BUK Truck Parts — lessons in business growth

Sara Drawwater
14 September 2014
Nambeye Katebe, our ex Multi-Media Journalist, gets an insight into BUK Truck Parts.

BUK Truck Parts, a company already well known as a leading source of quality truck parts for Zambian businesses, has recently added trailer parts to its extensive product range. We thought this was a good time to republish an interview we had a couple of years ago with BUK’s founder and managing director Mr Benjamin Katubiya …

Nambeye Katebe, our ex Multi-Media Journalist, gets an insight into BUK Truck Parts.

NAMBEYE: Mr Katubiya, as the face behind BUK Truck Parts we would like to know a little bit more about you. Could you give us a brief personal background about yourself?MR KATUBIYA: I know that question always requires me to give a hint about my age but I’m not going to tell you exactly when I was born, suffice to say I am of full age! (Laughs). I was born in Ndola and went to Kaloko and Chilengwa Primary Schools. I did my Secondary School education from Chiwala Boys and later on went to the Copperbelt University. I am married with three children.

NAMBEYE: Have you always been interested in trucks and spares and if so where did this interest spring from?MR KATUBIYA: Yes, I’ve always had an interest in motor vehicles in general. I was driving by the age of thirteen. My father never owned a car but we lived next to people who had a taxi business and I would spend a lot of time there, and learned some mechanics. Even before that I enjoyed making wire cars and driving them around. I even sold a few!

NAMBEYE: I can tell you have been business minded from a very young age then! What exactly made you decide to venture into the industry of truck parts?MR KATUBIYA: When we opened BUK we started by selling general motor vehicle parts, particularly for Peugeots and Land Rovers. However, at the time, a number of people in Zambia had the same idea and were opening up similar businesses so I found a lot of competition. So I decided to narrow it down and focus on truck spares which I was getting from East Africa at the time, reselling them to big companies like CH and ZCBC.

NAMBEYE: The name BUK does not give away much. What exactly does it mean?MR KATUBIYA: It is a combination of my and my wife’s name. My wife is a shareholder. Her name is Upendo and she is Swahili, from Tanzania. BUK stands for Benjamin Upendo Katubiya.

NAMBEYE: BUK first started its operations in 1998. What were some of the challenges you faced in setting up the company?MR KATUBIYA: Firstly, let me correct you by saying we registered BUK as a company on October 5th in 1997 but we begun operations officially in 1998. One of the biggest challenges we faced when setting up was actually having the company registered with PACRA. At the time registering a company was a nightmare. There were so many certificates and licences one had to get just to be legal. But I’m happy to say in these modern times setting up is not so complicated.

NAMBEYE: The company is now clocking 14 years in the industry. What would you say have been some of your achievements at BUK over this period of time?MR KATUBIYA: Our biggest achievement has been our growth. When people venture into business their greatest ambition is to see the business grow. We are happy to say we are not at the same level we were 14 years ago and the goals we set 14 years ago have been met. We now have our own premises and the company has diversified and embarked on quarry mining. We have set up a quarry mine of our own, so we are constantly growing.

NAMBEYE: That’s interesting. What made you diversify into quarry mining?MR KATUBIYA: I believe in the saying “never keep all your eggs in one basket.” You might just trip and break all of them! We were looking for a viable way to keep money aside by investing it into another business. We recognised the need and potential of quarry mining, particularly because Zambia is currently one of the fastest growing countries in the region. We want to contribute to this growth by playing an active part as a Zambian company.

NAMBEYE: In September last year, BUK partnered with an American company known as EquipXP to sell and distribute heavy duty construction, mining, agriculture and hospital equipment. How has this partnership progressed since then and what impact has it made?MR KATUBIYA: It has been a year since we committed to distributing equipment on behalf of EquipXP here in Zambia. So far we have made some sales which we are happy with. But it has been slow as the price of the machinery we are distributing is expensive and clients are not always able to access funds. But we are getting there. We feel that with the changes the Zambian Government is making to make it a conducive business environment in the country, our sales should double this year.

NAMBEYE: How important do you think networking is in the business world and has it been relevant to your company?MR KATUBIYA: I think networking is extremely important in business. It is one of the best ways to grow a company. Networking allows you to tap into the resources of bigger companies; a case in point is our agreement to distribute equipment on behalf of EquipXP. It also allows you to use the experience of others who have made it in the industry. However, I must add that there is an amount of risk in partnering with other businesses, especially if it is a foreign business, as not everyone is genuine. It is important to ensure that the business deal is legal and that the other company has the same ethics as you.

NAMBEYE: The industry of truck parts and spares is constantly evolving with new technologies being introduced. How do you keep up with these changes in the industry and stay relevant?MR KATUBIYA: That’s a very good question. As you can see, my desk is in a mess surrounded by this pile of books! I believe in research, I often come to the office toread so that I am up to date. As a company we attend a lot of seminars and trade exhibitions. Every November we attend trade and exhibition shows in Las Vegas, in April we attend Motor Mechanic shows in Dubai and many more. We also subscribe to a number of auto magazines and newsletters.

NAMBEYE: BUK currently has a presence in four towns in Zambia, that is Lusaka, Kitwe, Ndola and Chipata, as well as a branch in the DRC. Do you have any plans to increase your presence further?MR KATUBIYA: We are constantly looking for opportunities to grow. We recently opened a branch in Choma — about four months ago. We are considering opening up in Tanzania and Malawi by the next financial year in April 2013.

NAMBEYE: Where do you see BUK in the next five years?MR KATUBIYA: We see ourselves growing like Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin group of companies! I admire his zeal to do business. We have a big heart to grow. Though our main aim is to make a profit, we also want to contribute to the nation’s growth by providing employment opportunities and boosting the economy through our taxes.

NAMBEYE: With other similar companies coming up in Lusaka, why would you encourage people to make BUK a preference?MR KATUBIYA: At BUK we do business differently. We have one of the best packages for our clients which includes reasonably priced quality goods, warranties because we believe in the quality of our goods, and we provide excellent after sales services. We also pride ourselves on having everything under one roof. We are constantly adding to our stock. And what we do not have, we acquire.

NAMBEYE: Finally, what would be your most solid advice to young entrepreneurs looking to make a break in the industry?MR KATUBIYA: I would tell them not to come! Let them wait for me to make my money before they come! (laughs)NAMBEYE: Mr. Katubiya!MR KATUBIYA: On a more serious note, I would like to encourage young Zambian entrepreneurs to work hard and use their natural talents. In order to achieve success in anything you do, you have to change your mindset and believe in yourself. A positive attitude is vital. Even when you fail, it is not the end. Every failure is a lesson, get up and try again. When I started BUK, I started with only $300. And today we have achieved so much. Financial discipline must be at the heart of anyone looking to start a business. And most importantly, you must be honest with both your clients and your suppliers in order to establish a business that can stand the test of time.

For further information about BUK Truck Parts, visit www.thebestofzambia.com/buk-truck-parts.