'Women’s clothing, African taste now sells better than western-style…’

12Dec 2018
By Financial Times Reporter
Financial Times
'Women’s clothing, African taste now sells better than western-style…’

Established in 2009, BintiAfrica Ltd is one of the fastest growing fashion design and interior consultancy companies in Tanzania, with its own production house and corporate office located in Kinondoni, Dar es Salaam.

As an apparel designer, BintiAfrica specializes in the production and sale of ladies clothing, ladies shoes, handbags and other accessories made from African fabrics.

BintiAfrica’s products have gain loyal patronage in countries such as Uganda, Kenya, Zambia and South Africa, and further beyond including the western world.

The company’s owner JOHARI SADIQ (pictured) expounds more on the concept behind its establishment in this interview with Financial Times staff writer BENAZIR MOHAMED. Excerpts:

QUESTION: Please tell us a little bit about yourself (age, family background, education, etc).

ANSWER: I am 33 years old. I have a diploma in IT but unfortunately I have not been able to use it. I am the last-born in a family of six kids.

Before beginning this business, I worked for Zantel and resigned in 2011. I started this business when I was still working for them, and when I saw that I could do better in the business I decided to quit work.

Q: What was your first job?

A: I was a receptionist at Detroit company at the age of 18. Then I took a certificate course and later worked for Tigo, which was going by the name Mobitel at the time.

Q: Who has had the biggest impact on your career and why?

A: My mother has had the biggest impact on my career because she inspired me to start this business through her efforts to educate us and provide for our basic needs, and therefore I wanted to support her and do more than what she has done.

Q: Which part of your current job worries you the most?

A: What worries me most is if my business were to fail or collapse.

Q: What is the secret of your success?

A: I have always believed in myself and especially in what I am doing. And through believing in myself, I worked to accomplish my dreams.

I didn't put money before work - I concentrated on doing it well and differently, and later the money came along.

I also tried to acquire knowledge from other countries because we always have to learn from others, especially those who are ahead. Learn how the big fish are doing it. Another thing is building trust with your employees and all other people surrounding you.

Q: What are the best things that you like about Tanzania?

A: The truth is that there are a lot of opportunities still at hand, even though people are complaining a lot.

This can only be understood when you visit other countries and realize that there is still a lot that hasn't been done yet in our country. Another thing is Tanzanians have a sense of oneness, kindness and unity - and that means a lot.

Q: What are the things that you hate most about Tanzania?

A: The business environment isn't friendly especially for beginners. For example, on the issue of loans, the interest rates are very high and therefore it's like they end up working to pay the bank.

Q: What are your future career plans?

A: Currently I have my own clothing industry, with different fashions. But my dream is to have a larger clothing line, mass-producing and also catering for markets in other countries as far as the US, Europe and elsewhere, employing a team from Tanzania and adhering to best clothing standards.

Q: What do you do to relax after a stressful week at the office?

A: I love watching movies and reading books that inspire me to be successful in business. I learn a lot from Alibaba books - he inspires me a lot.

Q: What is your message to Tanzania's young aspiring business people and entrepreneurs?

A: They have to realize what exactly they want in life. And they should also practise business activities that they love to do, where they can handle the challenges because challenges are inevitable.

Most young business people and entrepreneurs expect fast and easy success results, but they need to be patient since everything goes step by step. They shouldn't lose focus due to the challenges they meet.

Another thing is they have to read a lot, everything is available on the Internet these days. They need to Google on people who practise the same kind of business as theirs, and learn from them. Moreover, patience and confidence will help learn from experience how to avoid repeating mistakes that they made before.

Q: How can Tanzania realize its full potential?

A: This is should be based on both sides - the citizens and the government itself. The government should search for opportunities for its citizens by trying to find out what we can produce that can be sold outside Tanzania.

The government should help build the confidence of citizens in that they are capable of running their own industries and their products can be sold in and out of Tanzania.

The youth shouldn't just be told to employ themselves; there are a lot of challenges in the process and the youth need some government help in overcoming them.

Another thing is most business opportunities are available for people who already have enough funds to invest; the situation is however difficult for those who are just beginning.

The government and its agencies need to study the situation and help these business beginners, especially in avoiding the trap of all of them basing on one kind of business. Creativity is highly needed, and if the government works hand-in-hand with the citizens then we shall develop fully as a country, businesswise.

Q: What kind of attire has been selling the most in the past, and what attire is selling the most currently?

A: Mostly it’s women’s clothing that really sells, both in the past and currently. In the past it was mostly western-style, but now African-taste fashions have become more popular.

Q: What are the challenges that you meet the most in doing your business?

A: Most fabric materials of high quality and standards aren't available in Tanzania, we have to order them from outside the country with the related costs of travel and import duty. All of which pushes me to sell my products at higher prices.

I am fighting hard so that I can be able to sell at prices that more Tanzanians and Africans can afford. I do have some clients outside the country, such as in South Africa and the US. My target is to produce massively and sell in as many countries as possible in Africa and the world at large.

Q: Do you sell your clothing to government personnel?

A: Yes I do, I work with corporates such as TANESCO and Bandari, among others, and I design for various government dignitaries. So yes, I do work for the government too.

Q: How many people have you employed so far?

A: As in now, thirty people. I am expecting to begin trainings in February next year. I take young girls mostly for training, especially those who have made costly mistakes in life and think they would never get a second chance to rectify their mistakes.

I want to give them that second chance for a change. I will train them for six months to a year, and after that I will give them the opportunity of employment.

Young girls make mistakes, but BintiAfrica under Johary wants to give them that second chance.

Q: What's the last thing you would like to tell us?

A: I think we should wake up, especially young girls and women at large. It's about time they realize that they have to stand up on their own without depending on men for their survival. They have to believe it's possible and that it can be done.