The Director of Mo Beverages, Gabriel Masie is a troubled man.
He has done everything to play by the rules. And in the process saw every hurdle being erected on his way so that his company could not enter the market.
He talks of “cartels”” that are artificially keeping his products out of the shelves.
Masie runs Mo Beverages – a water purification and bottling plant.
Sales are not moving. And he thinks he knows why.
Artificial hurdles have been erected on his way.
And if he is not careful Mo Beverages will go the path of many other citizen owned companies in the water bottling sector; belly up!
During the interview it becomes clear that the cartels he is making reference to includes some retail chain stores.
“The market is there. But we are not allowed to access it,” said Masie in a clear frustration that was discernible throughout the interview.
He said he has gone through all the steps that were put to his company by the Botswana Bureau of Standards (BOBS).
Since meeting the BOBS standards, he senses that there is now a plan unfolding to run him and his company.
“Ä plan is now to destroy us. It’s so sad,” he says.
Masie says that Mo Beverages is government funded, yet not even government is buying from them.
“Look we have fulfilled all BOBS requirements put on us. It has come at immense costs. But we felt strongly that we needed to fulfil those. And now here we are,” said Masie.
The tragedy for him is that some of their competitors are not BOBs compliant and yet retailers see nothing wrong buying water from them.
“We need to enter the chain shops. Now they have stopped taking or returning my calls.”
Not so long ago, Botswana government took a decision to stop importation of water from outside the Botswana borders.
Yet Masie says there are still some South African water brands that continue to flow freely into Botswana.
Exactly how that happens we cannot say. For me what is important is to get a seat at the table. If we don’t, we might need to create such a seat,” said Masie.
At the moment the plant is operating at only 5% capacity.
And even then not all production is able to enter the market.
His brands are listed in almost all the big shops. Yet those shops are not buying any of his brands.
“We are ready for service level agreements. We are ready to meet any quality assurance they may put on us,” he says.
Masie is not fazed by his struggles to enter the market.
He refuses to look at the whole thing through a race tainted prism.
For him it all boils down to unfairness that is allowed to go on despite existence of organisations like Competition Authority that are supposed to ensure market fairness.
His vision to grow Mo Beverages marches on notwithstanding all the difficulties he encounters.
There is already underway a movement of incorporating a line inside the facility that would produce sparkling water and also the medical water.
He says the model was initially not to get involved in downstream marketing, before adding, “but we are being forced into it by retail cartels.”
He adds that at Mo Beverages they are convinced that their manufacturing vision dovetails nicely with that of the country.
But with no sales, that is little consolation.
“We look at ourselves as pioneers. Our plant is fully automated. Except for monitoring through the computers, there is nowhere people get involved in the process,” says Masie.