While Government has taken an overdrive to emancipate locals in the business community in a manner that improves their livelihoods and promote proliferation of the local folk in the economic, business people in the outskirts of the metropolitan cities have somewhat been neglected. Prime Focus Magazine Journalist Rosalia David engages the Project Manager of TMI Holdings Salatiel Kapaangelwa to zoom into the operations of the company, future aspirations and also challenges of the construction sector.
Prime Focus: Could you explain what services and products are offered by TMI offers. Give us a brief background on how and when the company was started?
Kapaangelwa: TMI stands for Tulimo Mekondjo Investment CC, It also has a division known as TMI Industrial Concrete Works. TMI industrial concrete works specialises in concrete products and curbstones which are used on road construction.
We also have an electrical department where we manufacture cable markers, which are used to mark cable lines. We also manufacture wall capping, pillar copping and cabs, these products are mostly used on government capital projects including buildings. Government always approach us to supply them with these materials.
TMI was established in September 2009 and we were only making bricks and blocks until we managed to advance in special products that are rare to find especially in the Northern part of Namibia. We also have a division where we install cabs.
The reason for starting the business was because we saw that most constructers in the Northern part of Namibia source products from Windhoek and it is very costly to transport these products to the North.
The other reason was to create employment and with the mindset of not wanting to work for someone else and to make profit of course. We decided to venture into manufacturing the products we produce to cater for the high demand in the Northern part of the country.
Prime Focus: What are some of the challenges that you have encountered in your operations in the construction industry since 2009?
Kapaangelwa: One of our major challenges was to acquire land because we did not have a site to operate from and it is still a challenge because the places we are operating from are very small and we need a huge area to do our operations.
Another challenge was to do with funds to help us expand our business all over the country. We have also had challenges dealing with competitors who offer the same services as us. Some of the competitors have been in operation for many years and they get public tenders to work on the roads and still to manufacture their own caps stones.
We also have a challenge with the employees who we train but decide to move to other jobs and we have to start all over again employing new people.
We also face challenges like getting customers because they are buying because of the competition. It is also difficult to penetrate the market and convince customers to stay loyal to us because of other options available.
When we started we struggled to get big clients like build it to buy from us but now all that has changed for the better.
Sometimes we produce more than what the market needs and becomes rather difficult to get customers for the products.
Prime Focus: What skills did you acquire during your stay in Cape Town that gave you the confidence to enter the local market, and how important are these skills to the transformation of your company into an elite supplier of the above mentioned services in the construction industry?
Kapaangelwa: The trip to Cape Town has exposed us to the Manufacturing Business by teaching us how to produce our own products. So it gave us the opportunity to see how things are being done elsewhere. After seeing others do what we are doing right now were felt motivated and inspired to reach for our goals.
It was a great experience to be exposed to the manufacturing industry and we have learned a lot from that.
Prime Focus: Would you say the government is doing enough to support local SME’s such as yourself to flourish in the construction industry? If not, what can be done with regards to giving companies such as TMI the much needed support?
Kapaangelwa: People depend too much on the Government for sustenance of their business and projects. I do not think people should depend too much on the Government but should concentrate more on putting initiatives grow in the industry. The Government is helping SME’s and can just do as little but they do give loans and opportunities to grow.
Prime Focus: With regard to Training, What measures does TMI take to ensure that its employees are empowered with the appropriate skills?
Kapaangelwa: We do internal training for our employees. We call the guys from the concrete testing and the teach the our people how to mix and design but we are planning on sending our employees to VTC to learn how to operate the machines because people break the machines and we end up replacing them.
VTC will only do specific training and we want to empower our people by teaching them how to handle the machines because usually a machine in Ruacana for instance will break then we have to get someone from Oshakati to travel to Ruacana to fix the machines which is expensive and takes time.
We currently employ five people in Ruacana, 15 in Oshakati and Five in Tsandi.
Prime Focus: With the recent decision to service land for the construction of 200 000 houses country wide, what impact will this have on TMI’s business operations and what role does your company play in delivering these to the country?
Kapaangelwa: It is very difficult for us to get a direct contract with the Government but if any contractor’s gets the tender will need to buy products from us and that is how we would benefit from the company which gets the tender. Civil constructers would buy caps from us and the electrical contractors would be cable markers as well as the water contractor would buy the fire hydrant marker and gravity valve.
We are moving and planning on opening up another section within the concrete department were we do the small concretes which supports the window for the houses and another picas wall.
From this TMI is going to play a big role and we are willing to work together with the contractors to make work easier for them.
If we are given this opportunity the company is going to grow and we are going to employ more people.
Prime Focus: How would you rate our banks in terms of giving financing to entrepreneurs that want to set up organizations in the local construction industry?
Kapaangelwa: There is support from the banks the only thing is the banks need to know your bank record, they support a lot of SMEs around the country.
It is just difficult to get finance from the bank if you are unable to run a business. Sometimes ideas do not turn into reality. The idea might be good but the question is on whether the person can run the business. They have to make sure if one is able to run and sustain the business for long.
The banks and SMEs should work together and create a relationship. I would advise banks to visit sites where SMEs operate from and really see if the business has potential or not and the SMEs should also bank their money to create an impressive banking record.
Prime Focus: Again with reference to the market, how is the competition in the local construction industry?
Kapaangelwa: We have competitors out there, but I look at them as motivators for our company to be like theirs. I took at them as an inspiration to grow the company because there is a reason for them being a big company and I believe it is through hard work and dedication.
But some of the competitors that are getting road tenders they end up manufacturing the product themselves and it is unfair. If the Government does interfere we will also be forced to go into road construction with our own products although that is not our intention.
We also understand during those years they did not have a place to get the products but left with no choice but to produce themselves.
Our competitors will feel that we are here and they have already started feeling it. We are also targeting tripling our production.
Prime Focus: What is your long term goal with TMI? Where do you see yourself and the company in the next five years?
Kapaangelwa: We would like to have branched out and being the largest concrete manufacturer and employ up to 400 people.
I hope that people will be able to build their own TMI franchise as well as having a branch in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Africa and Botswana as well as Zimbabwe because I believe we can also invest in other countries like they invest in our country.
Prime Focus: With regards Corporate Social Responsibilities, what does TMI do to give back to the communities in which they operate?
Kapaangelwa: We have done a couple of donations including materials to people living with a disability at the Oshakati hospital to make wheel chairs.
There is also a young man who worked for us during the December holiday and we are sending him to school until tertiary level by paying for him and once he is done we will take him back. We are also looking at employing a women to balance the gender equality.
I would also want to tell people that if you have an idea go for it. People always want to start big, making big money, most big companies we see today did not start off huge.
We are an independent country without wars and I believe that there are so many opportunities in the country.
The Government has stated that there is no protection for products made in Namibia. Manufactures need that protection from competition to be able to grow with our own time.
I believe we can be given a chance to also export at least three percent until we are capable of supplying huge quantities. Whatever South Africa can do we can also do. We just need to improve on our production.
Prime Focus Magazine: How would you advise someone who aspires to be a business person one day?
Kapaangelwa: I want to advise the young generation out there who want to venture into the business world that start small. It doesn’t mean if you sell kapana you would be selling kapana for the rest of your life.