Africa Business Communities

[Interview] Thiagarajan Ramamurthy, CEO, Bidco Africa

Thiagarajan Ramamurthy, TRM, is a name synonymous with strategy and tact. He has been a formidable juggernaut in retail and manufacturing industries across Africa.

At the helm of Bidco Africa, a regional behemoth in the fast moving consumer goods sector, TRM has his eyes on the prize; to grow the business four-fold in five years while tapping into agribusiness to create jobs.

He told Africa Business Communities how he intends to achieve this.

Tell us about Bidco Africa?

Bidco Africa is a regional player in the Fast Moving Consumer Goods, FMCG, sector primarily in the edible oils, soap and detergent categories with new adjacencies in development. We are working towards a sustainable positioning of the company in the FMCG space in Kenya and East Africa. Our focus is growth and investment-both local and FDI- and the creation of jobs through agribusiness.

You recently took over at the helm of Bidco Africa. What are your plans for the  company both immediate and long term?

It’s an exciting opportunity. The plan is simply to finetune and grow the existing business and execute the vision of the Chairman and the family to grow the business 4 times in 5 years.

As a business, what would you consider your competitive edge?
Operational efficiency and a customer centric approach across the entire value chain.Internal capacity building to align people, systems and processes is also critical.

What in your view is the biggest avenue for revenue in your sector?Where is your focus concentrated?

The FMCG sector based on lifestyle and population growth. We are growing distribution across the country allowing many more people to access the product and experience the value proposition of our brands.

How has the market responded to your products? Why do you think that is so?

We have a good relationship with the customer and we are working hard everyday to make it better. We believe in connectivity, identity and loyalty-we spare no effort to ensure our brands are the consumers’ first choice and that they exceed their expectations to enable repeat purchase.

How is competition in the manufacturing sector? How are you insulating yourselves from the competition?
Competition is a relative term because everyone has their place in the market. Quality, Availability and Pricing are the criteria that determine the sustainability of the enterprise.

What is the latest news from Bidco Africa?

The Bidco Industrial Park in Ruiru-the biggest project of its kind in East Africa- will launch new products starting October and will continue doing so for the next few years.

Having had a great deal of experience in the retail and manufacturing businesses, what in your opinion is the future of these key sectors in Kenya and the region?

I a very optimistic about the Kenyan market; we are witnessing a lifestyle shift and an increase in disposable incomes especially in urban areas. Technology has opened up the perspectives of people including those in rural areas creating a greater opportunity for manufacturers to offer quality products .

What are the ambitions of Bidco Africa moving forward?

Bidco Africa is focused on expanding the core business in Kenya and grabbing a bigger market share but we are also going into new markets- We have just set up in Madagascar.

What do you consider as the biggest threat to the manufacturing sector in Kenya as an industry player?

I do not consider anything a ‘biggest threat’ per se. However the rising cost of doing business year in year out is a concern. Manufacturing also needs a financial sector that supports growth and investment.

How favourable is Kenya as a hub for investors? How woud you rate the business climate in Kenya?

There are plenty of opportunities for investors in Kenya especially in areas such as infrastructure and partnerships with local investors mostly major players in the FMCG sector. Kenya’s business climate is superior to other East African countries; thanks to devolution. Progressive counties are looking to attract big manufacturing to spur employment opportunities and backward integration to raw materials.

Who should contact your company, and why?

Farmers, for opportunities to supply raw materials for our value chains; logistics solution providers, smart, passionate young people for employment and growth-oriented financial institutions for partnership.


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