Phikwe-based enterprise shines bright
Inspired to do something ‘out of the ordinary’ whilst also contributing to his beloved country, 32-year-old Ketshephaone Jacob came up with a bright idea.
In February 2017 the young entrepreneur established The Bulb World, Botswana’s first light bulb manufacturing company.
Based in Selibe Phikwe – where Jacob himself was born – the business has the capacity to produce 20, 000 light bulbs a day, around 500, 000 a month.
“The Bulb World manufactures Light Emitting Diode (LED) lighting, from households to outdoor, offices and streetlights,” explained the enterprise’s sole owner, adding he currently employs 37 individuals, 30 of whom work at the factory.
Jacob revealed the raw materials were purchased abroad, mainly from Egypt, India and China, and then manufactured in Phikwe.
Outlining the motivation behind his unique local business, the Tonota native told Voice Money, “I am a businessman and I was generally doing advertising. Then I said to myself, I want do something bigger, something that actually contributes to my country as a business person.”
After careful consideration, a light went off in Jacob’s head when he spotted a massive gap in the energy sector.
“Because of my travelling, when I was in China I realised that they manufacture LED lights. I asked the guys in China about the processes and what it takes for one to manufacture these lights. They took me through the processes and the only thing left was to raise capital to buy the necessary equipment.”
As he was not a qualified engineer himself, Jacob also had to recruit the relevant professionals and equip himself with the required skills.
Furthermore, he had to find a partner who would impart their knowledge and skills on The Bulb World’s workers.
“The nearest people we found were in Zambia, a company called Zambia Electrometre. They took us through their plant which was exactly like the one I saw in China, so I had faith in them.”
They eventually signed an agreement with the Zambian enterprise through its parent company in Egypt, which also assisted them in buying equipment as well as installing it.
With The Bulb World being the first of its kind in Botswana, Jacob said although they have encountered challenges, the overwhelming reaction from Batswana has been positive.
“People have been buying from us directly because we have been selling door-to-door. But now, because we have reached a capacity to go to retail, we have signed with a number of local retailers and are in talks with many others, of which all of them are giving us positive feedback,” he said proudly.
Highlighting some of the hurdles he has had to overcome, Jacob said, “Firstly, you are talking about manufacturing a light. To an ordinary person, making a light or a bulb is something very difficult and requires certain skills and certain machinery. And to come to Phikwe to say I want to open a bulb manufacturing company, some people laughed!”
Financing also proved a challenge, with Jacob having to dig into the savings he had built-up from his previous businesses.
“Going to a bank and telling them that you want money for such a project was a very difficult thing because nothing of that sort had ever been done,” he revealed, adding he did not approach CEDA as he had no property to attach.
Fortunately, he was to receive help from the land of the Pharaohs once again, with the Egyptian company offering to buy him machinery and draw up a payment plan for him.
While The Bulb World is looking to conquer the local market, its founder has set his sights on opening a market house in South Africa.
Jacob intends to distribute from there whilst the manufacturing will still be done in Phikwe.