THE impulse to start a business with friends likely strikes everyone at some point and although many argue against mixing business with pleasure, Namibian commerce has no shortage of business buddies.
In fact one such venture, Wangara Automotive Group, was founded and is run by four friends who are making giant strides in the heavily male-dominated automotive services industry. The women, Justina Shingenge (accountant), Christophine Amukwaya (business administrator), Omagano Nangolo (administrator) and Elizabeth Asino- Joseph (computer scientist) founded the thriving business venture that many hail as the country’s answer to safe driving.
While their core business lies in tyre fitment and supply they also provide other services including vehicle supply, fleet management, transportation, batteries supply, shock services, vehicle tracking and brakes services amongst others.
Their success story comes after years of personal financial problems before brainstorming ways to transform themselves and ultimately turning their business idea of curbing the carnage on the country’s roads into a sustainable enterprise that could generate livelihoods.
Armed with startup capital they had saved for a year and an additional sourced from the Ministry of Trade – they officially opened doors in 2014 and have continued growing. With a workforce of 23, Wangara has become one of the country’s most recognisable automotive services company and prides itself in providing its clientele with friendly services and state-of-the art equipment.
In an interview with Confidente recently, the group’s general manager Asino-Joseph talks about their journey, the company’s difficulties and its future.
Briefly tell us about the establishment of Wangara?
In our quest to give a good start to our growing children so that they do not struggle for jobs like we did when we started working, I called some friends together on a Sunday afternoon at Parliament Gardens. I pitched the idea to the friends, not knowing exactly which business to get into. Everyone was sold to the idea so we decided to put money together for a year while figuring out exactly what business we wanted to enter into.
We looked at the problems that Namibia has. Road fatalities always came up at the tops. We studied reports of what caused the accidents, and tyre related problems in addition to driver errors were mostly the causes of accidents. We then decided to open a tyre shop that helped people especially women who knew less about tyres. We setup a shop in Windhoek’s Northern Industrial Area in 2014. Then we opened our head office in Prosperita 2015. From 18 August 2016 we will also be in Ongwediva, opposite Oshana Mall.
Being in the industry has opened up other doors and we have expanded to Lease and Rent of vehicles, Fleet management and Vehicle Tracking, Batteries Supply, Tyre Fitment and Supply, Brakes & Shock Services and so on. Our aim is to have a one stop shop that provides the various automotive services to the Namibian nation.
Do the founders have experience in the nature of the business?
All founders have various experiences in running institutions not necessarily automotive. We have experts in finance, information technology, business administration and accounting. Adding the experiences of our husbands (lawyers, engineers etc.), we consider ourselves a formidable team. Then we sought services of experts in the industry to be part of our establishment. These are previously disadvantaged Namibians who have worked in the industry for as long as 15-20 years, but were always bypassed when there were managerial positions in the companies they were working for. With our managerial skills and their expertise in the industry, we have been able to work together and teach each other the expertise needed. Watching these very able men and women blossom into fine managers has been very rewarding.
What are challenges and opportunities facing the business?
Expertise: Due to scarcity of well-trained tyre fitment personnel, be it balancers or wheel aligners, we have had to hire youths from the street and train them to complement the experts we have. We have sent young people to training both in Namibia and South Africa. We have also brought experts from overseas to teach us.
Financing: We have found it challenging to get funding from the banks, but that will not deter us. We are pushing forward. Our objectives are clear, we have to help Namibia rid itself of road fatalities.
New Customers: Wangara Motor Spares has invested in modern state of the art machines that are accurate, fast and cost effective. This is not the case with most of the tyre shops around town. We would like to see seas of people coming to get the great service that we are known for. We shall forever strive to improve our service, improve our machines to take advantage of the technological changes the new machines have and pass them onto our clients.
Be partners in keeping our roads safe: We work with organisations that work to keep our roads safe such as AA Namibia. It is our conviction that every little contribution helps and road fatalities have to be curtailed immediately. It is heartbreaking that our young and productive citizens are being wiped out, because of road accidents.
Apart from competitive prices, what sets the business apart from others?
We have the best service ever! Where else do you go for tyre fitment and get served cappuccino? Our team makes every effort to make our customers comfortable, but more so also explains to the customers the best ways to keep their tyres in good condition…such as using Nitrogen (N2) instead of normal air and getting the tyres checked at least after every 10 000 km or when they are going on long trips. As much as we sell we also educate. We have invested in state of the art machines that are accurate, fast and reliable. When you leave our workshop you get a print out of what has been done on your vehicle and the results. This goes a long way to prove that your vehicle was in perfect condition when proof is needed. Wangara is flexible in its service. Many a time we are called during weekends or at odd hours to help our customers. We do so happily and always have a team on standby to help in such situations.
What is the company doing to ensure that other women excel in this type of business?
Just being here is an example to other women. We are always open to telling others what we know about the business. If automotive services is something a lady wants to pursue, we welcome her with open a r m s . Better ye t , other women can explore other ventures so that Namibian business ownership can truly be diversified in all facets of the economy.
What are the company’s short and long term plans?
To grow and have presence in all corners of Namibia. To have all automotive services under one roof.
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