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Oh Mo! Here Comes A New Cola

Do you remember the time Richard Branson tried to take on Coca-Cola? It didn’t end well. Tanzanian billionaire, Mohammed Dewji thought he’d also have a go.

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The test-tube sized bottles go into the piping machine. After being heated, they’re blown into shape and then filled with the carbonated soda. Out on the other side pops the brown flavored drink, Mo Cola. It hopes to compete with industry heavyweight Coca-Cola. Good luck.

Coca-Cola, ranked third on FORBES’ list of the most powerful brands in the world, is a force to be reckoned with. The company owns 40% of the market share in Tanzania and will attack any company that tries to take the smallest percentage away.

Here in Dar es Salaam, the rivalry for the best carbonated drink is fought out between Coca Cola and Pepsi. But, Mohammed Dewji, the CEO of the MeTL Group, is expanding his billion-dollar empire worth $1.2 billion on the FORBES rich list.

MeTL has invested more than $48 million into the drink called MO. It is available in a variety of flavors including orange, mango, lemon, malt and cola.

Although Coca-Cola has managed to shut down many of its competitors, is Mo-Cola something they should be worried about?

“Whether they are nervous or not, I don’t know. But I tell you something, I don’t have much to lose, if anything they have market share to lose; I have zero market share. The only thing that can happen is I’ll go up; right?” says Dewji.

But he is not the first to go up against the industry giant. The list is long: Afri-Cola, Qibla Cola, Zam Zam Cola, Kola Real and, Coca-Cola’s biggest rival, Pepsi.

In 1994, Richard Branson launched Virgin Cola. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal he said he thought Virgin Cola was going to become the number one brand in the world. They had the right resources and the right people, so what went wrong?

“We decided to take on the might of Coca-Cola. We had a great brand we had a great product [and] it tasted better than Coke. We launched in the United Kingdom, we were outselling Coke, we were outselling Pepsi and for one wonderful year we had dreams of Virgin Cola being the number one brand on everyone’s lips when they wanted to buy a soft drink,” says Branson.

Unfortunately, Branson would never see that dream come true. Someone in Atlanta warned the then president of Coca-Cola, Roberto Crispulo Goizueta, of the Brit who was becoming a problem.

“Soon every retailer we were in, we found Virgin Cola disappearing from the shelves,” says Branson.

And just like that Virgin Cola was history.

This history doesn’t worry Dewji. He took 35% of the detergent market share from Proctor and Gamble. Fast growth in the edible oils sector saw them dominate 60% of the market share, beating Unilever.

“I’m not saying that brand consciousness doesn’t exist, but I believe that price consciousness is very important. I think that if I give a good product at the right price I can repeat the stories like I’ve done with my edible oil and soap and detergent powder,” he says.

So let’s say Dewji gains market share, ruffling a few white and red feathers. Then, Coke offers Mo-Cola a deal he cannot refuse. Will Dewji sell?

“I’m yet to sell a business. At the end of the day, I’m not emotionally attached to companies, I’m attached to values so anything at a right price, at my price, why not? I would sell any business,” he says.

But Dewji’s mind is far from failure. He’s banking on the MeTL Group’s vast distribution network of more than 100 depots in Tanzania and 2000 transportation vehicles that deliver, door to door, deliveries for many of their products, which include everything from detergents to tooth picks, bubblegum and pens.

“My strategy is to be able to make it affordable to the normal person on the street. I’m not saying I’m going to play the price strategy but this is going to be a surprise for everyone; whether I will sell the same milliliters as they will we don’t know, whether I will sell more for the same price we don’t know or whether I will sell 50ml at a much less price, I don’t know.”

MeTL is in 10 African countries: Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Eastern Congo, South Sudan, Malawi, Mozambique and Ethiopia. The group also trades internationally.

Within the year, Dewji hopes to snatch 10% of the market share from Tanzania’s Coca-Cola plant. Only time will tell if Mo-Cola will rival Coca-Cola or be slaughtered like Virgin Cola.

Entrepreneurs

All For Grooming Future Leaders

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Katlego Thwane has had to dip into his own savings, with the Covid-19 crisis, to fund his noble cause, teaching the underprivileged in a South African township.

He is in his twenties, yet turning around the destiny of underprivileged young people around him.

Katlego Thwane, a 28-year-old born and bred in South Africa’s lively township of Soweto, is an educator and founder of the Atlegang Bana Foundation here that caters to primary school learners who struggle to keep up at school and need additional help.

“Our foundation also provides for needy learners from underprivileged backgrounds. One of my biggest campaigns at the foundation every year is to give confidence and motivation to learners for the year ahead,” says Thwane.

He has bagged numerous awards and accolades for his work, as a 2017 Young Community Shaper, 2018 Lead SA hero and featuring on live television show Big Up on SABC Mzansi in 2018.

Growing up, he was a “naughty boy”, as he describes himself, but says many are now astonished at the serious, ambitious young man he has become.

“Teaching has always been a passion of mine. I love seeing change, transformation and grooming leaders, and value their education while being innovative in taking our country forward.”

Thwane has recently established a clothing brand, BANA, under the Atlegang Bana Foundation. He is also currently handing out food parcels to the needy in his community, in partnership with Hollywoodbets.

“The virus has affected us immensely with many parents losing their jobs or taking salary cuts, we are not receiving the financial support as before. This has led to me [dipping] into my own personal pocket and [using it] to buy tutors data for teaching virtually,” says Thwane.

Most schools continue operating online because learners haven’t as yet returned to school, however, this has come with its share of setbacks.

Makosha Masedi, a parent of a Grade 4 learner, says her challenges come with network issues and understanding the tasks given to the child.

“Some of the programs that the work is loaded on to is not friendly for all devices, so submitting and retrieving becomes a problem, as also understanding some of the work,” rues Masedi.

But Thwane powers on, hoping for a better tomorrow, for himself and his country.

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The Mother-Daughter Duo Behind A New Inclusive Community Teaching Budding Professionals How To Better Engage At Work

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Mother-daughter cofounders Edith Cooper and Jordan Taylor launched Medley to help young professionals gain the skills they need to bring their most authentic selves to work. COURTESY OF MEDLEY

Edith Cooper, who spent more than 20 years as an executive at Goldman Sachs, knows what it’s like to stand out in a workplace. Being one of few people of color in a sea of white faces over the course of her career hasn’t been easy. But rather than dwell on this reality, Cooper, who now sits on the boards of Etsy and Slack, has championed her differences. That’s what helped her rise through the ranks at the bank to eventually head its human resources department, an accomplishment she says was a result of her ability to connect with people of all backgrounds.

That quality would continue to work to her advantage: As Goldman Sachs evolved, so did its staff. Diversity was reflected not only in employees’ skin colors and genders, but also in their ages and geographical origins. Cooper was awakened to the fact that if the company was going to thrive, it would need to create an environment wherein its multifaceted staff could feel comfortable embracing their differences and, in turn, learn from them. 

“If you can figure out an environment where people can thrive together, it’s powerful,” Cooper says. But it’s a process that takes time, especially if newer, more inexperienced employees aren’t equipped with the proper skills to navigate this balance between professionalism and open expression. 

That is in part what inspired Cooper’s new startup, Medley, which she launched with her daughter Jordan Taylor, a former chief of staff at Mic and Harvard Business School Baker Scholar, to provide a community in which young professionals can gain the skills they need to bring their most authentic selves to work without fear. In light of the heightened tension surrounding ongoing racial injustice that’s inevitably seeping into workplace communication, it’s an ideal time to learn this skill.

Taylor has also had her fair share of experiences being the “only one in the room,” but as an emerging leader, rather than an established executive like her mother. Graduating in the top 5% of her class and being one the first 20 Black students to be named a Baker Scholar meant she was constantly figuring out how to relate to peers in predominantly white spaces. She figured it out, but Medley is a platform she wishes had been around when she was finding her voice among people whose backgrounds were much different than hers.

Medley groups young professionals in their 20s and 30s with other like-minded members whose workplace values, concerns and priorities align. The professionals that make up these eight-person groups differ, however, in terms of gender and ethnic background, which Cooper and Taylor hope will translate to increased empathy that members can apply within their respective workplaces.

“This idea of people being able to bring their true selves to work and to be able to talk through what that looks like is at the core of what Medley is offering,” says Cooper.

In addition to full access to workshops, panels and conversations led by experts across industries, members commit to a 90-minute virtual meeting each month, facilitated by a Medley-certified coach and focused on addressing and reflecting on ongoing experiences in their personal and professional lives. Cooper credits Medley’s robust network of coaches to the guidance she gained from Merche Del Valle, former global head of coaching at Goldman Sachs and a certified lifestyle, nutrition and wellness coach.

Merging personal wellness and professional development in group discussions is a priority. “You can’t just look at your career in a vacuum,” says Taylor. “In order to meet your potential, the ability to have a more holistic approach is incredibly important.”

To ensure that people of all socioeconomic backgrounds have the ability to join the community, Medley offers a sliding scale fee ranging from $50 to $250, depending on the financial situation of prospective members. Cooper and Taylor are also in conversations with companies interested in partnering with Medley to give their staff reimbursement for membership. 

With the help of investors including Away cofounder Jen Rubio, dtx company founder and CEO Tim Armstrong and MIC cofounder and former CEO Chris Altchek, who contributed more than $1 million to the project, Medley was ready to launch in May 2020 as an in-person membership hub in New York City. Shelter-in-place mandates halted the launch, but also presented an opportunity for Medley to instead be virtual and incorporate international members. The more springing corporate workers that can benefit from the community’s aim to build the next generation of confident, communicative professionals the better, the mother-daughter team notes.

“Medley gives people an opportunity to be a better human in relation to the people they work with and quite frankly in society,” Taylor says.

Brianne Garrett, Forbes Staff, Leadership

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Elon Musk Is Now The Fifth Richest Person In The World

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Elon Musk’s meteoric rise up the Forbes Billionaire List has continued this month, as he’s ascended past luminaries such as Warren Buffett and Steve Ballmer. As of Monday afternoon, Musk’s net worth surpassed $74 billion, meaning he is now the fifth-richest person on the planet.

KEY FACTS

  • Musk, 49, is the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, the electric vehicle company whose stock price has soared since March.
  • Tesla shares gained another 9.5% in Monday’s trading to $1,643.00, giving it a 60% rise in just three weeks since June 29, and a nearly 300% increase in 2020 alone.
  • Musk was ranked  No. 31 on Forbes’ Billionaires List as recently as mid-March, with a net worth just under $25 billion.
  • His fortune has nearly tripled since then, skyrocketing to $74.2 billion at the close of trading Monday, Forbes calculates.
  • Musk owns 21% of Tesla but has pledged more than half his stake as collateral for loans; Forbes has discounted his stake to take the loans into account.

KEY BACKGROUND: 

Musk first debuted on Forbes’ 400 Wealthiest Americans List in 2012 in 190th place with a net worth of $2.4 billion. On January 1 this year, he was the 37th richest person on earth. However, Tesla’s sudden and spectacular rise has propelled him near the very top of the world’s wealthiest humans. Tesla’s surge has confounded some investors, considering it’s far smaller than its competitors and only recently began to log quarterly profits. Tesla produced 103,000 vehicles in the first quarter; Toyota produced 2.4 million vehicles during that same period. In 2019, American automakers General Motors and Ford generated ten times more sales than Tesla. Late last month, analysts from Morgan Stanley warned that Tesla stock, which was trading at roughly $1,000 per share at that time, was “grossly overvalued and set to plunge.” Earlier this month, Musk said that Tesla would produce virtually fully autonomous self-driving vehicles by the end of 2020, a claim that was met with skepticism by an auto industry accustomed to a heaping of hype from Musk on the capabilities of self-driving technology. Musk has not sold shares of Tesla since 2010.

CRITICAL QUOTES:

“I really couldn’t care less,” Musk emailed Forbes about his net worth earlier this month. “These numbers rise and fall, but what really matters is making great products that people love.”

“Moves like we are seeing in Microsoft and Tesla and Amazon are truly insane and unlike any i have ever seen in my life,” tweeted analyst Jim Cramer on Monday afternoon. When asked if Tesla was a ‘Covid Stock,’ Cramer replied, “i don’t even know if it is a stock. it is something else entirely, like a new species discovered in the wild.” 

TANGENT:

When Kanye West initially announced that he was running for president, he said he had the “full support” of Musk, a longtime close friend. In a since-deleted tweet, Musk responded, “We may have more differences of opinion than I anticipated.” However, Musk later told Page Six, “Kanye explained afterward some of the reasoning behind why he said what he said. It makes more sense than many people, including me, realized.” On July Fourth, Musk tweeted, “You have my full support!”

Tommy Beer, Forbes Staff, Business

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