Many countries across Africa have been hit by the world’s economic recession that caused economic growth to stale in developing countries such as Zimbabwe.The former British colony nation has been in trouble for more than a decade now with challenges ranging from ill-informed policies, dollarisation and closure of foreign companies.
Upcoming entrepreneurs are one of the ordinary citizens that have been hard-hit by the under performing Zimbabwean economy.Parerenyatwa Kennedy Ismael is one of the few entrepreneurs who have managed to stand their ground despite the persistent economic hardships.
The Inspired Africa’s Solomon Mutasa(SM) spoke to the Harare-based agrochemicals businessman (PK) who revealed a tale of sheer determination in order to succeed.
SM: Thank you for your time, tell us who inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
PK: I sat with my friend Tennyson Chideme whom at that time felt aggrieved in his line of work.Coincidentally, I felt abused as I worked for a company that hired me for administrative work. The company’s culture and strategy did not fit me well so I did find inspirations within myself, being tired of working for someone else. My quest to be my own boss was inevitable, that was the same feeling Chideme had when we decided to open the company.Few days after we talked about it, we formed Faithstel Investment (Private) Limited and later I registered Bassein Trading (Private) Limited as a side company.
SM: How have you managed to get rid of the economic challenges in your line of business?
PK: It is very fortunate that my location has shielded me from the economic challenges that bedevil the economy but not completely. I am located at Boka Tobacco Auction Floors on the outskirts of the capital city. Boka is one of the biggest tobacco auction floors in the world, so my line of business in agro-chemicals and animal health products is in line with business at the floors.When the tobacco season opens, it is my peak season and normally runs between 4-6 months per year. I decided to venture into agro-business in line with government’s agenda business by providing solutions for new farmers, especially in the tobacco industry.
SM: What has been the hardest lesson you have learnt in entrepreneurship?
PK: Hardest moments as entrepreneur came when we closed our branches nationwide. We had eight branches with more than ninety employees, I helplessly watched as each day we dismissed employees, closed branches and sold our vehicles in order to pay rent due to the stagnant economy which was getting worse by the day before dollarisation.Eventually the Faithstel Investment’ our very first company collapsed as there was very little we could do with my partner.I decided to stop going to the office to avoid witnessing the dying company, bills accumulated with legal threats. That was the hardest moment for me. My family depended on me and being a father and with nothing to give them.I managed to pick myself up and visited one of the tobacco auction floors and realised that there was an opportunity for business. No one was selling agrochemicals at the floors so farmers had to drive some kilometers away from the auction floors to buy what they required and risked falling into the hands of criminals.
SM: What is your take on small African businesses face-off competition with foreign companies on the market?
PK: This competition is healthy and will dress African companies to be modernised and face international standards.Same time we stand disadvantaged by the capital aspect where most of our black indigenous businesses commenced with very little funding.Global companies will have an upper hand in such a situation. Governments should intervene to protect local indigenous businesses. Joint ventures would make sense on the surface as both parties will benefit.
SM: When you guys teamed up, what is that you realised in each other
PK: My initial partner Mr Chideme, having a military back ground, he had a good network in the government departments. He was aggressive in sourcing funds; I’m more of a conservative guy due to my marketing skills.This combination made a forcible team but the economy had other plans back then. Currently I have partners in Bassein Trading in my brothers who play a silent role.
SM: How are the local policies impacting on your daily running of the business?
PK: Policies have been a huge burden for most indigenous companies due to the nature of business on the ground.Licenses and taxis are billed across board with little regard to the company’s size. No lobbying bodies are effective enough to change this pattern of legislation. No sympathy can be waived in such a stagnant economy to help small companies lessen their burden in regard to these local policies.
SM: Lastly, how do you relate to customer’s needs and keep up with growth of your business at the same time
PK: We have kept a keen ear onto the ground for our customers need and what they want us to improve on. We have evolved to their needs and implemented their needs in our innovations.
Our task is to thank them for their loyal support, we make calls to clients, to thank them for remembering us every time they purchase at one of our shops.Our growth is mainly based on their support as customers and besides Bassein Trading providing a solution to their agricultural problems, they are our permanent partners in business.
SM: Thank you for your time and all the best in your business endeavours.
PK: My pleasure