A new chain store owned by Basotho

A new chain store owned by Basotho

MASERU-People talked excitedly as they waited to enjoy the experience of shopping in a fully Basotho-owned mega chain store that could take the country by storm last week.

Founded by National University of Lesotho (NUL) graduates, Enrich Supermarket in Ha-Mafafa could become a game changer in Lesotho’s retail sector after its launch a fortnight ago.
It is owned by more than 1 600 Basotho shareholders.

“I had this bold idea that I wanted to share with my friends,” said Maine Maine, who along with his friends, Refuoe Monaheng and Tsipatšoeu Mobe, became the brains behind the supermarket.
Maine said the business landscape, especially in terms of ownership, had long bothered him.

“The reason why all big industrial businesses – supermarkets, banks, security services, hardware stores or even filling stations – are in the hands of foreigners in Lesotho didn’t make sense to us,” Maine said.
“So we asked ourselves, ‘could it be that we Basotho can’t own these things or what?’.”

“We looked at all these foreign owned multinationals and we realised that almost all of them have one thing in common. They are led by Basotho, have Basotho as their workers and have Basotho as their customers,” Maine said.

“In the end, we concluded that if others were able to create chain-stores in countries abroad but have managed to reach our shores then it was possible for Basotho to create businesses that could also reach shores abroad,” he said.
Though the day marked a joyous moment for Enrich Holdings, it was no walk in the park to get where they are.

Entering into a sector dominated by established foreign companies was not easy.
Maine and friends settled on venturing into the supermarket business as “mostly because they sell things that most people consider basic and necessary for survival.”

Knowing that access to finance in Lesotho is a serious hurdle for start-ups, Maine, Monaheng and Mobe decided to form a public company and sell shares. The result was more than 1 600 Basotho investors.
On Friday, customers could not hide their excitement.
’Mamolikeng Mokhesi, a customer, gushed about the hygienic conditions, the spacious aisles and the information boards guiding customers combing through the packed shelves.

“I will definitely enjoy shopping here, this store is well organised. There is no need to go through five aisles searching for what you want,” Mokhesi said. 
“You just read and go to the relevant section that you want,” she said.
Another customer, ’Makatiso Khoele, said even though she was expecting lower prices for an opening, the service she received matched the prices.
“They were very efficient. One did not stand in the queues for long. I only hope that they will be able to maintain the standard because most of the time some start on a high note and then slip to poor service with time,” Khoele said.

“As long as they treat us like kings we will definitely continue supporting them,” she said.
Khoele added that it is high time Basotho support local businesses.
“We need to take our economic power back and we can only do that by supporting and growing our own businesses. It is time we start working together and show the world we are capable,” she said.

It is probably the first chain-store of its size and influence to be fully owned by Basotho.
“We said yes, we can start chain-stores that can expand as far as Uzbekistan,” said Maine, one the three NUL graduates to moot the idea.
Any lessons learnt along the way?

“We had to be proactive. When we had gathered enough money to invest in something, we invested. Of course, there were no easy choices. We were investing people’s monies, what if we failed? —that kept us awake at night. However, the more we made tangible progress the more we convinced even those on the fence to invest,” they said.

Staff Reporter

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