ZIMBABWEAN food manufacturing firm, Glytime Foods Private Limited, is fast becoming a household name.
The firm has expanded its market with exports into neighbouring Zambia and other countries in southern Africa.
The dream, according to Glytime CEO Lesley Marange (LM), is to penetrate the international markets.
Standardbusiness chief business writer Taurai Mangudhla (TM) caught up with Marange to discuss the company’s export strategy and how he plans to raise capital.
Here is how their discussion went.
TM: Can you give us a brief history of your journey into business?
LM: Our business started in February 2018.There are several pull-and-push factors to our business initiative.
The turbulence in our economy could not allow me to be an employee because salaries were quickly being eroded by inflation.
There was a gap in the market for health cereals. By that time there were very few players in the health cereals category.
Most of the products were imported brands. So I felt it was a good initiative to tap into this niche.
Being a niche, it offered good margins and that was an ideal way to start a business given that we had little capacity.
It was a good starting point for us as a business.
Looking at the global trends there has been an increase in the uptake of health food products due to the prevalence of non-communicable disease such as high blood pressure, cancer and diabetes, just to name a few.
People are also health-conscious because healthy eating helps one keep that youthful look much longer.
This has become a global social value.
The initiative was also driven by the need to create employment among youths, to reduce the rate of unemployment.
The increase in post-harvest losses mainly of fruits and vegetables also increased the need to venture into agro-processing.
We were also motivated by our background and expertise in food manufacturing.
TM: You said you have a strong background in food manufacturing. Can you give a brief background of your experience?
LM: I have a degree in Food Science and Technology and I also hold an MBA in Strategic Management with more than five years’ managerial experience in the food industry.
My wife has a degree in Nutrition, hence that also triggered our business motivation.
TM: Starting a business is no stroll in the park. How did you manage to make it locally against big brands and penetrate the export market?
LM: In every industry there are key performance drivers. In our industry we have product quality, good packaging and good sensory attributes, capabilities to consistently supply the product to the market, competitive pricing, among others.
If these key performance indicators are aligned, it makes it easy to open many doors in terms of markets.
For regional markets, we were assisted mainly by ZimTrade through their outward seller mission and also through the BBC news coverage.
A key attribute has been strategic leadership.
TM: Most start-ups, particularly in Zimbabwe, collapse because of lack of funding. What has been your experience?
LM: Finance has been a very huge hindrance for the growth and existence of SMEs in Zimbabwe.
I carried out a research on exploring the determinants of export readiness and their effects on export adoption among SMEs in the food manufacturing sector in Zimbabwe from 2015-2019, and it came out that most SMEs are failing to grow and adopt export businesses due to financial constraints.
The financial sector and the government need to come up with models that can assist SMEs to finance their businesses.
They can learn from Rwanda and Mauritius.
The biggest problem is that financial institutions require collateral that is double the amount required by SMEs.
Even if there is a confirmed order, letters of undertaking from the buyer and a signed contract that shows that it is a cash-on-delivery arrangement, banks still require collateral from most young serious entrepreneurs.