within the Distell Botswana portfolio. The Trust operates centrally from Cape Town supporting not only Botswana but other countries where Distell operates.
Under its three strategic pillars of Alcohol Awareness and academic excellence, Conservation and Environmental Preservation, Distell Botswana under Molokomme’s management prides itself for continuously contributing to welfare and improving the socio-economic lives of Batswana. Through its Alcohol Awareness campaign, Distell educates the society about the dangers of alcohol abuse and discourages underage drinking. Over the past years Distell Botswana have targeted primary and secondary school students in relaying anti-alcohol messages by directly getting involved with their prize giving ceremonies where the main focus is to encourage improved learning and discourage the use of alcohol among the youth. As he rightly puts it “educating before they indulge gives them the much needed ammunition to make informed choices to avoid abuse” Furthermore, Distell Botswana has teamed up with Somarela Tikologo in the past, an NGO that is focused on activities geared towards environmental preservation as part of the company’s CSR activities. “We donated P150 000. 00 to be used towards the acquisition of a mini truck that would be used in the collection of waste products around Gaborone,” he says. Molokomme also highlighted that the third pillar of their strategy was also another crucial one as it tapped into the Tourism sector which contributes significantly to the country’s GDP, hence it is imperative that this sector be supported to ensure its continued growth. “Getting involved with sponsoring guides to enhance their skills affords an opportunity for them to be able to offer superior customer service to tourists which hopefully leads to increased activity in the sector. Further the Amarula spirit is made up from the marula fruit which is harvested from nature and it is befitting that the Amarula Trust gives back to nature related activities. Under this trust Batswana were offered guide
scholarships through an intensive programme which is wide ranging and covers areas such as botany, ecology, zoology and geology, as well as tracking, conservation and guiding.” To close off our interview Molokomme emphasized the need to continuously work harmoniously with all the stakeholders primarily Government. Since assuming the Chairmanship of the Alcohol Association he has fostered a much closer working relationship with many of these stakeholders. For instance in this year alone, his Association has participated in many of the various Full Council Meetings for the various Districts by making presentations on the work of the Association and where joint efforts are critical. “These have been well received amongst Councillors with better understanding of the strides the industry is making towards combating abuse. They have equally voiced concerns about other players who are not doing enough, hence we continue to engage with them.” So what are Distell Botswana’s plans for the future? Molokomme says, “The shareholder is content with the business environment that the Botswana market offers, obviously there could be improved regulatory reforms, however we as an industry understand the problems that have led to these hence our selfregulating Association to counter these. So the confidence that the shareholders have in this market might in future see the local subsidiary looking into local production provided all the metrics are in place for a sustainable business – which would lead to creation of more jobs” As for what occupies his time when not behind his desk, he points out that his family – two children with one already a teenager take up his time. He also unwinds by running or occasionally on his motorbike.
A successful entrepreneur in the cleaning, hygiene and washroom services and medical waste management business, Helen Williamsâ€™ company was built on honesty and delivering on their promise to clients.
Deliver Deliver Deliver Helen Williams, Owner of
CleanAll From humble beginnings, Mrs. Helen Williams started with cleaning floors to running an enterprise employing over 800 people across all districts of Botswana. When a multi-national corporation acquired a company she was working for, Helen decided to leave and start her own business; a company she never imagined would be one of the leading cleaning businesses by market share. Helen believed a cleaning services company can be managed better than being part of a conglomerate. She wanted speed, accuracy and autonomy to better serve her clients and the ‘family’ values which are not present in large corporations. Helen believes that when doing something, commitment and dedication should be key no matter how small the task. Her proficiency and customer satisfactory delivery is her trade mark and from a fledgling company with two cleaners doing small household jobs, Helen was approached by former clients who valued her style of service and integrity and was soon providing cleaning services countrywide. This is what broke the glass ceiling for CleanAll. The company‘s viral expansion forced Helen to make tough decisions and commit herself to strategic partnerships which she wasn’t sure would
bare fruits, but boldness in taking a financial risk asserted her entrepreneurship acumen. As CleanAll grew she had to find new ways to fund expansion and meet increasing demand. “Someone came in and joined the company as financier. We bought our first company car and cleaning equipment, after six months I bought his share of the business back and again I was on my own” says Helen. The company was anchored around her as an expert in cleaning and a manager. As a relatively young woman her ability to separate company finances and personal life was key to the success of CleanAll. She reinvested all the profits they made into capacitating the company. They bought new equipment and improved company infrastructure. This is very critical to realizing company growth but a very rare trait within the local entrepreneurship space. Many entrepreneurs make bad financial decisions when the money comes in. One of the common mistakes is assuming profits always means cash flow. According to Helen before technical ability one has to know their numbers, to be able to run a successful business. Amongst that and many other attributes that resourced CleanAll‘s growth, being true to their clients was integral in their journey.
As a relatively large business now with footprint scattered all over Botswana, keeping a committed and result driven team is an uphill and continuous task . Helen says her secret is giving her employees a sense of ownership and belonging to the company. “I always tell my team they are an extension of me. They represent my company the way I would”. That way she says she leads a driven human resource team, who are eager get the job done right. CleanAll Services operates in a very competitive industry with many new market entrants. Although the basic technical side of cleaning seems straight forward the complexities of running a cleaning business, as with any other business is not so easy and one of the biggest faults of companies in this industry is undervaluing their employees. Helen talks about how CleanAll survives by retaining talent. She offers them financial incentives and fosters employee development. Her employees are educated in dispute resolution, emotional intelligence and further trained regularly to broaden their skills and abilities. Monthly all employees with clean behavioral sheets and good conduct are awarded with added incentives to peak their hunger for service delivery. “The company‘s most important asset is our staff, they are the backbone of CleanAll,” she says. Helen still demonstrates to her workers how it’s done, she runs her company like a family with love and honesty. CleanAll management have an open door policy in which any employee can walk into her office anytime and professionally confront her on pertinent issues concerning the company “We have a family orientated culture, we listen to people and are respectful towards each other”.
She credits her biggest accomplishment to her employees; having loyal, committed and reliable people working for them was a core contributing factor to their success. As an entrepreneur and now, a business heavyweight, Helen runs an empire of cleaning, hygiene and waste management services nationwide. Raised on a farm as a young lady, Helen drew inspiration from her father who ran a number of businesses. Bookkeeping, accounting and financial management are all lessons she learnt already in business from working for her Father. As a family woman and a mother she wakes up every day to a bigger family of her clients and hundreds of employees “my biggest dream is that people empower themselves through my business, I want my managers to be able to make sound decisions on their own, because the legacy of my company is being the best in Botswana, people are more important in that quest’’
If there is one lesson you will learn in emerging markets, its patience. Always remember to look at business for the long-term, make sure you have ticked all the right boxes, do your homework â€“ donâ€™t take short-cuts. There is no quick-fix solution for setting up sustainable businesses and the reason is that there are a lot of variables and if you havenâ€™t set strong foundations, you open yourself up to reactive actions that result in many issues including corruption. Most importantly always deliver on your promise.
BUILDING A LEGACY OF OPPORTUNITIES AND SUSTAINABLE GROWTH
Approaching Botswana Teachers Union’s head office in Gaborone International Park, one can’t help but be in a transport of delight and pride at the beautiful modern edifice situated just arm’s length of the iconic Kgale hill. This is where MorePower Investments is located, an investment and administration wing established by Botswana Teachers Union in response to the socio economic needs of their members, tasked with the role to invest and create emolument for its sole shareholder BTU. One of the defining duties of any progressive labor union is to advance the interests of its members, by creating and maintaining a support structure that enables them to enjoy optimum levels of social and economic rights, with unfettered access to services designed for their needs. Employees wake up every day to financial limitations that cannot be solved by employeremployee wage negotiations. These socio economic shortcomings require needs-based planning and long term financial solutions that
guarantee a piece of mind for employees even after retirement. As a trade movement BTU‘s specific purpose is limited to members welfare advocacy and protection at the workplace. However, worker‘s needs stretch beyond ergonomics, workplace dispute resolutions and conditions of service. BTU as a union cannot trade to make profits, hence, the incorporation of a holdings company; MPI which is designed to give BTU an opportunity to generate revenues and supplement their member’s subscription also resourcing and enabling them to carry out their mandate of workplace advocacy better. MorePower Investments was set up in 2012 and started operations the following year. At the helm of the company is the Board of Directors, composed of the Executive and Non-Executive Directors.
MPI manages portfolio group schemes ranging from financial services i.e. personal loans, home loans and auto loans with local commercial banks, insurance short & long term including group funeral scheme & legal scheme, property management. In conjunction with the local telecom service providers, MPI administers the sale of bulk airtime & data bundles with attractive and competitive gadgets packages. Other products such as building material, home appliances and merchandise are offered. When MPI started operations in 2013, Botswana Teachers Union membership stood at just above 16 000. Fast forward to 2017, the union’s membership has skyrocketed to over 22 000 members. The company‘s relationship with commercial banks enables BTU members to attain loans as low as prime+3% interest rate, compared to the 26 % rate offered to the public, something which the company says has largely contributed towards for their members. As a relatively new company, MPI is just beginning, more schemes and initiatives to the satisfactory service of their client’s socio-economic requisites are in the pipeline. The company is yet to launch a savings & cooperative society (SACCOS) subsidiary wholly owned by BTU for their members, to easily enable them to gather, save and borrow money at very low interests rates without, cumbersome procedures and tedious processes. The society will supplement already existing schemes to further diversify their member’s socioeconomic portfolio and give them stability in their financial standings.
To curb the existing trend of employees retiring to poverty without substantial and basic assets like household property, MPI is in the last stage of negotiations with property developers to come up with an affordable arrangement in which BTU members and MPI clientele can have at least a 2 bed roomed house at negotiated rates as a way of encouraging members to be home owners at the time of retirement.
Through BTU structures, MorePower Investments intends to engage on a country wide excise to educate their members on issues of financial literacy. This will equip members with the knowledge, skills and attitudes required to adopt good moneymanagement practices like spending, savings, borrowings and making investments. It also involves knowledge of financial concepts like financial planning, compound interest, the mechanics of a credit card, advantageous savings methods, time value of money etc.
This is to equip members with information and tools to make better financial choices and work towards their financial goals to enhance their economic well-being. Also on the Pipeline is a bursary scheme geared at enabling Botswana Teachers Union Members to upgrade their academic qualifications.
MPI intends to venture into many other projects that are member focused and have a high ReturnOn-Investment. “We have ambitions to venture into different businesses which will raise capital for MorePower Investments to further sustain itself as a company”, says the Business Development Director Mr. Ronald Ketshabe. The first venture will be within the agricultural space. The agricultural sector is viewed as a lucrative entrepreneurial venture that could address the current unemployment rate and over dependence of the economy on the infinite diamond sector. This year‘s last quarter More Power Investment will launch a relatively large farming venture within the arable and pastoral sector. In partnership with other stakeholders the company also plans to establish an agricultural entrepreneurship training center that will capacitate and incubate young farmers in the area of farming. “We believe that we can make a difference within the agricultural space because we have infrastructure and ample land to our advantage, MPI will venture straight away into large scale commercial ventures”, say Ketshabe. MPI team believes in well thought of investments, their main focus is to participate and inject capital in projects that their members will be attracted to but also the general public to reduce the fraction of those investments, being dismissed as BTU members only company. The company subscribes to result a driven business model, as its a member based and member focused entity its mandate is clearly to
boost the revenue and attract public eye to the Botswana Teachers Union. Leveraging on over 22 000 of BTU memberships, the next target market includes members employed in the Ministry of Education, lecturers, as well as associate members who left the education sector to greener pastures but continued with BTU membership. To expand their portfolio further and boost its revenue, prospects of scouting in the international market for further business ventures are also on the pipeline.
Suit Up, Show Up, Seize the Day! KeNo Custom Suits
The signature of KeNo Custom suits isn’t limited to its custom design but is telling of the spirit of passion exuded by its owners. KeNo Custom Suits is a name derived from the founders’ surnames and it has, since its inception three years ago, managed to subjugate even their own reckoning. Today it is one of the fast-growing clothing line in the country.
niche in the market but its founders pointed out that their clothing label does not have a specific target market. “Despite having a pool of clientele from the corporate class Keno Suits actually is for anyone who desires to look different, unique and comfortable in tasteful attire. We do not discriminate; whatever age or class at some point in your life you will need a suit.”
The African Mall, one of the oldest Shopping Complexes in Gaborone, is home to the budding enterprise started by Thobo rekang and Donald N to. The two pushed the boundaries of their long lasting friendship by introducing to it what is now carving itself as a formidable business partnership. Both with no experience from the fashion industry, these two childhood friends decided to heed their intuition and start a brand that provides high-end, custom made formal wear for both work and social occasions. The suits are created uniquely to the customer’s taste. Their competitive strategy was to leverage off of their competitor’s inefficiencies and has been proving to work. They observed that speed, product quality, accuracy and sophisticated style, all of which make someone stand out, were lacking in the industry. The Keno custom suit has identified its
Partnerships are in most cases, a nightmare for many inexperienced entrepreneurs as it is never clear to people whether or not a friend can make a good business partner, but Kerekang and Nnoto seem to be a well-tailored union fit for their clients’ suit. In a business partner Kerekang looked for someone as passionate as he is, willing to get the job done, a hard worker, and someone who understood his business tact. “Donald has an amazing work ethic, like me, we don’t look at what day it is, or the time, if it needs to be done, it shall be done,” he states. Born in Lobatse three decades ago Kerekang traces his entrepreneurial trait to his childhood, as he recalls “I have always been an entrepreneur, at age six, my cousins and I sold sweets, ice pops and biscuits. I guess it has always been in me.”
Recognised so far for their trailblazing journey, the two entrepreneurs have come to separate the romance of entrepreneurship from its reality on the ground. Nnoto shared his dollop of wisdom that when going into business one’s mentality can either make or break what they are embarking on.
Not one to be defined by one thing, Kerekang is also a law professional and once was a hip hop musician. Donald Nnoto had established himself as an artist and entertainment manager prior to his entry into the fashion industry. He described his merge with Kerekang as the coming together of two people with different mindsets but a similar goal. He said, “That way we naturally complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses.” Nnoto, the operations anchor of the business, admitted that their biggest challenge in their attempt to break the glass ceiling was, and still is, both finding Batswana tailors that meet their suit design standards and finding the right people to work with. The business employs 10 people. Nnoto regards the Keno custom suits’ workforce as a family. “We recognise their efforts and try by all means to appreciate them,” he says. “No matter how small you start, you need the right kind of people around to avoid unnecessary costs.” Another part of the equation is the customer, who in Nnoto’s view calls
the shots. “When we see our clients, we see our bosses. We give them the highest respect to ensure a continued relationship. We changed the game of suit tailoring. We identified a void in the existing market and cashed it on it, but I can’t tell you what that is,” he said with a chuckle. The astute attention to a customer’s needs is regarded a trait that sets the apart from the rest. “We don’t think outside the box; there is no box. We are in the business of continuous, consistent growth.” For Keno custom suits the digital age has worked favorably for their business. The Fashion business and advertising go together, and as a business that depends entirely on consumer purchases for income a proper marketing strategy and an advertising plan that speaks volumes about the brand, is an integral requisite for the success of the business. The two partners have used social media for the benefit of the business.
The internet and digital media forms a significant part in Keno Suits’ selling of their brand. But perhaps, it is also worth mentioning that the founders have fused themselves into their marketing strategies by becoming walking billboards. The kind of business they are in dictates the kind of outfit they put on. “We make people more aware of the fact that it’s not just about putting on a suit, it’s about paying attention to detail. We look the part,” says Nnoto.
For Keno custom suits the digital age has worked favorably for their business. The Fashion business and advertising go together, and as a business that depends entirely on consumer purchases for income a proper marketing strategy and an advertising plan that speaks volumes about the brand, is an integral requisite for the success of the business. The two partners have used social media for the benefit of the business. The internet and digital media forms a significant part in Keno Suits’ selling of their brand. But perhaps, it is also worth mentioning that the founders have fused themselves into their marketing strategies by becoming walking billboards. The kind of business they are in dictates the kind of outfit they put on. “We make people more aware of the fact that it’s not just about putting on a suit, it’s about paying attention to detail. We look the part,” says Nnoto.
Recognised so far for their trailblazing journey, the two entrepreneurs have come to separate the romance of entrepreneurship from its reality on the ground. Nnoto shared his dollop of wisdom that when going into business one’s mentality can either make or break what they are embarking on. “We are raised and taught throughout school to be employees and not entrepreneurs. This narrows our spectrum of risk and hence whenever we decide to get into business, we do not give it our all. At the first sign of a challenge we tend to give up and fall back to the comfort of being employees to government and some multinational companies,” said Nnoto. Kerekang expressed cognizance of the hunger that young people have in their pursuit of entrepreneurial ideas but pointed out their lack of seriousness and professionalism. “We want quick results but don’t want to work. Business needs patience,” he says. With a stamina set to carry the business into bigger horizons, African mall is one of many locations the Keno custom suit will make its mark. Plans to open another Suit Store in Francistown, are underway. “By the time you publish this article we would be fully operational in Lusaka, Zambia,” enthused Kerekang, a move seen as an entry into the Southern African market.
â€œWe are raised and taught throughout school to be employees and not entrepreneurs. This narrows our spectrum of risk and hence whenever we decide to get into business, we do not give it our all. At the first sign of a challenge we tend to give up and fall back to the comfort of being employees to government and some multinational companies,â€?
The Queen of Radio K E L LY R A M P U T S WA She had wandered into the mainstream path but the beckoning of her truest calling returned her stride to its passageway. It is the reason that today Kelly Ramputswa is the Station Manager of the country’s youthful private radio station, Yarona Fm, following a corporate career, which she had weaved in a multinational company. “My primary reason why I applied for the job was that I always wanted to be on radio but then life happens,” she said, without a tinge of regret.
particularly at a time when the youth’s focus is plunged into social media. Yarona Media Holdings, a media entity with interests that span across print, radio, TV, outdoor advertising and communications media sought a substantive Station Manager for Yarona FM, their oldest subsidiary and also the Group’s most recognisable brand name. It was a highly publicised recruitment process and its outcome veered off from the radio station’s tradition of appointing from within its existing talent pool.
“The one thing about life is if you have a dream, you want to follow it but opportunities did not arise at that time. If I had a choice I would have worked in radio my whole entire life,” she reflected.
The previous Station Manager was the radio station’s former news editor David Moepeng, replacing the station’s former production manager Owen Rampha who previously was the acting station manager but later resigned to go and manage Phoniex FM (another YMH radio station in Zambia). Prior to Rampha, the radio station was headed by Dumi Lopang, one of the shareholders of Yarona Media Holdings group and the Group Executive Director.
On August 1, 2016 Ramputswa was appointed Yarona FM’s first ever female Station Manager, marking a new era for the 18 year old radio station. In her new position Ramputswa is tasked with maintaining Yarona FM’s brand position as a youthful station
Ramputswa has a charming, almost disarming smile, but it’s her articulation that commands attention. Her demeanour reveals and validates her pioneering appointment. She may not be captaining a Botswana Stock Exchange listed company but Ramputswa’s resolute to make Yarona FM the most listened to private radio station in Botswana lends a driven and fearless character to her conduct. With a history of firsts Ramputswa appears unfazed about the difficult task ahead. In her early days Ramputswa flitted the DJ decks where she interfaced intimately with music and its tenets. She, at the time, was probably the first mainstream female DJ in Botswana. In the music scene, she drops the Ramputswa identification and dons the Ms. Kelz brand name distinctively associated with her Deejaying prowess. Her appointment at Yarona Fm was long in the making and represented a full circle for her. While studying in South Africa, Ms. Kelz dabbled in radio where she crafted her deejaying finesse. While she might have been considered an outsider as she had no prior experience in Yarona FM’s operations, Ramputswa ticked all the boxes of the company’s culture: outspoken, youthful, and immensely talented with a good ear for music. After all, the station’s tagline is “Live the Music” and who better to lead it than Ramputswa who rocked the music airwaves as Ms. Kelz. Though a natural progression to her it did not appear as such to others who viewed her move from corporate to radio as a misnomer. But Ramputswa’s love for radio bucked that trend. With a few months at the helm of Yarona Fm Ramputswa regards the experience so far as ‘great and fantastic.’ She admitted the pressure that came with being the exception to the norm. “It is overwhelming in the sense that whatever I have been doing in life, there has always been that element of being the first female to do that, therefore there is a bit of pressure of whether you can do it right or wrong. But the job does not change for male or female. It is the job.” As a Station Manager her job is no different from that of a Chief Executive Officer, with a typical day involving meeting up with clients and staff as well as preparing reports for the Board Members and other stakeholders of the company. She is responsible for implementing strategies that
align the company’s profitability while maintaining a tight grip on retaining and growing the station’s core audience. With a team behind her R a m p u t s w a acknowledged their effort as complementary to hers. “I’m lucky to have found a great team, from the radio presenters who are the face of the station to the backend support team that handles the administration and operations of the station. Asked about her leadership style, she preferred the question to be answered by her team. She however provided a dollop of insight on leadership citing a good leader as someone who is open to advice and observant of emerging trends with the ability to respond to them. “A good leader should not be stern in their ways, an open mind and adaptability is important in this fast paced world,” she said. At Yarona FM, Ramputswa engages predominantly with a youthful team, something she regarded a rarity in comparison to many organisations. “A benefit of working with young individuals is that you can learn from them. You will be shocked at what change the youth can bring. They contribute fresh ideas, and also, they are technologically savvy hence they bring something new to the table,” she said. Ramputswa highlighted the value of possessing work experience in the task given but she hastened to point out that opportunities to build such experience must be availed in the work place. “Experience does count and it is great. But how can someone get experience without teaching them how to get there?” she asked rhetorically. “So we are still nurturing, we are still developing and that is what Yarona FM has always been about. We are always developing young talent.”
“Experience does count and it is great. But how can someone get experience without teaching them how to get there
Are there any plans of transforming Yarona FM from a youth oriented station to an all-encompassing broadcaster? “Yarona is a youthful based radio station. That is our brand,” responded Ramputswa, “but the one thing I did add is that we have this aspect called Aspiration Relevance Trendsetting (ART), which emphasises our focus on youth related matters. If Yarona FM does not comply with that then we do not have it on air.” As part of ART the station not only brings into focus issues and challenges affecting the youth, but also appeals to their aspirations by ensuring that the youth have access to the most relevant information that could be beneficial to them. In that way Ramputswa said it ensures that they remain a leader in what they do. Ramputswa has the difficult task of keeping Yarona relevant at the time when the youth, their target market, is exposed to social media. She aspires to
achieve this by providing content that the youth can relate to. The content, she said, hinges on local music and topics that form part of the trending topics on platforms that the youth engage on such as social media. Moreover, Yarona has taken it a step further to incorporate lifestyle events as part of its strategy to attract the youthful audience. The radio station has its popular Yarona Music Awards which celebrates local artists and has recently added another event dubbed ‘Summer jamboree’ which offers music entertainment in a safe and relaxed setting. “We do not do initiatives like that just because it will make money for the station eventually. But we do them because we firmly believe that as a station if we grow the nation, we will also grow with the nation,” she explained. “We remain relevant because we are the biggest promoter of local content and we are truly in support of local content.”
The station’s main source of income derived, from advertising has plummeted, owing to the economic crunch evidenced by reduced expenditure from private companies and government advertising. Moreover, she said, without new jobs being created parallel to job losses, it has made it difficult for the station to tap in on new markets. Further complicating the matter is companies and individuals who are leveraging on social media to promote and advertise their goods and services at a lower cost compared to radio advertising. Despite the prominence and direct threat of social media to their revenues, Ramputswa expressed that they have found ways to monetize their digital channels. “I don’t think there is any business that is not on any digital platform right now. They will be so behind,” she said, “We sell packages that are on air and also on our digital platforms that also have a wide reach, thanks in part to our large following on social media.” Technological disruptions continue to threaten traditional business models. While radio seems safe from such disruptions, entrepreneurs are establishing niche online radio stations. In fact, former Yarona FM employees have recently launched an online station, a first of its kind in Botswana. In expressing her view on the interaction between radio and technology Ramputswa said, “The beauty of radio, which makes it amazing, is that over the years it has remained relevant. This is because radio has a human touch to it and also carves its own brand that people can relate. It is not like a hardware product that can be replaced with something new and better,” she said. Ramputswa said while the advent of technology has introduced new products, from the perspective of radio, technology enhanced the experience and unlike other products radio has not been replaced.
We remain relevant because we are the biggest promoter of local content and we are truly in support of local content.
“It is the human aspect of radio that keeps it alive. The presenters are real, the experiences that they share on radio are equally real. Radio will never truly die, instead what only changes is how it is accessed. Now you can stream radio from anywhere, a person in USA can still listen to Yarona FM via streaming but it is still radio. That is the beauty of radio.” She recognised that the future of radio largely hinges on digital streams, coupled with the right amount of imagination. This, she said, is demonstrated by radio now being streamed on apps, as well as live broadcast of radio over social media and also over video streams. “It is still radio, but on a different platform,” she said. The advent of technology has also given rise to a new industry referred to as ‘big data’. The devices and the platforms consumers use and engage on collect personal information about them. Companies are paying huge amounts of money for personalised data that they can use to derive insights on consumers’ spending habits. They then use such information to align and offer specific products and services to the targeted group. A radio station, like other businesses, relies on quality data to inform the next move, for example, the number of their listenership is an important tool when negotiating advertising rates with clients. “We do not have the resources and the technology to collect information that will be beneficial to us, for example we cannot measure on a daily basis how many people tune in our various shows,” Ramputswa said. “Luckily our regulator, Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority, does surveys of which we use the information to infer insights,” she added. “It’s a fantastic survey. Data sets us apart, so many insights to be derived and if the numbers are on your side, you have a comparative advantage. We use the data for brand positioning, so it’s always good to have a look at numbers that are relevant to the industry you are in.” Another matter Ramputswa pays keen interest in is the payment of royalties to local artists. In 2013, the radio station signed an agreement with the Copyright Society of Botswana (COSBOTS) which will see
artists being paid royalties for the content played on radio. Asked if payment of royalties will affect the quota of local content played, Ramputswa answered with an impassioned “No.” For years local artists have decried poor working conditions citing preferential treatment of foreign artists over themselves by local radio stations as well as entertainment promoters. Ramputswa seeks to dismantle the perception and indicated that Yarona FM has a strong policy on playing local music and as such urges local artists to release more music for it to be played and equally give them more exposure. “For so long local artists have not been getting what is due to them. The royalties we pay helps the artist. That is the whole point. We play a large share of local content because we do not want to be collecting royalties for outsiders,” she said. “The more we play local music, the more we empower our artists. The money then remains at home and that is the beauty of organisations like COSBOTS.” In retrospect Ramputswa described her move into radio as having being the toughest career choice and also one with a demanding assignment due to the current difficult operating environment. Prior to branching off to radio Ramputswa’s career had treaded the conventional trail that follows a University qualification. She graduated from Rhodes University in South Africa with a degree in Politics and Law and before that she had attended Maruapula High School, depicting a rather typical education path. She started out in management consulting firms where she honed her research and management skills. She later clinched a senior role as the General Manager of Aramex, a multinational courier company from Dubai with presence in several countries including Botswana. “With that being said, it doesn’t take away the beauty of what I have learned in the other corporate industries. I got exposed to different functions within companies from finance to human resources. It was all a learning experience.” Her corporate facade masked her passion but it wasn’t long before she was pulled to the center of her holy grail. Ramputswa’s clutch to the radio’s top seat was seen by her employer as the best fit to structure and carve out the needed change at the youthful radio station.
Works of my Hands
Lekwalo Leta Mosienyane
It’s not so much his name that defines him but rather his work. Lekwalo Leta Mosienyane looks to the future as one in which he will shape the next generation of entrepreneurs. For a man with an illustrious career in architecture and urban design both locally and in the region, mentoring and incubating budding entrepreneurs is one way to continue his legacy. Mosienyane is the Founder and Director of Mosienyane & Partners International (MPI), an architecture and urban design consultancy firm with offices in Gaborone, Johannesburg and Cape Town. He began his career in 1986 as a Partner in the Dalgliesh Lindsay Group becoming the first Motswana to co-own an architectural practice firm in Botswana. In 1989 he sold his 25 percent stake and established MPI. As an independent firm MPI’s first major assignment was to design one of Botswana‘s monumental landscapes: the National Assembly in 1992, a project Mosienyane delivered industriously. Other works include the Debswana Diamond Park in Gaborone, the Institute of Health Sciences in Molepolole and the Gaborone Development Plan which birthed the esteemed central Business District (CBD). A few buildings within CBD carry his design stroke. When he bowed out of Dalgliesh Lindsay Group Mosienyane was already working on Phakalane Golf Estate architectural design & planning, a development that later became one of Southern African’s elite residential suburbs. Thereafter work followed his trail as was demonstrated by offers for MPI to take on major projects across Africa. His notable urban design work include Melrose Arch in Johannesburg and the Delf Symphony Development in Cape Town, No7 Jansmuts Avenue, in Rosebank; the Durban Nestle Center; PineTown Durban; and Nelson Mandela Museum in Xunu, Eastern Cape all of which were major developments in South Africa with keen national interests and unifying significance after the end of apartheid regime. As a profound chartered architect, urban designer, arbitrator and a member of Royal Institute of British Architects he never ceased furthering his education, he studied a number of courses to supplement his
knowledge in the property and real estate space. He holds a qualification in Alternative Dispute Resolution and Land Economics from South Africa. He co-chaired the Advisory Council for the Department of Architecture at University of the Witwatersrand (1998 to 2002). He also chaired the Botswana Institute of Development Professions (BIDP) (1990-1992). His landmark projects in Southern Africa landed him on the Board of the South African Institute of Architects (SAIA) (1987-1989). He established a global network through participation in panel discussions around the world. He also published internationally recognized architectural urban design journals which are still used as references in United Kingdom Universities to date. In the African continent Mosienyane established himself as a brand behind symbolic undertakings of statue. He explained that the right positioning opened doors for his work. His ethos was to deliver as was expected, hence he expressed that no particular work stands out as he did every job zealously. Mosienyane and his company are currently working on a watershed project for a major tribe in Ghana, he is designing & developing Sunshine City in Ashanti region few miles from the capital city Accra. Aside being an architectural titan Mosienyane’s name is synonymous with the Association of Employers called Business Botswana (formerly BOCCIM) which advocates for a private sector led economy. He was elected President of Business Botswana in a closely contested election in 2013. He deemed himself a disrupter who sought to steer change within the private sector space. During his four year tenure at Business Botswana Mosienyane introduced research, advocacy and dispute resolution capacity to give the organization a proper base with key economic issues. Business Botswana has since established itself as a key policy think tank on issues of economic development and program crafting. The organisation commands its voice at the High Level Consultative Council which is chaired by President of the country. He was appointed into the Cabinet Economic Advisory Council by His Excellency President Lt Gen Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama. A position he still holds today even after his recent departure from Business Botswana.
“Government doesn’t create jobs, as a matter of fact government should shrink and give more space for private sector to flourish,”
One might ask about the background of such an accomplished man. Mosienyane was born and raised in Lentswe-le-Moriti, a free hold area bought by the Zion Christian Church for its followers to openly practice their faith. During his childhood Lentswe-le-Moriti was a small community of fifteen families with minimal developments. It sits inside the Northern Tuli Game Reserve. Currently the village has a population of nearly 500 people and about 90 households. Despite a proletariat upbringing Mosienyane defied its limitations. He drew inspiration from his father, a commercial farmer and entrepreneur who founded
the only school in the village, something that reflected positively in Mosienyane’s educational background. “My father was an educationist, he was my inspiration and the foundation of my passion for academics,” he says. His father also influenced his career path. “He always told me that I will be a builder, so I knew I was headed for a career in that space or anything related to that”. Lekwalo completed his primary education in 1972 and proceeded to Moeding College in 1973 until 1977. He said that it was during those days that his ambitions of leadership showed and passion for design and architecture emanated. After Moeding, it became clear to Mosienyane that architecture was his true-calling. He enrolled at the University of Botswana but dropped out after three months because the university did not offer fine art, a decision which landed him in Maruapula School to read for A-level commonly known as form six. “Maruapula only admitted the best and my BGCSE results did the talking for me,” he says. His two year study at Maruapula illuminated his quest and opened doors for a thrilling architectural career; he graduated with an O level and an exceptional art portfolio which was a pre-requisite for admission into the best schools of architecture and design. From Maruapula, Mosienyane was accepted in Plymouth School of Art & Design in the United Kingdom and graduated with distinction in 1983. After graduating he started practicing at a leading firm, Shankland Cox in UK for a year before he headed to Oxford University. Mosienyane successfully completed his Post Graduate Diploma from Oxford and his exceptional performance earned him a Masters program scholarship in Urban Design in the same University. As a reputable businessman with interests in a number of business ventures Mosienyane values the role of education. He posits that ‘skills mismatch’ is not a misaligned view but what rather exists is the lack of space where graduates can be incubated and developed into professionals. “Graduates are academics not skilled people,” says Mosienyane. He advocated for deliberate government policies that can develop a private sector with the capacity to skill graduates and turn them into professionals. “Educating someone is not skilling them, so you can’t talk about skills mismatch.” He believes that Government does not create jobs but rather creates and facilitate a conducive environment for the private sector to do so. “Government doesn’t create jobs, as a matter of fact government should shrink and give more space for private sector to flourish,” says Mosienyane
Shrewd Visionary Ramachandran Ottapathu
65 When it comes to exploits there is always that one eagle that soars above the rest: the king of the skies, the one that is revered, chiefly for achieving what most deem impossible. In Botswana’s entrepreneurial landscape Ramachandran Ottapathu, popularly known as ‘Ram’, is akin to that eagle. He is a man whose audience is sought after, one whom aspiring entrepreneurs measure their success against. Taking on challenges and venturing into unchartered territories is second nature to Ram. When he left India he was a young man on the prowl for new opportunities. His search landed him a job as an auditor at Mazars, an accounting firm operating in Gaborone. “When you leave your country, it is because you’re not satisfied with the opportunities you are getting back home,” he says, “but it all comes down to taking risks, and being able to move from where you are by making changes in your life. I ventured out because I had greater dreams.” Being young especially in a foreign country could have easily invoked fear but to Ram it emerged a daring exploit. Many moons later, Ram, now married with two children, is counted among the richest people in the country with an estimated net worth that exceeds $300 million. The wealth gleaned from the mass retailing business has been used by the shrewd accountant to create more as demonstrated by solid investments in various other businesses. Ram has a vast portfolio that spans retail, property, financial services, technology, media and manufacturing. He holds directorship in no less than 60 registered businesses. Despite the affluence garnered, Ram is not showing signs of slowing down. “I do what I love and I love what I do. Time is absolutely not a problem for me, it is not a constraint. I balance things nicely and I enjoy my time in the profession,” he fervently expresses. It was through his work at Mazars that an opportunity struck Ram. As fate would have it, Mazars was doing accounting work for Wayside supermarket, a predecessor to the existing local mass retailer, Choppies. Wayside, founded by Farouk Ismail of the Chopdat family in 1986, was then a struggling enterprise with a single store in the town of Lobatse. Ram handled the company’s accounts and by the end of the contract a visible improvement was seen in its financial position. The company was coming out of the woods and that signalled to Ram that things could be turned around. Ram then joined the supermarket in 1992 as an employee and in 1999 became a shareholder. Soon the supermarket was ready for expansion and Ram was equally ready to prove his mettle in his first business venture in Botswana. The expansion commenced in 1999 when Choppies opened a superstore in Gaborone West, a move which saw the company’s finances take firmer shape. That same year Ram ascended to the
It has been an expansion fraught with many salient lessons that sometimes called for a change of strategy, particularly when entering new markets.
company’s top seat as its Chief Executive Officer (CEO), a position he has held to date. Choppies today is the country’s giant retailer, reflecting unparalleled success in the local retail market which the company is currently working on imitating within the region. It has more than 80 stores spread across Botswana, commanding close to 35 percent of market share, a great feat for any retailer in any market. “Our strategy was simple; the retail space was dominated by South African companies and they were making good money,” he says, “however they were profit oriented hence not willing to expand to where it doesn’t make business sense. We realised we can easily compete with them.” With Choppies’ credibility established in the nation’s capital, Gaborone, after opening several stores, they went on to open stores in villages. The move paid off as the retail market in villages was largely informal as was characterised by small general dealers which had inconsistent stock inventories and charged prices that were considered high by consumers. Choppies’ initial expansion in the local market was financed by individuals as financial institutions expressed scepticism about the company’s financial projections and future prospects. However with the continued success of the retailer banks opened their purses to the company. “When the weather is fair, funding from banks will always be there,” Ram says with a chuckle. “You need guts to go out and achieve it. Don’t let the banks tell you about the risks. The risks should be identified first and assessed to see if they are manageable,” he added. Botswana’s retail environment depicted barriers to entry for emerging enterprises due to the dominance of multinational firms which were backed by mass resources. This made competing with such forces a near impossible task. Choppies defied that by employing a cleverly trick that could only be executed by minds that understood the reality on the ground. A distinct leverage Ram and his team had was that they understood the local market better than their foreign competitors. While the competitors were focused on amassing profits and limiting their exposure to risks, Choppies on the other hand were discerning of Batswana’s need: professionally run stores that offered quality goods at affordable prices
We are building a legacy that starts today.
Choppies later benefitted from the government of Botswana’s decision to devalue the pula, an exercise that sent some competition scuttling for cover, with a concern for the country’s future economy. The competition then decided to pull back on investments and even sold some. Choppies was unwavering and moved forward with expansion, ultimately acquiring some enterprises that were being sold by panicky owners. “The devaluation created opportunities for us when others saw a crisis. We filled in the gaps they left and we expanded,” says Ram.
entity. The IPO gave Batswana a chance to own part of a locally brewed company that has punched above its weight and knocked some multinational retailers to the ground. It was one of Ram’s proudest moments, one where he was able to share his creation with other people. “You need to have a legacy that will live on beyond you. A company should at some point have an identity beyond the people involved. It is important to have a strong management structure in place, so you can one day move away from what you have created,” he says.
Ram looked visibly tired but when he started speaking about Choppies’ future his aura defied his appearance. Choppies is presently expanding its footprint across Southern and East Africa. He envisions the mass retailer as a company that will, with time, outlive its founders and carve out a legacy.
A chartered accountant who understands the role of capital markets in wealth creation, Ram says listing a company allowed for diversification. Moreover, he says capital raised from listing a company can be used for funding the company’s expansion without straddling the enterprise with debts. It was not a surprise that when Choppies sought to increase its footprint in Southern Africa they turned to the capital markets. In 2015 Choppies became duly listed in the biggest stock exchange in Africa, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. With dual listing Choppies enhanced its profile and lent the company credibility to penetrate markets beyond the Botswana border.
It was one of the reasons that in 2012 Ram together with co-founder of Choppies, Ismail Farouk, decided to list the company on the Botswana Stock Exchange. The Initial Public Offering (IPO) produced great success, with the shares on offer oversubscribed by investors who craved to be part of the profitable
Choppies’ expansion beyond the borders of Botswana began in 2008 when it tested the waters with a store in Zeerust, a small town in South Africa. The expansion in South Africa followed the same pattern: the target was smaller towns which were in close proximity to mines, mostly in the North West Province whose characteristics are similar to those of Botswana. “South Africa has the same demographics as Botswana. The people have similar preferences and tastes, so common sense dictated that we naturally expand first through South Africa,” he says. “The borders between Botswana and South Africa are artificial in a sense that the people have almost same consumption habits. The first priority was customer profile and we realized it fit in with our customer profile in Botswana, so the natural progression was to target those mining towns,” says Ram. With over 200 stores as at 2017 Choppies now operates in Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and Zambia. It has been an expansion fraught with many salient lessons that sometimes called for a change of strategy, particularly when entering new markets. For example, while operating in Botswana, the company relied on organic growth but as the company grew and sought new markets Choppies started to acquire other businesses in the retail sector. Ram expounded that acquisitions offer an advantage of speed. “Through acquisitions you get to build faster. It has its own challenges but it gives you the pace to get the footprint increased.” In 2013 when Choppies expanded into Zimbabwe it did so by acquiring the 10 stores that were operated by Spar which had exited the market due to the tough operating environment. The regional expansion was also bolstered by further acquisitions in South Africa and Kenya. The Kenyan market was penetrated through the acquisition of seven Ukwala Stores, and while in South Africa they made their biggest acquisition to date by absorbing 21 profitable Jwayelani stores which operated in Kwa Zulu Natal and Eastern Cape provinces. The acquisition in South Africa is by far probably the company’s most prominent in the sense that it took Choppies brand from the struggling mining towns to new unexplored markets of that country. As a listed company the current challenges have put Ram on a collision path with shareholders who are doubtful of the expansion strategy but the man is resolute that he will deliver real value to shareholders. Choppies employs around 15,000 people, a number set to increase as the company forges ahead with its
expansion plans that include opening additional stores in existing markets as well as in new markets such as in Namibia. “We are in the people’s business and you need to have the right talent. If you don’t have requisite manpower, it becomes difficult to grow the business successfully,” says Ram. Ram lamented skills deficiency in the continent despite significant investments made in the education system. “Academics and business are two streams which don’t merge. There is no convergence in any way during the journey. As long as there is no convergence, we won’t see young talent and we won’t be able to catch them young and train and mould them,” he says. He mentioned an initiative that will see graduates trained in new skills through Choppies internship program which began in 2017 with a cohort of 250 graduates. He added that the company is in talks with relevant authorities and institutions about addressing the lack of convergence between academics and the real world of business. “Academics must always work with the business leaders so they can produce what their market needs. This will help graduates fit in their careers without lacking skills needed by businesses,” he says. Despite the increase in footprint across the region, it has been a difficult road to traverse. In the full year end results for 2016, Choppies declared profit after tax that was 47 percent lower than the profit in the previous year. The financial results paled against the boisterous expansion of the company which as a result made shareholders nervous about growth. Shareholders took issue with the fact that since Choppies expanded in South Africa the stores had yet contributed profit. Throughout the expansion, the Botswana based stores have been the anchor to the company’s bottom-line. This brought questions to its regional expansion plan. Ram views it as the growing pains of a company on an expansion drive. His job is to deliver strong financial results, while at the same time ensuring business growth, a mix he deemed intricate to balance. “A listed company is under scrutiny from quarter to quarter. In our case, every six months, the shareholders want to see profits up with healthy dividends declared. But growing a business requires a long term plan of which the results will also show in the long term,” he says, “but of course a long term plan comes with short term short comings. Expansion costs a lot of money, from infrastructure, manpower and acquisitions. Therefore, the financial results will inevitably show that impact and sometimes it will be bad results.” Ram expressed confidence in the outcome of the expansion. “We have a plan in place and we are going to follow that plan and we are going to deliver long term value for our shareholders,” he said. “Initially we needed to find out which markets to get quicker returns. Then we rank them based on that and we keep changing it as circumstances change,”
Highlighting the experiences of the different countries Ram said, “Zambia and Tanzania are underserved markets with huge potential for growth because retail penetration remains low in those countries. Our experience in Mozambique was difficult due to complex regulations, resulting in slow processes and wasted opportunities.” When asked about the challenges of doing business in Africa, Ram expressed that opportunities far outweigh challenges due to untapped markets. “I’m fortunate to be doing business in Africa and I always say without challenges you cannot make money, otherwise everyone will be making money.” Needless to say he did point out challenges such as the lack of quality data in Africa that could assist in making the right investment decisions. “Big companies all over the world have morphed out of data. You look at companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon that are data centric as it is core to their services,” he says. “Data has become an industry on its own. We will catch up some day in Africa but for now we should not let that be a big impediment to forging ahead with our businesses.” Looking into Botswana where Choppies has cemented its grip, Ram has identified other opportunities. He posits that the country still offers high growth potential and possibly a move from an economy reliant on diamonds. He cited areas such as manufacturing which currently is dominated by few players. He said that such dominance means that intermediate players are absent from the equation. “There is a huge opportunity for SMMEs in this sector, and it could create employment, bring equality to the society and improve welfare,” he says. A proponent of minimal government intervention Ram advanced that the role of the government is to create an enabling environment and allow private companies to gain a significant footing in the economy. “Governments have tried to do business themselves and they have failed miserably,” he says. “They do not have the talent whatsoever to run businesses. The wasteful expenditure and failure is a great cost to the tax payer and they are ruining the wealth of the nation by attempting to run businesses.” In establishing himself as a business titan Ram worked hard. A typical day for Ram starts at five every morning and by seven he is in the office going over the day's tasks. This is later followed by store visits before returning back to the office until nine in the evening. Before he could go home he takes a final round to one of the stores. Saturday usually involving
trips to South African based Choppies stores. On Sunday the day starts into noon and ends at about seven in the night, an early knock-off time by his account. In the same way as his business ethos, he keeps his advices simple. “Be committed to you cause, don’t worry about the instant rewards. You stick to your plan, the rewards will come. You stick to your course of action irrespective of the shortcomings in the short term. You will have your ups and downs, but you try to balance it out.“
Some days you will be so totally down that you cannot think of Tomorrow, but by the evening you become accustomed to what you have gone through and you come up with a plan to welcome, in a big way, the next day. Always wake up with a purpose that you need to do something better today than yesterday. So once that is there you will always be encouraged with a renewed sense of energy.
Chartered Insurance Brokers is the insurance broker of choice for long term, short-term, fund, risk and assets management. Our vision is to become a trusted insurance broker in Botswana, by being a customer centric firm, creating services that have market relevance and forming strong partnerships with our underwriters. Chartered Insurance Broker is a competitive brokerage within the local insurance market offering shorter and long term coverage’s. The company prides itself in customer tailored products that best serve their clients. CIB is resourced with motivated and creative personnel that crafts value added products and policies. We have a simple business ethos, “ ”. Our human capital is our most valuable resource. We have taken a deliberate approach to hire the right people with excellent product knowledge and high order social and interpersonal skills. We meticulously train our staff to fit the company culture, until we are certain they will be able to serve our clients at full capacity. Our employee service training is crafted in a way that ensures that, our employees deals with customers efficiently, show empathy and provide them with relevant information. We have built a service culture that involves listening to our customer to find out their wants. Most clients often put pressure on the broker to get them the lowest price for insurance cover or will switch to another broker. However, this cheap cover, may not always be the best cover for their needs. This is usually evident when there is a claim and the client is told that their claim cannot be settled, as it is not
covered. At this point, the client feels so let down and often label insurance firms as swindlers. Therefore, listening to our clients as a strategy has enabled us to build strong relationships with them thus resulting in high customer retention. We are always willing to go an extra mile to ensure our client’s happiness, especially if they have a claim. Great customer experience and good brand repute in the eyes for the customer is the only differentiator since policies are almost identical offered at similar prices. At CIB we are focused on created a positive experience, so that we can continue grow with them
We have fully embraced the customer centric model and weaved it, into all our processes and systems.
Chartered Insurance Brokers incorporated in 2010 under the Botswana Companies Act and was licensed by Non-Bank Financial Institution Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA) under Insurance Act (cap 46.1) of the Republic of Botswana effective 01/03/201 CIB was founded in 2010. From infancy to the present time, it has retained the credo, “CUSTOMER FOCUSED”. Today, CIB is a dynamic broking firm known for its independence, competence, integrity and competitiveness. CIB has grown to be one of the major composite Insurance Broking Houses in Botswana whose growth can primarily be ascribed to loyal, enthusiastic and energetic people.
CIB's products covers both short term and long term insurance products underwritten by the following Insurance companies; Botswana Insurance Company (BIC), Zurich, Regent, Phoenix, Old Mutual and Botswana Life.
to protect things that matter most to the client, we provide coverage for the following products: ➢ Domestic All Risk ➢
Group Personal Accident
There are many types of insurance for businesses including coverage for property damage, legal liability and employee-related risks. Our Long term cover includes a wide range of products, of which you can reduce your financial burden and protect your family from life’s uncertainties. Our smart, flexible and affordable protection plans are designed to provide you with peace of mind and offer your family the security they deserve.
LEGACY CONTENT THAT MATTERS
Published on Mar 6, 2018