Of­fer­ing More for Less

Africa Outlook - - Contents - Writer: Matthew Staff | Project Man­ager: Joshua Mann

The bev­er­age mar­ket’s vi­able, qual­ity and af­ford­able al­ter­na­tive

The com­bi­na­tion of a coun­try with one of the highest mid­dle-class pop­u­la­tions in Africa, and an in­no­va­tive com­pany look­ing to chal­lenge the es­tab­lished bev­er­age in­dus­try elite is a per­fect match on paper; and AJEast is prov­ing this the­ory to be true as it con­tin­ues to evolve its ex­ten­sive range in Nige­ria.

The international AJE Group has long looked for op­por­tu­ni­ties of this de­scrip­tion, and with ap­prox­i­mately 200 mil­lion in­hab­i­tants and a rapidly grow­ing ur­ban­i­sa­tion process,

Nige­ria was iden­ti­fied as a per­fect fit. And thus, this largely au­tonomous brand was in­cepted in 2013 as an en­tre­pre­neur­ial busi­ness look­ing to of­fer a vi­able al­ter­na­tive to the two ma­jor drink brands in the coun­try.

“We be­gan by ac­quir­ing land back then and moved into project sta­tus and be­came fully op­er­a­tional in Septem­ber, 2015,” AJEast Nige­ria Ltd Coun­try Man­ager Theo Williams re­calls. “Our vi­sion stemmed from the fact that we re­alised the PET mar­ket had been serv­ing the same size prod­uct for the past nine years. So we in turn came into the mar­ket with a big­ger size - around 25 per­cent big­ger - but for a slightly lower price.

“Our slo­gan was born: ‘of­fer­ing you more for less’.”

This premise and ethos has sub­se­quently driven ex­po­nen­tial growth for AJEast in Nige­ria, ini­tially within La­gos and more re­cently into the East and North of the coun­try; virtue of its three ini­tial and still pri­mary flavours: Cola, Or­ange and Lime.

Williams con­tin­ues: “Our busi­ness model here is largely a repli­ca­tion of what the AJE Group has achieved elsewhere in the past, but these flavour se­lec­tions were crit­i­cal and tai­lored, and only de­cided upon fol­low­ing a de­tailed case study con­ducted prior to be­com­ing op­er­a­tional, to find out what flavours were most sought-af­ter in Nige­ria.

“And since then, while it’s largely been a case of or­ganic growth and con­tin­u­ing to of­fer More for Less, we have also broad­ened our value propo­si­tion and scale of de­liv­ery. We have be­gun pro­duc­ing a smaller size PET bot­tle of 350ml, and a larger PET size as big as two litres, to com­ple­ment our open­ing 650ml brands.”

Cul­mi­nat­ing in a va­ri­ety of sizes and flavours, the AJEast that ex­ists to­day is still a work in progress but the speed in which its port­fo­lio and reach has ex­panded is tes­ta­ment to the Com­pany’s abil­ity to iden­tify con­sumer pref­er­ences, and of course, the qual­ity of its prod­ucts.

“Our prod­ucts are big­ger, they have less sugar, they have less gas, and they are a vi­able al­ter­na­tive that peo­ple en­joy,” Williams af­firms.

Ex­cit­ing the cus­tomer

Nat­u­rally, for es­sen­tially a startup com­pany, the route to suc­cess has to be metic­u­lous and strate­gic, Williams de­scrib­ing AJEast’s tac­tics as a “ri­fle shot mar­ket approach”, as op­posed to com­peti­tors’ “shot­gun approach”. Tar­get­ing spe­cific de­mo­graph­ics, and analysing the best flavours, bot­tle sizes and price points for them en­sures faster up­take and a more re­spon­si­ble growth tra­jec­tory as a re­sult.

Williams ex­plains: “If you look at en­ergy drinks for ex­am­ple, which we have moved into to com­ple­ment our three orig­i­nal flavours, they can of­ten be very ex­pen­sive in Nige­ria which might ex­clude our tra­di­tional tar­get mar­ket. So we in­tro­duced a drink called ‘BIG VOLT’ at an ac­cept­able price, tai­lored for our tar­get mar­ket; all with an en­vi­ron­ment of as­pi­ra­tion that

peo­ple who wouldn’t have pre­vi­ously looked to buy an en­ergy drink can now buy one of the same qual­ity, but at an ac­cept­able price.”

A skilled mar­ket­ing team is on hand to fa­cil­i­tate such fore­sight and in­no­va­tion of thought, while each mem­ber of the de­ci­sion-mak­ing struc­ture is en­cour­aged to subscribe to international mag­a­zines in or­der to con­tin­u­ally mon­i­tor fluc­tu­at­ing trends.

Re­sul­tantly ap­ply­ing a well-rounded global out­look to a lo­cal do­main, Williams can not only trans­late this mar­ket data into new prod­uct vari­ables but into the in­ter­nal struc­ture of the Com­pany too. A re­cent large in­vest­ment to double line ca­pac­i­ties and into the com­ple­ment­ing ma­chin­ery re­quired to fa­cil­i­tate such de­vel­op­ment has epit­o­mised this phi­los­o­phy and once again pro­vides the busi­ness with the per­fect plat­form to meet its mis­sion state­ments.

“In­vest­ments like these al­low us to re­act more ef­fec­tively and quickly to mar­ket and con­sumer trends and that’s the cen­tre of what we do. We look at the mar­ket and ask our­selves what the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple in our in­come bracket want to drink both now and in the fu­ture. And then it’s about ex­cit­ing the cus­tomer.

“We ex­cite the cus­tomer not through prizes and gim­micks, but through pro­vid­ing them with a vi­able, qual­ity and af­ford­able prod­uct.”

Serve all of Nige­ria

Iron­i­cally, AJEast’s great­est dif­fer­en­tia­tor may ac­tu­ally lie in not be­ing as big as its clos­est com­peti­tors. Re­duced bu­reau­cracy, quicker de­ci­sion mak­ing, fresh ideas, the most mod­ern of tech­nolo­gies, Group au­ton­omy, and more per­son­able re­la­tion­ships have all be­come sta­ples con­trib­u­tory to the Com­pany’s early suc­cesses.

And from an in­gra­ti­a­tion per­spec­tive, the busi­ness’s longevity in Nige­ria is al­ready be­ing planned for cour­tesy of its lo­cal-cen­tric hu­man re­source and sup­ply

chain management ap­proaches.

“If you com­pare us to a lot of international com­pa­nies, our ex­pat num­bers are ex­tremely low,” Williams con­firms. “Here, we take Nige­rian staff, and we de­velop them to the level we want and need.

“Then, sim­i­larly, on the busi­ness partnership side of things, it has al­ways been part of our busi­ness model to utilise com­pa­nies that are di­rectly sit­u­ated around us, sub­se­quently cre­at­ing a pe­riph­eral net­work.”

Even the Com­pany’s whole­salers are re­ferred to as part­ners, rather than cus­tomers; em­pha­sis­ing the per­son­able, mu­tu­ally-loyal rep­u­ta­tion that AJEast has al­ready fos­tered since its move into Nige­ria.

Its bud­ding cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity (CSR) am­bi­tions which take the no­tion another step fur­ther, kicked off ini­tially with its 2018 ‘Wa­ter for Peo­ple’ pro­gramme which will see the sup­ply of bore­holes to the com­mu­nity in which the Com­pany’s fac­tory is lo­cated,

just out­side of La­gos.

And as ac­knowl­edge­ment of such ex­ploits broad­ens, and the AJEast name be­comes more pos­i­tively renowned as each year passes, Williams will be able to con­vert this ac­cla­ma­tion into equally pos­i­tive mar­ket re­sults.

He con­cludes: “Even a year from now we’ll look to have dou­bled our out­put again, not just con­cen­trat­ing on the ma­jor cities, but be­gin­ning to move towards smaller towns and vil­lages too, so that our prod­uct value is on of­fer to all Nige­ri­ans.

“Fur­ther down the line we will also look towards an ex­pan­sion pro­gramme whereby we will have the ca­pac­ity to not just serve all of Nige­ria, but to also ex­port fur­ther afield. And I’m con­fi­dent in these am­bi­tions because of the su­perb team I have around me. We have be­come an ef­fec­tive team, we treat each other with fam­ily val­ues, and we all know where we want to go.”


Big Cola pro­mot­ing up­com­ing artists at Warri

AJEAST NIGE­RIA LTD AJEast analy­ses the best flavours, bot­tle sizes and price points

The Com­pany’s prod­uct range

“Here, we take Nige­rian staff, and we de­velop them to the level we want and need.”

“Our prod­ucts are big­ger, they have less sugar, they have less gas, and they are a vi­able al­ter­na­tive that peo­ple en­joy.”

“Even a year from now we’ll look to have dou­bled our out­put again, not just con­cen­trat­ing on the ma­jor cities, but be­gin­ning to move towards smaller towns and vil­lages too...”

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