Between 2009 and 2013 I was at Chinhoyi University studying Post Harvest Technology. One of the guys I did the same modules with was Lesley Marange, who was studying Food Science and Technology. Lesley has always believed the best thing to do in the Zimbabwean environment is to start something of your own, nurture it, face the challenges, learn to adapt, and hedge your business with foreign markets. He has stayed true to that and in this article, I profile his brainchild, Glytime Foods. Here are some of the things he said during our recent chat.
How Glytime Foods Started
Our business started in February 2018. There are pull and push factors to our business initiative. The turbulence in our Zimbabwean economy could not allow me to be an employee because salaries were quickly eroded due to 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 players were imported brands, so I felt it was a good initiative to tap into that niche.
Being a niche it offered good margins, vis-à-vis our 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 diseases such as high blood pressure, cancer, and sugar diabetes. People are also health-conscious because healthy eating gives youthful looks which have become a global social value.
The initiative was also driven by the need to create employment among youths to ease the rate of unemployment. The increase in postharvest losses mainly of fruits and vegetables have also increased the need to venture into agro-processing and also we were motivated by our background and expertise in food manufacturing. I have a degree in Food Science and Technology and an MBA in Strategic Management and more than 5 years of managerial experience in the food industry and my wife has a degree in Nutrition hence that also triggered our business motives.
Entering The Local And Regional Market
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, and 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. Being a born global business, a business already exporting within two years of operating, has been a key attribute and that is all thanks to strategic leadership.
Operating a business in Zimbabwe is a daily challenge. The volatility of the operating environment is a threat for most startups. The biggest challenge in our business has been the turbulence in the operating environment mainly due to high inflation. The other challenge has been the sourcing of foreign currency to acquire raw materials. Thank God our voice has been heard after lobbying with relevant stakeholders to get a SMEs inclusive auction system, this will ease the hustle of looking for foreign currency on the black market.
The other challenge was copying up with the increase in demand which happened over a short period of time. Our initial demand for our products was less than 5 tonnes per month but within 2 years it is now on 40 tonnes, and more is coming due to export markets. This jump in demand has been a very huge challenge considering the lack of support in capacity building. Lack of financial assistance from relevant stakeholders has made it very difficult to cope with the rise in demand. However, we are still trying to engage all stakeholders so that we can meet the rise in demand.
Thriving In A Nation With Economic Hardships
The key attribute that has helped us as Glytime Foods to progress is mainly strategic leadership. The turbulence in the operating environment is too high for SMEs or startups, but when you master the art of adaptability you can rise above the tide. It is not easy but it is doable.
We are running a fast-growing business and there are lots of pressures to cope with the growth that is happening at a very fast rate. We are trying to balance the demands on execution and a learning curve. It brings exciting challenges. Our strengths as a business are in Product Development and Customer Service. Thus every day is a day of ideation, idea screening, experimentation, and customer feedback. On a day to day basis, we focus on the interpretation of customers’ requirements into new exciting products.
The Glytime Foods Team
We have 31 employees. All the employees are youthful and they are all below the age of 30. Among our employees we have differently-abled people; they constitute 5% of our employees. We are also creating an inclusive working environment in line with global standards. We have noted that differently-abled people are as good as people who are able-bodied and perform very well. I also urge other manufacturers to include such people in their workspaces and enjoy the blessings of an inclusive working environment.
Glytime Foods Private Limited is now registered in Botswana in Special Economic Zone A. All the registration has been completed we are just waiting for the borders to open. We are now exporting to Zambia, we are finalizing on contacts in various other countries; Mozambique and DRC, among others. This makes it apparent that we are developing a regional brand, which we are growing to be a global brand. Something very big is coming from our motherland. Look at the milestones we have achieved in the last two years, give us 5 to 10 more years. The brand will have good global coverage. We are not threatened by globalization and liberalization of markets, we will adapt and compete. Venturing into new markets is also helping us in cross-market subsidization and improving our learning curve which our business is hedged on.
You can purchase Glytime Foods products at the following outlets: TM Pick ‘n Pay, Bon Marche, OK Zimbabwe, Food Lovers, Greens, FAZAK, Umoyo Zambia, and Melisa Zambia. You can call or WhatsApp Glytime Foods on +263 773 950 416. You can also visit their website here. Their physical address is 12 Coventry Road Workington in Harare, Zimbabwe. You can hook up with them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.