Maputi is undoubtedly the most common and mainstream locally-produced snack, popular across all age groups. Unfortunately, due to the sensitivity of my teeth, I can’t enjoy that delicacy anymore but it’s quite a treat for most people. I recall during my high schools days in boarding school it used to be our safety net for when our personal food reserves dwindled. The affordability of maputi is one of the main drivers of the widespread appreciation for the product. They are so easy to price within the reach of virtually any Zimbabwean. So it’s been an evident trend over the past few years that a lot of varieties or brands of maputi are now on the market. It suffices to say that it’s become a business of choice for many to manufacture maputi. How can you start your own such business? Here is how:
There are two main things you need namely, the maize and the maputi gun. Maputi guns are the machines used to actually do the popping of the maize into maputi. Maputi guns come in various forms and are powered by different energy sources such as diesel, gas, wood etc. You can either import the machines or source locally – there are locals who now specialize in assembling maputi guns. The price depends on the supplier but on average you can get one for at least RTGS$2500. There is a company called Profit Ideas from Bulawayo that manufactures different types of machines for processing various food commodities – one of which are maputi guns. You can contact them to get yourself one.
Maputi-making is predominantly a home industries business venture. Basically, you can set up a spacious backyard, in your garage etc and commence – it’s simple. So there is little or no expense incurred in creating a space for the popping process. I have to point this out here though – strive to make the space or area as hygienic as possible. A lot of maputi-popping spaces I’ve seen leave a lot to be desired; i.e. the area not being enclosed and riddled with dust and all sorts of dirt. The other issue pertains to safety; the build-up of pressure in the gun during the popping presents a very serious human hazard. It’s expedient that you ensure people put on safety clothing i.e. overalls or work suits, safety shoes, gloves, goggles etc – I see this mostly neglected.
Transport-wise you can use personal transport or can hire relatively cheap transport for delivery purposes. The advantage of maputi is their light weight and how easy they are to pack.
This is an open-ended aspect which is purely up to your discretion. With one maputi gun, you would need on average 4 people i.e. two attending to the gun whilst in operation and the other two focusing on sorting and the like. Remember the ultimate price tag is relatively low so it’s strategic to partner with family members, friends or relatives etc – people you know won’t necessarily require monetary remuneration. Only when you scale up to factory level capacity can you think of actually employing people. Aspects such as consumer services, marketing, financial management etc can be a collective effort.
The most significant amount of money will go towards the maputi gun(s). Maize and other consumables or utilities are more or less capital-inexpensive. Approach this with the lean budget approach so as to ensure you incur costs that are as low as possible. However, don’t overdo that to the point of compromising quality & service delivery.
The market is vast and inexhaustible. From wholesalers, distributors, retailers to consumers the demand for maputi is quite high. Maputi are so popular with students from kindergarten upwards & most street vendors sell maputi. The other market that people should seriously start considering is the diaspora – Zimbabweans spread across the diaspora yearn for maputi. If you want to carve out a significant portion of the market you can do that by processing your maputi uniquely by flavouring them differently. Instead of just popping them as they are, flavour them into assorted types – they tend to be a hit with consumers. Here is a secret: package them uniquely as that’ll be more appealing; most people neglect that as a less important aspect. You can visit this website to check out this company that manufactures packaging material: www.multiplestar.co.zw
As always, I encourage people to register their business; that’s an important first step. Since maputi are a food commodity I would encourage that you approach local authorities of your locality to get guidance on any regulatory issues.
A lot of people are now doing this business but don’t let that deter you. Study the market, study your competition and survey your prospective customers as to note gaps. Creatively & innovatively come up with enterprising ways that will give you a competitive edge over other players. Don’t forget, think abroad – there are vast and mostly untapped markets for maputi there; also explore new ways of asserting maputi.