TUMISANG NDLOVU: Welcome to this week’s edition of the Moneyweb SME Corner. Today we speak to Clyde Ramodibe of Clyde Smarter Beverages. Talk to us about the product. What is Clyde Smarter Beverages all about?
CLYDE RAMODIBE: What Clyde Smarter Beverages is all about is it’s part of the company called Clyde Smarter Enterprises. So this is just another division of the enterprise. We’ve got Clyde Smarter Chemicals, Project Management, as well as Events Management. Basically we manufacture and supply concentrated fruit juice. It comes in three flavours – tropical, orange and mango; and we supply this in various quantities. So it comes in 300 and 500 millilitres, 1.5 litres, and five litres.
I think what inspired us to start this is that there are not a lot of 100% black-owned companies that manufacture and supply these types of products. I think it’s just the beginning, because we’re going to be introducing other products within the beverage space in the near future.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: So is the beverage space quite new to the entire enterprise? Talk to us about the importance of having a diversified bottling and manufacturing and production company.
CLYDE RAMODIBE: I think from our side it’s new, but the concept has been there for the past three years. So, moving from this, we are going to be introducing hot beverages, we’re going to be introducing purified water and then all sorts of things that will come within the beverage industry. Ideally, yes, we are concentrating on the content for now but eventually we are going to get into the manufacturing of the bottling itself, whereby we’ll be able to redesign the whole bottle according to our specifications and how we want to be portrayed in the market.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: Concentrated juice is a big market because it comes already packaged. How do you find the market receiving the convenience of it being packaged?
CLYDE RAMODIBE: I think it depends from one business to another because what we’re doing is we’re not just focusing on providing this to consumers, but we are also supplying hotels, restaurants and other companies that want to repackage it and resell it to the market as well.
Huge gap for African products
TUMISANG NDLOVU: So it’s not a one-stop-shop where you focus on just one specific type of business. Talk to us about why you decided to have that particular type of company, as opposed to focusing on maybe doing the bottling and the juice and that’s it.
CLYDE RAMODIBE: The gap within South Africa is a lack of companies that are manufacturing things in South Africa. A lot of times when we’re doing our research we find that we import a lot of products instead of manufacturing and obviously looking after our own market. There’s a huge gap when it comes to an African product, such as this one, to be marketed to the entire continent. So there are very few companies but then obviously you are competing with big companies that have been in this space for quite some time. The reception of this product has been phenomenal.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: How is the competition?
CLYDE RAMODIBE: Right now we are not worrying about the competition because we know how our product is being received out there. In terms of the marketing, what we are pushing for is … just have a taste of it, and then you’ll understand how we compete with our competitors.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: Challenges in this journey?
CLYDE RAMODIBE: The challenges are always around raising enough capital, because then eventually we’d want to have three or four different plants in major areas — like maybe one [each] in the Western Cape, KZN and PE. To build a world-class manufacturing plant is very costly.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: Marketing – you alluded to that word/ How do you focus on marketing at this point? We see a lot of people marketing via social media, which is somewhat the biggest and cheapest way to reach a big market.
CLYDE RAMODIBE: If you look at our target market it’s quite diversified. Obviously social media is for me and you, but we also do direct marketing where we knock on doors, whether it’s hotels or whatever. We just make sure that our product is across all sectors.
A passion for business
TUMISANG NDLOVU: You run an enterprise. How did it get to an enterprise, what was your original thought when you started?
CLYDE RAMODIBE: This is not the only business that I’m running currently. I’m also involved in other companies, particularly human capital – that’s my background. I started this business with my wife and she focuses on making sure that the business gets out there. I still get involved and I’m heavily involved in terms of the product, in terms of how we do the business development. But I think when it comes to business you’ve got to have passion, and when we talk about passion we’re not talking about doing things for free. You are in business to make money, let’s not try to beat around the bush and say “I’m doing this for charity”.
But at the same time, when you are in business what types of solutions are you trying to bring into the community? As we were saying, when it comes to soft drinks there’s a huge market and a huge demand within the African continent. So we saw that gap and at the same time we said why don’t we have our own black-owned South African product and let’s see how it goes.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: That said, what are your views on the current SME space in South Africa? Do entrepreneurs have enough support to thrive in South Africa?
CLYDE RAMODIBE: The support structures are there, but the question is how they filter down from wherever they are to a normal SME company in Tembisa. That gap, that’s where the problem is. I remember I was listening to a guy talking about this very thing – that these funding companies have huge offices in Sandton and so on, but how do they reach out to the people who are supposed to be getting involved in these types of enterprises, especially the historically disadvantaged people?
TUMISANG NDLOVU: As an entrenched businessman how would you advise someone who may be reading this and thinking: I want to get there. What is it that one needs to do to ensure that they actually get to a point where they have product, where they are producing product?
CLYDE RAMODIBE: I think one of the fundamental things about being an entrepreneur – firstly I spoke about passion, and I think authenticity is quite important. Don’t ever try to be a copycat. Stick to what you know and then build it. That’s why I’m saying we have enough knowledge about this particular industry, and therefore we’re going to be introducing other products within this space.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: Where do people find the product?
CLYDE RAMODIBE: We are at the negotiating stage at the moment with some of the big retail companies within the country. But already we are working with a couple of lodges in the Rustenburg and Magaliesburg areas and we’re working with two or three prominent hotels in the Free State area as well. This product is probably about a month old and we can see the potential.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: Wonderful developments, thank you so much for your time.
CLYDE RAMODIBE: Thank you so much.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: That was Clyde Ramodibe of Clyde Smarter Beverages.