In an interview with Financial Times Correspondent MTAPA WILSON, IPP Touchmate Ltd managing director VICTOR TESHA (pictured) shed light on the operations of this new company. Excerpts…
QUESTION: How much does IPP plan to invest in this project?
ANSWER:As we stated atour recent press conference, IPP Touchmate Ltd isa new, locally-owned company formed out of a partnership between IPP Limited, one of Tanzania’s biggest companies, and Touchmate, a United Arab Emirates company.
IPP Touchmate Ltd plans to put in place a total investment capital of $5 million, equivalent to 11.5 billion/-, to build a factory that will manufacture a wide range of state-of-the-art IT products including smart phones, computers, Ipads, solar tablets, mobile phones handsets, and home appliances that will be sold at cheaper prices.
We will also assemble state-of-the-art music accessories, such as Bluetooth speakers of different kind, earphones, headphones and last but, not least, smart watches.
Q: When is production expected to start?
A:We are expecting to start our first production at the end of January or latest first week of February 2019. So it is just about 90 days from now.
Q: Where will the factory be located and how many people will be directly employed?
A:Our factory will be located at Mikocheni, close to ITV Limited. Now everything is in order under IPP Limited executive chairman Dr Reginald Mengi.
So even now, if you visit the site you will find engineering activities going on. We are planning to offer almost 2,000 job opportunities from our project.
And the good thing is almost 50 per cent of the available jobs will be offered to people with disabilities.
Q: We understand that the goal is to mostly employ persons with disabilities. When are you going to advertise for the job vacancies and how confident are you that you will find enough persons with disabilities with the technical skills required to fill those positions?
A:We will soon advertise job vacancies for this project. I’m sure within one month from now the job opportunities will be advertised.
And as you know, our executive chairman Dr Reginald Mengi owns a foundation called Dr Reginald Mengi People with Disabilities.
Sowe will use the same foundation to help us get people with disabilities fit to be employed in the factory. These PWDs will be trained by technicians from Dubai for six months specifically for manual works.
We will offer these people with disabilities manual jobs because it is easy for them to adopt and work rather than train them to perform tasksthat need rocket science knowledge.
Q: Will the plant manufacture or assemble the Touchmate IT products?
A:To begin with, we will assemble the Touchmate IT products by 100 per cent. But our future plan is to manufacture everything ourselves because the raw materials are available within the country and other parts of Africa.
We will start by assembling these IT products so as to identify the challenges of the business and take them into account.
Later we will go to the next step of manufacturing theproducts. That is the IPP Touchmate long-term plan.
We must first get the experience for this business. Remember, this is the first project for assembling IT products within the country.
Q: How will this project contribute to transfer of technology in Tanzania?
A:This project will help many Tanzanians acquire technical skills and expertise on how to assemble as well as to manufacture IT products,because we will bring so many experts in from abroad. Our locals will learn a lot from these experts.
And we expect that the experts will stay inthe country until the locals have gained enough competence after being trained for sometime.
Q: Are you going to target the domestic market or both local and export markets?
A:We will target both local and export markets. We will put on sale our IT products in the land-locked neighbouring countries and other sub-Saharan African countries.
As a part of the company’s marketing strategy,we willloan out our computers and solar tablets to local educational institutions from primary to higher learning level.
For primary schools we will provide solar tablets. These tablets are more suitable in areas with no electricity.
Our tablets will also be installed with E-books, where students can access text books.Currently we are communicating with various financial institutions like banks to see how we can arrange this program to enable higher learning students to get computers on loan.
Q: Which export markets will you target?
A:As we are going to start production soon, we have already started to engage local and international dealers inother parts of Africa, like South Africa and central Africa, to assess their capacity for supplying IPP Touchmate products all over the continent.
Q: Touchmate products are already being sold in Tanzania and there is a big influx of cheap imported IT products. How will the locally produced IPPTouchmate products compete with those cheap IT imports?
A:I would like to make it clear that there isn’t a single Touchmate product currently being sold in Tanzania.
We expect our locally-produced IPP Touchmate products to be good enough to stand up to the stiff competition offered by imported IT products. For example, our mobile phones are designed with batteries which can last for up to seven days.
These mobile phones can be also used as power banks to charge other phones. So they aremore suitablefor people in remote areas where there is no electricity.
We also have smart phones with batteries that can last for three days, compared to manysmart phone brands which are currently in the market with batteries that can’t last even for a single day.
Q: What type of products specifically will the planned factory produce, and which market segments are you targeting (low end, middle class, or high end)?
A:As I said earlier, we will be assembling IT products including smart phones, computers, Ipads, solar tablets, mobile phones handsets, Bluetooth music speakers,and various home appliances that can be sold at cheaper prices.
This is to ensure that we reach all kinds of customers who want to use IPP Touchmate products -even those in the low-income bracket.
Q: What is the expected capacity of the factory to be built in Tanzania?
A:We are going build a big factory with the capacity to produce 1,200 products per day. The factory will produce the same amount of products per items that we produce in our project on the same day.
So there are so many IT products that will come with the IPP Touchmate factory, which will be built in three phases.Phase One, we will start with smart phones and tablets.
Then Phase Two, we will go for the computers. And in Phase Three, we will go for the music accessories and other home appliances.