SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET

Nigeria 2018 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Vinay Grover, Managing Director of Simba Group, on laying and building upon a strong foundation, the growing engagement with renewables, and the importance of first-rate service.

 Vinay Grover
BIOGRAPHY
The Founder and Managing Director of the Simba Group, Vinay Grover has an MBA from the College of William & Mary. He began his career as a management advisor to a multi-industrial group in India. In 1987, he founded Wandel International in Nigeria, a company that has since grown into one of the country’s most trusted and reputed business groups—the Simba Group.

What are Simba Group's activities and major achievements?

We started almost 30 years ago and have witnessed the economic growth and various changes in the nation's demographics. This 30-year journey has been at times turbulent, at others smooth, but like the rest of the economy we have seen significant growth in the last few years. The country's growth is clearly apparent when traveling along the streets of Abuja, Lagos, and other big cities. Overall, growth has been moderate to good. However, I see a brighter future in the next decade because certain fundamentals that were previously lacking in the country are slowly becoming available. Once the foundation gets stronger, the benefits will begin to show.

What projects do you have in the pipeline in transportation and the other sectors you cover?

We are distributors of TVS Motors, one of the largest exporters of two and three-wheeler vehicles in the world. Over the last few years, we have invested heavily in further developing our assembly capabilities and ensuring access to affordable service and spare parts across the country. We have also invested in R&D to work with our partners in customizing and developing the vehicles for the local road conditions and market preferences, and simultaneously work toward optimizing efficiencies across the value chain. That begins with local assembly and distribution, but also involves extensive training for riders as well as mechanics across the country. So far, we have trained over 25,000 mechanics, which enables us to deploy our services to every corner of the country, helping our vehicles become the brand of choice.

In 2015, you were recognized as one of the leading companies providing services in Nigeria. How has this contributed to your growth story?

Our entire philosophy is driven by service; whatever we do, we strive to be the best in terms of service. That is an area we found was lacking in Nigeria to some extent. It might have been a cultural issue, where people had just become used to buying products, not having anywhere to service them, and then going out and buying replacements. Clearly, that is not acceptable and addressing that has helped us to reach the leadership positions we have—not only in the motorcycle and three-wheeler business, but also in the inverter business where we have commanding market leadership. For example, we were the first inverter company to offer customer service through a dedicated call center. Our growth has also been due to the general economy, which was growing rapidly until the recent downturn. People have realized dependency on one commodity is not the way to move forward. These last two years have been times of consolidation and a time to look at which areas we would like to move toward. Agriculture is one; another is renewable energy. We may have actually entered at a time when it was not so popular to be in the renewable space. Now, with the pricing factors of renewables coming down, especially solar, there is a lot of engagement with renewables.

What is your ultimate ambition and goal for Simba Group?

We do not want to grow for the sake of growth. Topline growth does not excite us as much as being able to come up with something we can get recognition for in terms of being the best. We have always had the slogan that we do not want to be the biggest, but the best. Having said that, we always strive to stay in businesses in which we have a dominant role to play. We would like to have businesses where we at least have 40-50% market share. That is a healthy amount and is achievable—in some businesses we are even at 60%. To remain at a high level of market share is important when we look inward, rather than outward, to see how we can improve ourselves to be able to provide the best to our customers as well as contribute to the sector.