My Experience of Working in a Zambian SME | Beverley Harding

‘To become a leading provider of healthy, natural, organic foods’

This is the powerful vision which drives Nazya Foods forward despite the many challenges which they have faced since Winnie set the business up in September 2012. Nazya Investments Ltd operate as Nazya Foods in the food processing industry, they specialise in the processing, packing and supply of traditional, natural and organic Zambian foods and are the first business to supply several of their product lines to the large chain stores in Lusaka, which have grown in number in recent years.

12 weeks ago my counterpart, Msotsha, and I had our first day at Nazya Foods where we met with the Company Founder and Director, Winnifred Nachivula, and the rest of the t12885833_609582105859262_862098816936937743_oeam of just 7 employees. When we arrived in the former residential building, located towards the outskirts of Lusaka, we were met with a warm welcome from Winnie, Seule, the Sales and Marketing Manager, Mrs. Kaonga, the Production Manager, and the 3 members of the production team: Mary, Susan, and Hiness – all of whom are local women. Before entering the building, we were each presented with a pair of crocks and a hair net to meet food safety and hygiene requirements, which Nazya prides themselves on. Following our short tour of the premises we were handed uniforms, as we would be helping on the production line for the first half of the day. We got acquainted with Nazya’s products and got to know the production team.

On our second day in the business, we were invited to sit in on an initial meeting between the Management team and a non-profit organisation, Musika, whom they were seeking assistance from; later that week we attended an accounting workshop with Winnie and Seule as they had recently employed SME Accounting to get their books in order and to improve their financial management. From our first week in the enterprise, we observed that despite the many challenges they face, Nazya are extremely pro-active in achieving their goals; where the management team are lacking in skills or experience, this is met with a desire to learn and acquire new skills. Throughout the course of our time with them, we were very fortunate to be exposed to all areas of the business: from meeting with suppliers, many of whom are smallholders, which gave us an insight into the challenges that they themselves face, to meeting with customers, which include the large chain stores including Game and Pick n Pay, and conducting sales to the smaller neighbourhood stores, which they also supply to.

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Nazya specifically requested for help with their Marketing Plan from us and we also had Challenges Worldwide deliverables to submit online to Challenges College on a weekly basis. The deliverables were 10 key pieces of analysis on various areas of the enterprise including marketing, production, the supply chain and financials. The purpose was to give us a good understanding of the business’ overall performance in these areas. With all of the information that we acquired, we analysed Nazya’s current performance, including their strengths and weaknesses, from which we provided recommendations to address their critical issues. One such recommendation was to improve their systems and processes for record keeping, including the way orders from their extensive customer base are recorded. We worked with Mary, the Production Manager, to implement the new systems and we saw them in action. By being able to extract data from their records with greater ease, they can constantly review their performance and make better more informed decisions based on the data; we hope that over time they will really see the value in some of these simple changes. In terms of the deliverables, the Breakeven Analysis was particularly useful for Nazya because they frequently face shortages in working capital which limits production. However, the Breakeven Analysis provides an estimate of how much the business needs to sell in order to cover all expenses and begin to make a profit. This will help them to plan ahead and make strategic quantitative decisions about where to focus production and sales to address the issue of a lack of working capital.

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We were very fortunate to be placed in Nazya Foods, the team welcomed us with open arms and we were one of them from our first day. Despite this, things were not always smooth running and our placement was not without its challenges. Load shedding greatly affected our productivity, electricity would either be gone in the morning and return in the afternoon or vice versa, we’d be lucky to get one whole day of power in a week. With no power, production virtually came to a standstill and once our laptops batteries had drained, we had no choice but to find somewhere else to work with power. In absence of any funds for the marketing budget, we were also unable to carry out any promotional activities, however, we worked around this as best we could. We had input into the marketing plan, provided recommendations for how they could build their marketing activities up organically with the growth of the business, and we focused especially on the social media marketing plan which had no immediate costs to implement. My greatest piece of advice to any potential volunteer would be to manage your expectations, you will not see huge changes over night – but if you can make even a small and sustainable improvement in your business then that is an achievement in itself.

 

Visit Nazya Foods Facebook page for yourself and give them a Like to show them the power of Social Media

 

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