Interview with Kwesi Antwi Appiah, CEO of Oak-Van Ghana Limited
What is your scope of activity?
Oak-Van Limited is a limited liability company which was established in 2011. We started small and now the business is recovering very well. We deal with government organizations, private organizations, NGOs, etc. Our main business is as a general supplier of medical equipment, computers and accessories, office and school furniture and construction.
To boost your business and grow further and faster, what is the major challenge you are facing?
With government projects, you have to get funding that you have to finance yourself. It takes time for the government to pay you back. Normally, they don’t give mobilizations. But it’s a good deal if you have good capital to run. We also carry out construction and road construction. In terms of roads, you have to manage your own capital and that becomes a major challenge. Looking at our financial institutions, Ghana, it is very difficult for our banks to get in when they find out that this is a government project. The payment is a bit late. Thus, obtaining financing from local banks is a challenge. They want to get involved in projects which are banking projects or UN projects, projects where the money has been allocated and the money is there. But with government projects, even if it’s budgeted, you have to wait to get paid. It is a major challenge for us now because we are in full expansion. In recent years, we have doubled our customer base. The more customers you have, the more financing you need to support your business and run a business effectively.
How do you rate the sector itself?
Thanks to this pandemic over the past year, globally, things have not turned out very well economically. But our sector in Ghana has been good, especially for medical supplies. All the attention is focused on the medical – face masks, gloves, ventilators, monitors, ultrasound devices, etc. Most of these things have to move quickly and logistics become a factor as well.
How do you stand out? What are your main competitive advantages?
What sets Oak-Van apart is our professionalism and the way we execute our contracts. All of our customers are happy with us because of our prompt delivery. We always respect our estimated delivery time. What makes us unique is that as a company we not only give what the customer wants, but we always do more. We go above and beyond in terms of price, product availability and working with the client’s budget. Our customers always recommend us wherever we go, which is why our clientele continues to grow.
Where do you get your clients and your projects from?
Government agencies, private companies and NGOs publish their offers in the newspaper. If it is within our perimeter, we proceed to the call for tenders. We have established contacts with over 20 major clients who often call us directly. Even if there are 3 or 4 companies, we can bring our quotes so that they can compare. Due to our past service with them, they often call us to supply them under a single supplier. We have about 10 companies now under single sourcing.
Where do you get your supplies?
Oak-Van is a general supplier of cleaning products, computers and accessories, general construction, health and safety equipment, office consumables, medical supplies, and more.
Our medical supplies are usually sourced from Turkey. We have a company there that we partner with in terms of medical supplies. We want to broaden our scope now and get more companies that can partner with us when it comes to medical equipment. Most medical equipment in Ghana is imported. We want to find partners in the United States, France, etc. When we get a RFP, we send it to our partners to review the specifications. They can then create the medical equipment according to this specification. We want to broaden our field of action in IT. We do not produce computers in Ghana; on the contrary, we still have to import them. At present, we do not have an IT partner outside of Ghana. We have partners in Ghana. If we don’t have something in stock, we just contact them and get them. But we don’t have a bigger customer that we want to have outside. We want to partner with companies like HP, Dell, etc. in order to be very competitive in terms of price. When you don’t get a great manufacturer, your price goes up. But our bidding process is very competitive, so if your price is high, you will be kicked out.
What do you do in furniture supplies?
We have a company in Ghana called ORCA Deco which is one of our partners. We like something different rather than what’s already on the market. We do not have any external partners, but we are trying to find one in Dubai. We are looking for modern and stylish furniture companies to partner with.
What partnerships or investors are you looking for?
Oak-Van Limited is one of the fastest growing companies in Ghana. We are supplying medical equipment to one of the largest hospitals in Ghana. There is a lot of demand, so we really need investors and partners to join us. We are launching a new program in which we would also like to partner with other companies entering the poultry industry. The government opened it and in the next six months to a year we will not be importing any more poultry feed or poultry products. Our eggs will be there. This is a new area and we have already acquired the land. Ghana is a gateway to Africa and there are a lot of opportunities and easy access to land.
What will be the effect for an investor to come and join you? Will it be to supply the entire Ghanaian market?
The demand in Ghana is huge. No family wakes up and eats breakfast without an egg. They have become a part of us. In Ghana now we are importing eggs into the country because we cannot meet the demand. If we can start to meet this demand, then we can send it to our neighboring African countries. It’s a good thing. We have introduced many business partnerships with our neighboring countries. It is therefore a good opportunity for us to develop ourselves.
What are your activities in road construction?
There are a lot of roads to be built in Ghana. Normally, the government named the cocoa routes. One of our main products is cocoa, so the government targets those roads to work on when the funds are there. We are ready to enter into partnerships for the construction of roads. This year the government has a lot in its budget for roads. As a company, we are trying to strategize with partnerships for road building because we have been there for so many years. We put our documents together and we want to make an offer.
What are your successes?
As a company, we have had great success. We have many large companies as clients such as ENI, Ministry of Gender, Environmental Protection Agency, Ghana AIDS Commission, National Education Authority, Ministry of Education. We serve them all very well. Along with ENI, we were one of the companies selected to provide antibacterial wipes. We were able to deliver within the expected 60 days. Because we delivered on time, the project was able to start on time. It was a fairly quick schedule to roll out across the country.
What was your ambition and your inspiration?
I had worked with a local bank and started looking for a new job. I went to see a classmate of mine who ran a business that supplied paper and stationery to private and government institutions. I asked to join him even though he couldn’t pay me at the time but he shared the profits. I wanted to do something myself so I took it as a learning project. I worked with this friend for about 4 to 5 years. I have learned and experienced a lot. By the grace of God, we now have our own office, 10 permanent employees, and we also have 5 contract employees.
What is your vision for the next three years? What do you want to have achieved?
We want to be one of the best in this type of supply chain business. We really want to be known. Over the next three years, we will not only supply Ghana, but also the BBC, CNN and other companies. Over the next three years, we will have offices all over the world for this supply chain.
What awards are you proud of?
We have a forex trading academy called Oak Forex Academy where we trade in the forex market. This award was given to us by one of our brokers. In one of our local supply chain associations, we won one of the youngest growing company award certificates.
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