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Is Ram, Choppies’ ‘Success’ Story Underrated?

RAMACHANDRAN

DUMISANI NCUBE

Walmart, the world’s most successful retailer knocked doors on the South African market in 2011. With a total equity of just less than a trillion pula (BWP895 billion), 2.2 million employees around the world, its strategic merger with Massmart in South Africa was to define what was to be the new era for retail and FMCGs sector not just in the country of the strategic merger but across the continent.

To put this into context Massmart owns Makro, Game, Jumbo Cash and Carry, Builders Stores amongst dozens of other established brands. This was against the backdrop of Shoprite owning the crown of the African market in the FMCG space from Johannesburg to Gaborone and the rest of the mother continent. Spa, Pick n Pay and Woolworths are also domineering forces that have known nothing but leadership on the FMCG sectors.

Having some of the global leaders with expertise that is close to impossible to replicate closing deals with Africa’s market leaders for market domination and control meant a new era for the markets. What chance really would any player make and take in any part of the continent when the world’s best is playing a game of chess with great masterminds and strategists with a financial war chest which cannot be replicated?

Sam Walton (Founder of Walmart) at the end of his life is quoted saying, “If we work together, we will lower the cost of living for everyone… we will give the world an opportunity to see what it’s to save and have a better life.” Born during Great Depression his convictions were to serve the average working consumer by offering the lowest prices anytime, anywhere. His vision/strategy intent was premised on an un-ending quest to improve lives best on good competitive prices for all.

There is no business journal in the world that doesn’t celebrate the late Walton as the mastermind on matters of strategy. His model won the world over on pricing because of an enduring vision.  Having his business’ presence on the continent through Massmart meant the world and markets watch in wonder and bewilderment as big boys do what they know best – dominate.

The Economist highlights that South African retailers such as Shoprite, Pick & Pay, Spar and Woolworths are highly sophisticated and offer a fine array of fresh food, at least in the big cities. Botswana saw an unlikely creation metamorphose in Lobatse in the form of Wayside. Two struggling stores meant for the local market of just under 20 000 at the time were trying to figure out a model which could rival local dominance of established brands and outcompete for the benefit of the ordinary Motswana.

An unknown accountant from Mazaars always seen analyzing figures, and as a regular at the store he was set to be the new visionary of what would be Botswana’s leading brand in its sector.
“Choppies was an exciting story because of its rapid growth and expansion as a leading FMCG player in Botswana. It’s phenomenal growth and eventual listing on the BSE was a spectacle.

Major players such as retail players like Spar and Pick n Pay upped their game in acknowledgement of Choppies’ surprise market domination,” notes an investment expert who is close to Choppies transactions and declined to be named.

“They took a dent with over concentration on the top line and rapid African expansion. Exiting Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa and other market and announcement of a measures growth strategy is what shareholders hope to see in addition to rolling out the full plan of a deputy CEO and succession,” he notes.

“WE are pleased with the re-admission on the local bourse. It is critical for a listed entity. We never compromised on investor confidence. We are exiting a few markets where growth came at the expense of Choppies Botswana. For the remaining markets Zambia is growing slowly, Namibia has a strong chance of growth and Zimbabwe is profitable despite challenges of market stability,” notes Ram Ottapathu.

Premised on finding solutions for the average shopper for basic grocery needs Choppies found a unique value frontier that established brands had left wide open. Any viable local farmer with produce knew that Choppies was good option to supply their hard-earned harvest. The intricate network of value for suppliers, countrymen alike grew thus creating numerous entrepreneurs along the way.

The Accountant turned entrepreneur had done what few have ever imagined. He created a multibillion-pula enterprise, expanded it from Lobatse to a regional thrust with a presence at home here in Botswana, in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya with prospects to grow beyond.

“Growth is fine but it should not be for the sake of growth. I support the exit strategy. I believe it give the current board room to regroup and use Botswana as a springboard for future ventures in the region,” the financial expert noted.

Are there better days ahead? Having done the unthinkable -conquering the perceived African giants in the Botswana backyard. Choppies has a chance to rekindle its flame. We have heard the story too many time what we need to hear now is how best can we return to the Choppies glory days? “When we stop funding loss making entities the value will go back to the shareholder,” concludes Ram.

*Dumisani Ncube is Digital Executive at Pr Practise

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Khan: Boko, Masisi are fake politicians

18th January 2021
Masisi & Boko

While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.

Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.

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Ookeditse rejects lobby for BPF top post

18th January 2021
LAWRENCE-OOKEDITSE

Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.

Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.

Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”

“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.

He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.

He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.

According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.

There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.

Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.

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BDP cancels MPs retreat

18th January 2021
President Masisi

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.

“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication.
The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.

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