Fur­ni­ture firm dares to dream big

Lesotho Times - - Business - Bereng Mpaki

OVER the years, factory shells con­structed by the Le­sotho Na­tional Devel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (LNDC) have ended up be­ing oc­cu­pied by large for­eign com­pa­nies while most lo­cal en­ter­prises strug­gled to ful­fil the re­quire­ments needed to se­cure space.

How­ever, Quat­tro-m In­dus­tries — a Ba­sotho-owned firm that man­u­fac­tures wooden fur­ni­ture — is among the four indige­nous com­pa­nies buck­ing that trend af­ter be­ing al­lo­cated factory space at the re­cently-com­pleted Tikoe In­dus­trial Area.

Quat­tro-m In­dus­tries was es­tab­lished by three en­trepreneurs in 2014 to ad­dress the short­age in fur­ni­ture in the coun­try. Ac­cord­ing to Quat­tro-m chair­per­son, Tha­banag Mosena, the com­pany im­ports tim­ber from South Africa which they process to man­u­fac­ture a range of of­fice and home fur­ni­ture.

“Our com­pany cur­rently buys raw un­treated tim­ber from South Africa which we cut up to make smaller planks for man­u­fac­tur­ing fur­ni­ture,” he told the Le­sotho Times this week.

He said a short­age of fur­ni­ture prod­ucts in the coun­try in­spired the founders to go into busi­ness, with the added in­ten­tion of con­tribut­ing to­wards job cre­ation in the coun­try.

“We wanted to fill the gap of fur­ni­ture prod­ucts in the coun­try which would also en­able us to con­trib­ute to the eco­nomic devel­op­ment of our coun­try,” said Mr Mosena, ad­ding that the firm cur­rently em­ploys 21 peo­ple.

Quat­tro-m In­dus­tries cur­rently serves the lo­cal mar­ket, al­though plans are in the works to ex­port their prod­ucts to the south­ern Africa re­gion.

“The com­pany also in­tends to es­tab­lish a paper mill to pro­duce var­i­ous paper prod­ucts and re­duce Le­sotho’s de­pen­dence on South Africa in that sec­tor.

“The saw­dust we pro­duce from cut­ting the wood has given us an op­por­tu­nity to pro­duce paper prod­ucts, al­though this will be ef­fected at a later stage.”

Ex­plain­ing the ben­e­fits of be­ing al­lo­cated space at Tikoe In­dus­trial Area, Mr Mosena said the large area would af­ford the com­pany’s var­i­ous de­part­ments — pro­duc­tion, ad­min­is­tra­tion, sales and mer­chan­dis­ing — to op­er­ate in one place.

Quat­tro-m In­dus­tries cur­rently op­er­ates from three premises in Litha­ba­neng, HaLet­hole and the pro­duc­tion base in Ha-tsolo which Mr Mosena said had neg­a­tive cost im­pli­ca­tions.

“Also, due to the dust pol­lu­tion emit­ted dur­ing the cut­ting of tim­ber, it was nec­es­sary to move to a suit­able place that would not pose a health threat to the com­mu­nity,” he said.

Mr Mosena said their predica­ment com­pelled them to look for an al­ter­na­tive premises and ap­ply­ing for space at the LNDC.

He said the in­vest­ment and trade pro­mo­tion agency played a key role in men­tor­ing them as well as en­sur­ing they met the re­quire­ments for get­ting space at Tikoe In­dus­trial Area.

“As much as we thought we knew what we were do­ing, we re­alised there was a lot to learn af­ter the LNDC re­quired us to pro­duce well-ar­tic­u­lated busi­ness mod­els and fi­nan­cial plans,” rem­i­nisced Mr Mosena.

“The LNDC were very help­ful in as­sist­ing us to put all those things to­gether, which in the end helped us to se­cure space at the Tikoe In­dus­trial Area.”

The as­sis­tance, he said, also re­sulted in Quat­tro-m In­dus­tries ben­e­fit­ing from the Par­tial Credit Guar­an­tee Scheme which is run by the gov­ern­ment through the LNDC in col­lab­o­ra­tion with com­mer­cial banks to help en­ter­prises get ac­cess to fund­ing.

How­ever, with the con­struc­tion of the fac­to­ries hav­ing been com­pleted last Septem­ber and ten­ants al­ready mov­ing in, Quat­tro-m In­dus­tries is still grap­pling with the chal­lenge of re­lo­cat­ing its bulky ma­chin­ery from their cur­rent base to the factory shells.

“We were sup­posed to have al­ready moved to the space, but we are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing chal­lenges in mov­ing our cum­ber­some ma­chin­ery to the factory,” said Mr Mosena.

“The ma­chin­ery needs to be dis­as­sem­bled and lifted with a crane through the roof of the build­ing so that it can be put into the factory.”

He added: “Other pos­si­ble ways of mov­ing the equip­ment into the factory would be to break down part of the factory’s wall struc­tures. So, we have sub­mit­ted all of those plans to the LNDC.

“How­ever, since the build­ing is still un­der the care of the con­trac­tors, ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween them and the LNDC are un­der­way at the mo­ment.”

Mr Mosena said the com­pany was do­ing so well, they were re­ceiv­ing of­fers from in­vestors for part­ner­ship, while oth­ers wanted to take over the busi­ness.

“We are re­ceiv­ing many or­ders from clients. Cur­rently, we are work­ing on a big or­der for a ma­jor pro­ject in the coun­try,” he said.

“We have had a lot of of­fers from es­tab­lished busi­nesses in South Africa want­ing to part­ner us, while oth­ers want to take over. We are cur­rently as­sess­ing the pro­pos­als.”

Some of the chal­lenges the busi­ness has en­coun­tered in­clude skills short­ages and hav­ing to im­port their raw ma­te­ri­als from South Africa.

“What we in­tend to do, ul­ti­mately, is to se­cure land on which we can plant trees for tim­ber to re­duce our de­pen­dence on South Africa,” said Mr Mosena.

“We have also been look­ing for a chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer for some time, and we are yet to find the right can­di­date.”

He also called for the reg­u­la­tion of fur­ni­ture im­ports to pro­tect lo­cal in­dus­tries.

“It would be nice if the au­thor­i­ties would start con­trol­ling the im­por­ta­tion of fur­ni­ture now that there are lo­cal en­ter­prises man­u­fac­tur­ing such prod­ucts in Le­sotho,” added Mr Mosena.

A wood-bend­ing ma­chine at the Quat­tro-m work­shop.

Quat­tro-m Chair­man tha­bang Mosena.

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