By Ndanatsiwa Tagwireyi
THE construction industry in Zimbabwe continues to operate on a downward trajectory with some industry experts describing it as a sector in intensive care unit due to the harsh economic environment worsened by the coming in of the novel corona virus that has ravaged the world economy.
For aspiring construction entrepreneurs, the journey might not be all rosy as revealed in Barmlo Group of Companies founder Barnabas Marambire’s entrepreneurial journey. Barmlo Group of Companies consists of Barmlo Investments Private Limited specialising in building material supply and brick moulding, Barmlo Construction that focuses on erection of buildings, electrification, plumbing and other house finishes and Maineck Holdings specialising in food processing.
Growing up as an orphan in Matizenyika Village in Chivi District never deterred Marambire from making use of the available resources to make a few cents for himself even when his peers at Chongogwe Secondary School were not seeing the opportunity.
“From my childhood, I had a business mind set as I started selling sweets when I was at secondary school,’’ Marambire revealed his modest start.
“After I finished my secondary school I was selling agricultural products and business is what I know in my entire life.”
The award-winning entrepreneur who left behind his brick moulding business in Botswana following his deportation emphasised that his journey to the top as an entrepreneur was tough but easy to handle because he started with nothing. In Botswana, he started by herding cattle in North East District.
“I started my empire with brick by brick without fear as l had nothing to lose, and learnt a lot of things along the way,” Marambire who recently launched a motivational book titled ‘The Herd boy’ said adding that he encourages people to start small and grow gradually, learning the processes of administering business.
“In the beginning, I was practically involved in the production process, having my hands on the job as this reduces running costs,” Barmlo Investments CEO told The Entrepreneurial Magazine.
“I was monitoring my team closely and guarding against any loss that could be caused by negligence.’’
Like most entrepreneurs who eye for opportunities by identifying people’s problems and solutions, Marambire believes that providing unique services not rendered by other competitors and company branding made Barmlo Investments and Barmlo Construction to stand out.
“Barmlo Investments provides fix and supply services to people who already have their residential and commercial stands courtesy of the Easy Build Project that was rolled out in 2013 offering zero percent interest rate credit facility to clients,” Marambire told The Entrepreneurial Magazine
“I also had to come up with special services like offering transport to our customers, marketing and reach outs,’’ Marambire who draws inspiration from business mogul Strive Masiyiwa revealed. ‘We also branded our business to make it look bigger even though we were still small.”
According to Marambire, buying building and construction materials direct from manufacturing companies in bulk to get a lower price has also made them survive competition as their prices get discounted compared to the prices in the general market. The construction entrepreneur also emphasised that each and every company must have a survival strategy taking from the old archaic phrase ‘do not put all your eggs in one basket.’
“Our construction and hardware departments were affected by the corona virus. However we have a department that specialises in food processing where we do maize milling,” the construction entrepreneur tipped other aspiring entrepreneurs. “This department gave us good revenue which helped us to sustain our operations during covid-19 period.”
Marambire added that the construction industry is full of a barrage of ups and downs due to a number of factors that entrepreneurs need to be on the lookout for.
“In Africa, corruption, nepotism and poor policies are common. We have lost many tenders because we refused to participate in corruption activities as people in charge of tenders would ask for shares in deals,” Marambire poured his heart out.
“We have the capacity to supply or construct big projects but to this day, our company has been participating in tender processes and was never given a tender to supply either goods or services.”
The Barmlo Investments managing director also expressed concern over uncertain policies in Zimbabwe, citing that they are weighing heavily on construction companies like his.
“Our monetary policies as from 2018 to 2020 have been inconsistent to a point where businesses lost money particularly the 1:1 United States Dollar against the Zimbabwean Dollar policy that was introduced,” Marambire told the Entrepreneurial Magazine.
“We were offering a credit facility by that time and most of our debtors settled debts they had using 1:1 rate when in actual sense the value we spent on their projects was higher. We lost and it took us some time to recover again,” he said.
Marambire is however optimistic that his prospects for the year 2021 and beyond are bright despite many challenges that he faces in the day to day running of his company.
“Our company will have many branches in every province of Zimbabwe and we are also expanding to other SADC countries like Botswana, Namibia and Zambia where our company is already registered.
Barmlo Investments has completed many successful individual and institutional projects in Zvishavane, Mberengwa and countrywide with Mberengwa Primary and Zvishavane High School benefiting classroom blocks while Chongogwe Secondary built a library with Barmlo.
Barmlo Investments is a construction and building hardware material company offering a range of construction services with innovative credit facilities to help people and institutions build their homes and durable structures.