One more seat please

I firstly must apologise for not sending a blog for a couple of weeks, once you get caught up in the Zambian lifestyle it’s easy to focus on that. In my host family there is something going on every evening and especially with 6 year old Emmanuel running around and using me as his personal climbing frame, it becomes incredibly difficult to find a quiet moment.

I can’t believe I only have 10 days left in Zambia, it has completely flown by!

One thing that I have learnt: Be clear on what you want to say.

A lot of Zambians have certain phrases in their mind that they want to hear and will have very high hopes that is exactly what you have just said. This normally results in pretty hilarious interactions and confusions, such as:

  • ‘I just tried to call George but..’….. ‘Oh you spoke to him, did he say when we was coming in, what time’,
  • ‘I think I might go later to buy a drink’,….. ‘Oh you bought a drink earlier, could I have some please’,
  •  ‘maybe we should call a cab’,…… ‘oh you already called one? How much did they say it would be?’
  • ‘Could I have the bill please’, normally means that you have time to spare and that time can be used for the waitress to talk to her friend and stare into space before asking the other cashier man to get you the bill before he gives it to her to bring to you. You get the idea. Instead, you should emphasise the time frame, if you were to say ‘Could I have the bill now please?’ that will still give a 5 minute time frame. However, if you say “could I have the bill now now please?” that will signify that you want the bill in the conventional measurement of how us English folk consider ‘now’.

This week we went for a curry with Barbara and Michael who are also with Challenges Worldwide and part of another programme for professionals to do consulting for bigger enterprises. When we arrived I noticed there were 6 seats and 7 of us planning to eat so I kindly asked the waitress for “One more seat please”. Two minutes later I see her pouring a beer and putting it down infront of me. A little startled I asked if anyone had ordered one. It was then I realised my innocent “one more seat please” had been interpreted as: “one mosi please” (The local beer).

Personal achievements: I have learnt a handful of phrases in Nyanja to use mainly at the bus conductors or passing taxis who hit their horn 120 times a minute at me, trying to convince me that I do need to get on the bus and that it is okay to charge me double. A little Muzungu speaking their local language causes such sheer shock and confusion for the drivers that is usually gives me time to walk away before they realise what they were asking me for in the first place. It also brings smiles to those friendly guys behind the counter of mine and Euan’s regular lunch hangout which sells donuts bigger than your face for 50p.

Anyway back to business:

Work has become extremely busy to make sure we can do as much as possible for Pumuna Ltd by the time we leave and hopefully leave them with the skills to successfully enter the cordial market. We have an almost complete business and marketing plan for Pumuna Dazzling juices which will hopefully secure deals with supermarkets and potential investors. The Director and main/only employee of the company has been out of town from week 2 until week 8 so given the lack of communication, there was a limit to what we could do and without any accounts of financial information, compiling financial injections was not possible. However, we brain stormed and used our problem solving skills and we have compiled a complete set of accounts on Excel with all the equations already there so they just need to enter the figures once they have them and the rest will be automatically calculated. I have also made another Excel listing all the ingredients costs to work out direct production costs for each flavour of the juices and made further tables to include all other costs in the manufacturing process in order to calculate the profit margin for each flavour and set an appropriate pricing strategy.

We had our Mid Term Review presentations two weeks ago in front of two external judges and the rest of Team Zambia where we highlighted what we had achieved during our time here, the challenges we faced and how we had overcome them. As well as all our future plans for the remaining time we have left and what challenges we can predict we will have to face. Everyone was impressed with what Vivian and I had achieved given our difficult situation.

The presentations were really interesting to hear everybody else’s progress in a more professional manner as you only hear so much when you’re sitting down at the weekend. Euan and Abraham who are working with Sylva foods and have completely changed the layout of the factory, helped the company get a grant for new machines amongst many other things, deservedly won and Cris informed us they would be going to dinner with a special guest. The following week Vivian and I received a call in the morning from Cris telling us we had also been selected to attend this dinner. Turns out there was a tie for second place between us and Will and Cynthia and they flipped a coin/pulled names out of a hat to decide who could go to the dinner so we were very lucky. The special guest was Chance Kabaghi, formed Deputy Minister of Agriculture and is now the Chairman to a multitude of organisations, including ReNAPRI, the biggest fishing company in the country, a mining company, a south African airline, the list goes on, but to cut a long story short, this man is extremely successful and wise and can talk about economics and politics for weeks. He brought his son, Chance Junior who graduated in Economics then became Managing Director of a fattening company (buys cows, fattens them, sells them to meat companies to sell as beef), but decided he could earn more money working alone, so set up his own company where he now buys the cows himself and supplies to Zambeef, one of the biggest, if not the biggest meal provider in the country. Oh and he is a mere 23 years of age by the way. As I am sure you can imagine the dinner was incredibly insightful and interesting to hear about of their experiences and we were very thankful to our country manager for giving us the opportunity. Following on from the dinner, Chance Junior offered to take us to his farm in Lusaka West to see how the value chain works and we should be going this afternoon.

For this last week now we need to expand on the consumer profile and marketing strategy and have another thorough read through to make sure it is all coherent and consistent. We are meeting them next week to deliver the plans, the accounts and costings documents and we have already sent them the draft so that they can highlight any areas they wish to change. They are also planning to move house where there will be a reliable water supply and the ability to build a borehole for guaranteed supply so they can resume production. The main goal of the business plan we have created is not only to be presented to potential investors once the financial projections have been completed, but more than anything else to appear as a serious business. In June 2014 when they suspended production of the juices they tarnished their reputation with supermarkets as they had to tell them they simply didn’t have enough water to make the drinks and consequently these buyers no longer take them seriously as a company that they can rely on. We hope with this plan which clearly demonstrates their current position, and more importantly demonstrates all their future plans they can successfully penetrate the market in 2015. At the end of most sections we included a table with columns for the short, medium and long term to show progression of objectives and a clear timeline, this was especially important to highlight not only the opportunities the future may present but more significantly, the threats and risks to the company and how they will accommodate for them. (I really like tables so there are an awful lot in this Pumuna Dazzling juices business plan).

The next few days will consist of tying any loose ends with the business deliverables and seeing how many wonderfully carved wooden little animals and other souvenirs I can fit into my suitcases without exceeding the weight allowance. I have already bought my fair share of stuff and run out of money, but on Sunday the market tenders wanted to do ‘trading’. Sadly I was not keen to trade my Iphone for some wooden bowls but I did strike a deal for my hairbands and clips in exchange for a wooden monkey! Perhaps I will become more of a Zambian businesswoman at the markets next week.

Steph

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