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The story of Maseru Toyota’s rise

 Lemohang Rakotsoane

MASERU

WHEN six Basotho men sat down to start a Toyota dealership in Maseru in the 1980s their prospects were dim. All they had was a dream and passion to succeed.

They had hashed out what they thought was a solid business plan to start Maputsoe Motors. But the odds were stuck against them. They were entering a fiercely contested market with little financial backing.

They had left their comfortable jobs, some at a well-established car dealership which had the government as its main customer and sponsor.

Today their company, renamed Maseru Toyota, is one of the leading car dealers in the country. Yet four of the founding shareholders have left the company. They left one after the other when the company looked like it was going to collapse.

Now only Robert Kolotsane and Elijah Lelimo remain.

Together they have pulled the company from the precipice and turned it into a flourishing enterprise anchored by one of the most recognisable brands in the world.

“Nobody thought we would make it, our previous employer and colleagues  spread lies saying Maputsoe Motors was a branch of Pioneer Motors (our former employer) focusing on dealership, while some said that it was just a project that would soon be closed,” Kolotsane says.

“People were very reluctant to work with us, saying they didn’t believe Basotho would be able to own a car dealership.”

“It was a struggle. You can just imagine approaching people to be your customers and an already known dealership saying you are his project.”

Last Friday Maseru Toyota marked yet another milestone in its 30-year history with the opening of its state-of-the-art showroom and offices along Mpilo Road.

Kolotsane says they would not have succeeded were it not for the start-up capital from the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC). At that time commercial banks were reluctant to lend to new companies.

“During those days banks didn’t even look at you when you didn’t have money,” Kolotsane recalls.

Out of options, the partners started knocking at doors at the LNDC. And in April 1986 their perseverance paid off when the LNDC gave them a loan and a piece of land. So began the journey Kolotsane describes as gruelling but enriching.

They stuttered at the beginning because of market perception and the enormity of the competition they were facing from well-established South African car dealers.

“We received stiff competition from South Africa and from local businesses, the likes of Pioneer Motors, Lesotho Nissan and National Motors,” he says.

“There was a time when we felt like throwing in the towel but deep down we knew that we had to forge forward regardless of our challenges”.

Toyota’s system of dealing with dealers at that time was like a double-edged sword. It made it easier for dealers to get cars without paying but had stringent conditions that could ruin them if the cars didn’t sell. After three months Toyota required its payment even if the dealer had not sold anything.

For small dealers like Maputsoe Motors this was a potential disaster. The cars were not selling fast enough to meet the three-month deadline and they did not have the financial muscle to cover their short positions when Toyota wanted its payment.

“I remember there was a time when we took five cars as consignment and were only able to sell one car in a month. During the second (month) when we realised that the four cars were not going anywhere we opted to sell the cars to another dealership and we were lucky that Rand Stadium was interested,” he says.

But there was a catch in the deal. Rand Stadium was not going to pay a cent more than what Kolotsane and his partners were going to pay back to Toyota.

“Regardless of a price increase they wanted to buy them at a wholesale price, which devastated us as we had thought we would recover our expenses.”

The worst was yet to come because Rand Stadium opted to send the cheque directly to Toyota, leaving Maputsoe Motors in a financial fix.

The payment had settled Maputsoe Motors’ debt to Toyota but the company had not made anything from the transaction. Four months of hard work had gone down the drain.

Only after three years of struggling did they start to see light at the end of the tunnel.

In 1993, seven years after starting, Maputsoe Motors would pull a major business coup by buying Pioneer Motors from the LNDC.

They now owned a company that once employed them. It was a sweet victory because Pioneer Motors was their major competitor.

Kolotsane puts the success down to people who took a leap of faith and bought cars from them despite a whirlwind of negative public perception.

“When many doubted us there were a few Basotho who supported us through it all and we will forever be grateful to them. The likes of Tsebiso Moroke who was the first customer to buy a car from us.”

“We were allocated space here in Maseru where we carried our operations. However, due to the support we were getting, the place was congested so much that we feared that people’s cars would be scratched,” he explains.

“Today here we are, in a state-of-the-art Toyota building, all of this couldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t because of our hard working employees. We started with 15 employees, some left when things were tough but today we are happy to say we have 94 employees.”

He says Lesotho has one of the seven super technicians in the sub-Saharan region and “soon we will have three of those”.

“Determination and dedication got us here and our greatest asset is our employees and the continuous support of Basotho.”

Lelimo, co-founder, says local businesses can only grow if Basotho support them.

“Let us support other Basotho businesses whether it is in agriculture or anything else because by so doing we will be creating jobs for many other Basotho and helping them to support their families,” Lelimo says.

“Though there were some reservations when we were given this place with some saying we were given hills, I will forever be grateful because I can never feel guilty or be accused of building on fertile soil,” he says.

Majakathata Mokoena, the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Trade and Industry, who spoke at the official opening, said Basotho should learn to embrace the talent within themselves.

“There is no need to go to Bloemfontein or Johannesburg to buy cars that are available in the country in the hope of getting something of better quality,” Mokoena said.

“Here is Maseru Toyota, they have quality cars and by leaving them here to buy cars in SA you will not find anything better. The only thing you will find is hijacking,” he said.

He added that government is trying to develop the automotive industry.

“The more cars we buy from Maseru Toyota the more jobs we will be creating, alleviating poverty and unemployment,” Mokoena says.

’Mathabo Ntai, Maseru Town Clerk, said Basotho should remember that only their hard work will pull the country from the clutches of poverty.

“It is high time as Basotho that we start thinking about what we can do for our country and not expecting the country to do something for us in order to deliver our country out of this poverty,” she said.

“Many have been given land but failed to use it.”

She said there are several reforms taking place “to ensure that we develop our city and one of them is the issuance of construction permits”.

“We are hopeful that soon they will be issued within 14 days. We have to work hard and improve infrastructure to enable the private sector to play its role of generating employment,” Ntai said.

 

BIO

-Toyota Motor Corporation is a Japanese automotive manufacturer headquartered in Toyota, Aichi, Japan.

– The company was founded by Kiichiro Toyoda in 1937, as a spinoff from his father’s company Toyota Industries to create automobiles.

-In March 2014 the company had 338 875 employees worldwide

-As of February 2016 it was 13th-largest company in the world by revenue.

-Toyota was the largest automobile manufacturer in 2012 (by production) ahead of the Volkswagen Group and General Motors.

In July 2012 the company reported the production of its 200-millionth vehicle.

-Toyota is the world’s first automobile manufacturer to produce more than 10 million vehicles per year.

-Toyota is the world’s market leader in sales of hybrid electric vehicles

-Cumulative global sales of Toyota and Lexus hybrid passenger car models passed the 9 million milestone in April 2016.

-Its Prius family is the world’s top selling hybrid vehicle with almost 5.7 million units sold worldwide as of 30 April 2016[update]. –Wikipedia

 

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King launches Lesotho Nation Brand

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KING Letsie III launched the Lesotho Nation Brand yesterday which he says has identified four main pillars which form the foundation of the national vision for a prosperous and thriving Lesotho.

These pillars are investment, trade, tourism, development of local products, and patriotism.

“They will be the cornerstones upon which we will build a brighter future for our children and grandchildren,” the King said.

“In investment we recognise the vital role that it plays in driving economic growth and creating opportunities for our people,” he said.

“By fostering a conducive environment for investment, we will attract both domestic and foreign capital, fuelling innovation, job creation, and accelerated growth across all sectors of our economy.”

The king said trade, in this increasingly interconnected world, serves as a catalyst for progress and prosperity.

He said through strategic partnerships and trade agreements, we will expand our market reach, promote our unique offerings, and ensure that Lesotho-made goods and services are attractive, competitive and sought after in global markets.

He said Basotho will continue to harness their God-given natural resources to drive economic growth and social transformation, and where appropriate, utilise those natural resources to create industries and businesses that can expand export offerings.

“We have always believed that our country is blessed with an array of breath-taking landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and a people whose hearts are warm and hospitable,” he said.

The King said all of these qualities and attributes are valuable ingredients for building a prosperous tourism industry.

Under this pillar, he said, Basotho will endeavour to showcase the beauty and diversity of Lesotho with the aim of attracting visitors from far and wide.

He said this will undoubtedly generate growth in Lesotho’s tourism industry and will create much needed economic opportunities for local communities.

“I am very much aware that we take immense pride in the craftsmanship and ingenuity of our people,” he said.

“This pride has to be supported and matched by a strong commitment to champion local products and industries in order to empower Basotho entrepreneurs, promote sustainable livelihoods and preserve our heritage for generations to come.”

Speaking at the launch, Prime Minister Sam Matekane said for Lesotho to truly prosper as a serious contender on the world stage, “we need all Basotho to stand united behind Lesotho Nation Brand”.

The Lesotho Nation Brand was spearheaded by the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LDNC), which is mandated to promote trade and industry for Basotho.

Staff Reporter

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Powering dreams!

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STANDARD Lesotho Bank, Basotho Enterprise Development Corporation (BEDCO), and the Revenue Services Lesotho will provide M1.4 million for this year’s Bacha Entrepreneurship Project.

This was announced by the BEDCO CEO, Lemphane Lesoli, at the 2024 BEP launch in Maseru on Tuesday. The fund will be distributed among five aspiring businesses that will benefit from the project this year.

“This is to indicate significant opportunity for individuals to show innovative ideas and turn their dreams into reality,” Lesoli said.

BEP is a joint venture between Standard Lesotho Bank, Revenue Services Lesotho (RSL) and BEDCO. It was introduced in 2014 to bring a positive change and create opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Lesoli said with an investment of M8.8 million, they have supported the dreams and ambitions of over 28 businesses while at the same time providing employment to over 103 young individuals.

The call for proposals was opened to all industries until June 28, 2024.

All the industries countrywide are invited to submit their proposals.

“Whether you are passionate about agriculture, tourism or any other sector, we invite you to submit your innovative ideas,” Lesoli said.

“This is your chance to turn your vision into reality to ensure your creativity and contribute to the economy of this country,” he said.

“Your ideas have the power to shape our future and create positive change within our community. Let’s redouble our efforts to empower our aspiring entrepreneurs.”

Manager of Public Relations at the RSL, Tšepang Mncina, said the proposals will be taken for screening to select those who qualify and those who do not.

Then the panel of adjudicators will assign those proposals to shortlist 50 people.

The 50 people will have to draw their proposal because some people know nothing about their ideas and who their markets will be.

After that they will be trained so that they can be good at writing effective business proposals.

The proposals will be back to the adjudicators to adjust the top 15 that will go through pitching and psychologic tests to see if they are real entrepreneurs.

The top five will be selected and awarded a sum of M1.4 million.

Relebohile Tšepe

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The road to recovery

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THE Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Business Development, Thabo Moleko, says cohesion among key stakeholders is critical to the revival of the textile sector.
Moleko was speaking at two consultative meetings held this week as part of the Expanding Enterprises Participation in Textile and Clothing Global Value Chain project.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Trade Centre (ITC), the technical partners in the project, coordinated meetings.

The consultations are a critical step towards addressing the concerns and priorities of employers and workers in Lesotho’s textile industry.

Held on Tuesday, the first meeting brought together employers in the sector.

Trade unions met on Wednesday. A joint meeting of businesses and unions will be held today. The textile project is a subcomponent of the Competitiveness and Financial Inclusion (CAFI), a government and World Bank-funded project that seeks to build a vibrant and sustainable private sector that delivers shared economic growth.

Moleko told both meetings that the consultations are critical to the successful implementation of the Enterprises Participation in Textile and Clothing Global Value Chain project which seeks to revive the textile industry.

He said Lesotho’s textile sector is currently in the doldrums as it struggles to recover from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, wars across the globe, supply chain problems, economic challenges, declining consumer confidence and rising inflation.

In addition, Lesotho faces stiff competition from countries like Kenya, Ethiopia, Mauritius and Madagascar which have vibrant textile sectors.

Moleko said the growing power of global apparel-producing giants like China, Bangladesh, Cambodia and Vietnam has made the prospects of Lesotho’s textile industry bleaker.

He said the project is meant to reposition the sector so it can compete in the global market. The dialogue, he said, creates the platform for Lesotho to “take advantage of new opportunities emerging from the reorganization of GVCs (Global Value Chains).”

The ultimate goal, he noted, is to expand business opportunities to “reach out to new markets, improve enterprise-level productivity and employment conditions”.

His sentiments were echoed by the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Palesa Matobako, who spoke at the same meetings.

Matobako said the meetings were meant to ensure that the project achieves its objectives of enhancing productivity, improving employment conditions and enhancing the sector’s overall competitiveness.

“The ultimate goal of this initiative (the project) is to expand enterprise participation in the global textile and clothing value chains,” Matobako.

The project will focus on workplace collaboration, total quality management, resource efficiency and cleaner production, occupational safety and health and better workforce management.

Staff Reporter

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