BY PORTIA NKANI
PPC Botswana is on a mission to finding alternative route to market by moving away from its traditional big customers to the small man in the street.
Tuelo Botlhole, the first Motswana to head the PPC company having been appointed as the General Manager in August 2017, disclosed, “we need to diversify our customer reliance from big players to an ordinary Motswana. We are currently busy with our 18months strategy of ‘route to market,’ an alternative route to market. There is a segment which was not fully exploited and we are going into local enterprise development. As a Botswana company what can we do for a small man?,” this is a question that Botlhole had to consider as he took over the office to do things in a different way.
So far, Botlhole said they have made significant inroads strides, as they have assisted those who are unable to secure finance from big financial institutions. “We have put up containers and shells to help an ordinary Motswana who cannot buy our product in bulk across the country,” he said.
In line with the company’s new strategy of ‘route to market’, in the mining towns, the company has also tried to empower the local community where they partner with local retailers to distribute the product.
In this case Botlhole noted that they do not want to be seen competing with the small man. They have successfully done so in Letlhakane/Orapa for the works undertaken at the mines.
As for Jwaneng, he said they have not been successful because the projects were huge and so the customer wanted to be supplied directly from PPC in huge bulks.
PPC Botswana has also achieved significant milestones including reaching a peak production output in this market. The company has been involved in the building of several monumental structures in this country, including the Ministry of Health, SADC House, the iconic I Towers at CBD, Riverwalk mall, Sir Seretse Khama International airport, Game City mall as well as Molapo Crossing mall. It has also gone on to as far as participating in the construction of some of the largest dams in the country including Thune, Dikgatlhong and Lotsane.
Asked if they meet the local demand, Botlhole is so sure that they are able to meet the market demand. Currently PPC operates under two shifts from three shifts from last year and previous years. However, should the demand pick, PPC will be forced to pick the shifts back to three and work overnight, according to Botlhole.
Having been with the company for thirteen years now, he is however, concerned of their competitors from the neighbouring country South Africa who only export into the country but cannot set up operations here locally to create jobs, put up adverts and contribute to the corporate social responsibilities as companies.
“We urge other competitors to come set up their operations here and create jobs. It becomes unfair if people are subsidiaries and they don’t contribute meaning fully to the economy,” he said.
With 23 years of operation in Botswana, PPC Botswana has a milling, packaging and dispatch operation in Gaborone supporting a national distribution network.
Apart from producing and selling cement, PPC Botswana also operates quarries in Mokolodi, Kgale (both around Gaborone area), Francistown and Selibe Phikwe. The company currently has a staff compliment of over 150 employees.
The parent company, Pretoria Portland Cement Limited (PPC) has a successful track record spanning 125 years as the leading supplier of cement in southern Africa. During this time PPC has expanded into Botswana, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia.
In the group’s financials for the year 2017, for the Botswana market, volumes in Botswana were flat, mainly due to competition.
PPC Botswana grew volumes 1 percent in the period and maintained its leadership in this competitive environment, supported by sustainable relationships in the retail and construction sectors. Management has a robust business development strategy for lobbying with corporate Botswana on current and anticipated building projects, in the knowledge that riding out these cycles will create value over the long term.
Going into the future, the Botswana economy is expected to begin improving after a slump in the prior year, supporting the groups’ expectation of an increase in large-scale projects. The strategy is premised on working closer with government as a strategic partner. It is also looking into forging better partnerships directly with contractors and expanding its retail relationships beyond the current base.
The Group executives believe the southern African cement market is showing early signs of improvement, especially in terms of rising prices. The group’s operations will continue to focus on cost management and enhancing efficiencies at our operations.