WE’LL HANDLE IT

Zambia 2015 | TELECOMS, IT & MEDIA | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ravi Devalia, Chairman and CEO of Devalia Group, on the wide operations of the Group, real estate in Lusaka, and hot sectors.

 Ravi Devalia
BIOGRAPHY
Ravi Devalia was born 65 years ago and studied economics at the London School of Economics. He was appointed Chairman of the Times of Zambia by President Chiluba. He was the youngest District Governor in the world of Rotary International in 1995/96, for Rotary District 9210, which consisted of Zambia, Tanzania, Botswana, Madagascar, Comorros, and Mayotte. He is currently the CEO of Devalia Group.

What was the main reason behind the creation of Devalia Group and where does Magic Advertising fit within the organization?

V.R. Consultants, a part of the Devalia Group, is involved in consulting for overseas companies wanting to invest in Zambia. It also handles the many agencies of companies from all over world that want to supply their products to Zambia. The Group is also involved in property development, the supply of stationary items through its company Top Shop to government ministries, private companies, and NGOs. Its flagship company, Magic Advertising, is a one-stop shop that manufactures and sets up billboards, vinyl, and banner wide format printing, vehicle branding, telescopic and ordinary flags, printing, and embroidery of t-shirts, caps, mugs, key chains, mouse pads, and many other promotional items. We also do media creations, buying, and product launches.

What types of properties are available in your real estate portfolio?

We are building the Olympia Plaza Extension in Lusaka, which is a building of 1,500sqm. To make this happen we raised $2 million, and once completed we will put it up for rent. There are some medical specialists from India and Botswana who are interested in building a diagnostic center, and there is also the possibility of building a high-class mini mall. We have plots around Lusaka and will be developing them once this current project is completed. We expect to develop five to six other projects over a period of three to four years. We also have seven large properties in Livingstone, where the Victoria Falls are, and have let them out.

How do you see the real estate market evolving in Lusaka over the coming years?

Competition is increasing in the sector. There is a big chain from Botswana with which we have been in contact about expansion. It wants to open 50 stores in Zambia, so there is a possibility that we could become its local representatives.

What inspires you when choosing a new sector to enter?

I picked up my entrepreneurial spirit from my father, and have tried my hand at many different sectors. I was only 22 years old when I started my business, but I had been learning how it worked since I was a child. The situation in the country also changes. A couple of decades ago Zambia was a $2 billion economy, but today it is a $26 billion economy. There is more money circulating, and it is a virgin country for investment. There is no exchange control, and these are the opportunities we see in Zambia that as yet have not been adequately marketed to the wider world.

What are your expectations for the year ahead?

This year we became more involved in real estate. We are trying to have success in this area and I have three or four groups, including one from Sudan that is keen to start a multi-investment project in a five-star hotel close to the airport, as well as set up a vehicle lubrication manufacturing plant. And meanwhile, hospitals from India also want to invest in Zambia, and I hope I will be there to support these new ventures.