In April 2020 the Covid-19 pandemic brought TATA International Africa to a standstill, requiring the company to implement measures to cut costs and safeguard income. In doing so, and at the same time making sure that lives were not endangered, the leadership team made a commitment to trust that the company’s tried and tested Uptime strategy would see them through one of the biggest challenges the world had ever faced.
The commitment paid off and TATA International Africa is having a good year so far. In April and May 2020, our turnover was down considerably, however from June onwards it achieved close to budget and in Q3 exceeded it. Both turnover and profitability have been stronger than last year and we estimate that our profitability percentage will be up by double digits.
“I believe our success this year has been due to our ability to stay calm and focused, and lead with passion. While we couldn’t ignore the severity of the pandemic, we still needed to continue with business as much as possible, in a safe and responsible manner. We know what we are good at, and we know the types of products and services we want to be involved with, this keeps us focussed,” says Len Brand, CEO of TATA International Africa.
TATA Trucks and Busses, Daewoo Trucks, and John Deere construction and agriculture equipment now make up the core brand offerings of TATA International, and whilst having world-leading commercial vehicle brands in your stable certainly helps, having a good understanding of the environments in which these products operate is critical to ensuring sustainability.
“Having an appropriate range of products, a reliable parts supply network, the right support structures in place and an intimate knowledge of the environments in which we operate, have all been instrumental in our success,” says Brand.
Fortunately, the pandemic didn’t affect the company’s ability to collect money either, and setting up its own retail finance solution also helped. In a first for TATA International Africa the group set up a finance offering that takes into account the nuances of the continent.
“Our finance offering is based on the fact that traditional models of financing don’t always support good opportunities for growth in African markets. We now have a customer offering that comprises products with the ability to finance them. This is a strong proposition for businesses in Africa,” says Brand.
The track record of the past two-and-a-half years has certainly set TATA International Africa up for growth, which Brand considers to be the next phase for the business.
“Our team has worked exceptionally hard over the past four years to set up the necessary structures and our uptime strategy is working well. We are now ready to pursue growth through expansion and acquisition and are determined and believe strongly that we can double our turnover over the next four years,” says Brand.
“It might sound ambitious but we are ready for the challenge,” says Brand.
“Our growth path also provides opportunities for others, so it is not only self-serving. The ethos of the TATA brand will remain strong in this next phase as we seek to use it to improve the lives of people and communities in a sustainable way. I personally have a passion for small farmers so I’d like us to continue to make a difference in that space,” says Brand.
Brand says that adding new geographies to its offering also form part of the growth plan. This will enable Tata International to expand its footprint, by entering a new and growing market.
“Technologies in both construction and agriculture products will continue to improve, enhancing our ability to diagnose and predict problems remotely. I also predict that drones will perform more and more crucial roles in the agricultural field. All of this is positive for us as it supports our uptime strategy,” says Brand.
The company is also monitoring developments in electric trucks and busses, and sees potential linked opportunities with solar power having already invested in a solar distribution business in South Africa.
Mobile money is another area of interest for Brand, who notes it will make a big difference in Africa by improving agility and removing the potential for corruption – a cashless system that is more inclusive and makes it easier to do business.
“I am happy to say the company is in the hands of an exceptionally capable team and we are truly excited about growing the business. I am spending more time on business development ideas, including looking at ways to harness technology as part of our plan moving forward,” concludes Brand.