Gemwitts Interview with Andrew Chikomba
This week we had the privilege to talk to one of the most prolific upcoming entrepreneurs to come from the City of Kings. We caught up with Andrew Chikomba who runs Gemwitts Enterprises. Late last year Andrew Chikomba was awarded the First Runner Up Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, which is a subsidiary of the Megafest Business Awards. Recently, he has also been awarded the Mandela Washington Fellowship that is part of President Obamas Young African Leader’s Initiative. This speaks volumes of his success as a business manager, his drive and his business acumen, particularly in this hostile economic environment we are facing.
Gemwitts provides a wide range of products ranging from LED Lighting Solutions for Mining environments to Household lighting as well as Scalable Off-the-grid power Solutions for industrial and domestic applications .
On their ICT Wing they supply some of the latest Computer and Gaming Accessories as well as numerous other tech gems. I cannot recommend enough for you to visit Gemwitts by 12th Ave between Fife St and George Silundika where you will be welcomed by friendly staff or visit their interactive website www.gemwitts.com
Question: What is the History of the company? How has it grown and developed.
Answer: Gemwitts originated as a small ICT consultancy Company, providing IT Support, designing websites, and supporting ERP Systems amongst other things. Along the way Gemwitts clinched a deal with Sunde-Electronics which is a Chinese Manufacturer. That’s when the company evolved from pure consultancy to include hardware distribution of Thin Clients as well. It was at this point whilst distributing thin clients that we saw a gap in the market emanating from the “global” energy crisis, thus we ventured into LED Lighting Technology: which are lighting solutions that create the most amount of light, using the least amount of energy and with a very long lifespan. We clinched another distributorship with Lumee LED, which is a Hungarian based company, and thus we became the sole distributor of the Lumee brand in Zimbabwe. In time we began to also provide other goods that complemented our lighting products like the Solar Panels and backup power solutions and by the end of the Year 2013 we were now into retail and had opened our first Store in Bulawayo but that’s another story on its own.
Question: How would you describe the culture of the company?
A: We are trustworthy Next Generation Entrepreneurs who are, ambitious and talented. One could say we are “misfits” who are dedicated to providing innovative solutions to people’s problems using renewable and appropriate technology wherever possible. We mainly distribute “Turnkey Solutions”, but we are also in partnerships with manufacturers who make products on our behalf. These manufacturers make products to our specifications – which are generally Zimbabwean specifications.
Q: What techniques does the company look for when hiring potential employees?
A: Besides general qualifications, we look for self-starters and dreamers for we are a technologically oriented company. We look for people who don’t think about the existence of a box, but those who have unlimited imagination and are not afraid to make it a reality.
Q: What are these general qualifications?
As an Organization, we realized that not everyone “is aligned to” or makes it in the traditional education system. Someone once said that if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it may live its whole life believing it is stupid. We at Gemwitts have a gifting for identifying potential and talent, therefore if our budding candidate can read and write and use a computer and they are malleable then we have hope in molding them and leading them to achieve their full potential whilst revealing their gifting at Gemwitts. In time we encourage and assist our employees to then “get the papers” as a formality.
Q: So you are into developing employees not just getting highly qualified people?
A: Yes, we like to develop skills people have, give them space, and a platform to flourish.
Q: How many employees do you currently have?
A: We are a team of eight currently. We recently streamlined the way we do business. Our philosophy is not to hire too many people and then not treat employees properly, but we aim to take care for our employees by providing sustainable remuneration packages and develop their abilities in wherever they are working.
Q: What distinguishes Gemwitts from its competitors?
A: It is the quality of service we provide that marks us out. Our customers say our presentation is beyond compare. Besides also having a diverse product range, we aspire to be the leaders in providing the latest products and Tech goodies to our customers.
Q: What do most people not realize about your company?
A: Our Company is not just about providing lighting solutions only as most people think, we are developing into a one-stop technology shop. We provide ICT solutions, off-grid power solutions, as well as street and traffic light solutions.
Q: Do you offer warranty for your products?
A: Most of our products come with a warranty because they are authentic. The warrantees are honored locally because we have distributorship rights for most of our brands. We give immediate assistance to our customers if they have any aftersales issues with the products. Our LED lights which have a longer life span of 25 to 50 years, are actually given up to five years warranty. Then the general household lights, are given a one year warranty. Our Solar panels carry a 25 year warrant, you can leave them in your will for the next generation J
Q: Tell us about your success or shortcomings in engaging with the market.
A: We normally sell products that are not on the market and thus market penetration takes longer than it should as we conscientise customers of the benefits of the products .It is only when people start seeing the need of such products that we start having big sells. However, we sometimes also have the latest gadgets and the hype of these always keeps us on our toes.
Q: What are you best known at the moment?
A: We are the champions of LED Lighting. We have got the best quality and the widest variety of lighting products and we basically manufacture LED lights to your specifications if it is not already on the shelf.
Q: What other products do you offer?
A: We also offer ICT Consultancy services as well as Computer Hardware and Accessories .
Gemwitts provides back up power solutions like inverters and Sustainable off the grid Solar power solutions. Our lighting solutions include Domestic and Industrial Lighting solutions for Mines, Hotels, Streetlights, as well as Traffic Lights.
Q: What is the maximum capacity of back-up power you can provide?
A: We can meet basically any back-up power requirements due to the scalability of our products. There is no job too small or too big for us.
Q: How does the company obtain feedback from its customers?
A: Besides our in-house customer feedback forms , we have got an interactive website – www.gemwitts.com, a very active Facebook page, Skype and a twitter account where we interact with our customers. We also have a sales email (firstname.lastname@example.org )and an info-email email@example.com , and we also do personal interaction within our stores. One can never underestimate the power of relationships and general conversation.
Q: How do you manage to stay afloat in these tough economic times?
A: In as much as we might be “smart” and “hard” workers, it is only by God’s grace that we are where we are for one cannot control the number of customers that will walk into their shop on a daily basis when you are into Retail Business. Thus, it is a blessing to have customers on a daily basis and are managing to carry on.
Q: What is your inspiration?
A: I’m a Christian and I find fulfilment in serving others. What I have realized about life is that when you serve people and you provide for their needs, everything else falls into place and you will succeed ….even in business.
Q: Where do you see Gemwitts in a couple of years?
A: We are growing, and we are taking over the technology front.
Q: To what extent are you taking the technology front? Are you planning to expand your horizons into other forms of technology like Bionics for example?
Well I can’t say much about bionics right now, but as we are well aware, technology is wide and varied, however we are focusing on Renewable Energy and it is my dream that one day we will manufacture Sustainable Renewable Energy Solutions locally and utilize the vast resources we have available.
Q: What is your advice to other aspiring business people?
A: I would say it’s time to step out of your comfort zone and listen to that still small voice that’s urging you to follow your dream. I would also say that what you have right now is enough to start your business, don’t go looking for millions to start a project, start small and be faithful to your business, plough back into it, nurture your business step by step and you will succeed.