Clean with Tlou Detergents » TheVoiceBW
Although he had studied hard for a career in electronics engineering, in 2013 Nonofo Ditshego spotted a gap in the market that was too tempting to ignore.
Thus, at the age of 31, the Ditshegos created Tlou Detergents, influenced by the observation that almost all the detergents sold in local shops are imported from South Africa and neighboring countries.
Based in Ditshego’s home village of Mochudi, Tlou Detergents manufactures liquid hand washing soap in 400ml, 750ml, 1.5L and 5L packages.
Despite a challenging business environment, the company remains committed and ready to go the extra mile to achieve its mandate.
Please introduce yourself?
I am 40 years old and from Mochudi.
I have a PhD in Electronic Engineering which I completed at the University of Southampton, UK.
Tell us about your professional background before creating this company?
I started Tlou Detergents (Pty) Ltd nine years ago when I was still a student trying to get my Doctor of Philosophy.
I am running this business on a part time basis as I am currently employed by Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) as a Lecturer.
How do you juggle between two such demanding roles?
Honestly it’s hard! It takes everything to create a balance between the two.
It drains the energy but I have employees who are essential.
How was Tlou Detergents born?
The company was created because of the large deficit that I saw.
Of Botswana’s imports, over 70% of all the products we use come from South Africa.
I want to reduce this huge dependency, but it is a colossal task.
So I developed the business to compete with the big South African detergent brands.
When I started there were no Motswana companies selling these products in 1.5 liters or less packaging, especially the 750ml bottle.
Things are changing now, more Batswana have started venturing into the business.
So what products do you offer?
The company offers a variety of products, including dishwashing liquid, sanitizer, washing up liquid, car shampoo, empty plastic bottles with caps.
These are offered in different sizes ranging from 200 ml to 25 liters which we mainly manufacture ourselves.
We only manufacture and sell products tested by the Botswana Bureau of Standards (BOBS) and our prices are low with excellent quality.
What is the daily production capacity of the factory?
We measure our processes on a weekly basis because it takes time.
Per week we produce between 1,500 to 10,000 units depending on demand.
This means that we can reach 40,000 units per month.
These figures are similar to those of Sunlight and Maq detergents which are imported from this side.
Where do you source your raw materials?
Abroad, in South Africa; and it is expensive, especially if you include transportation.
But the prices are always better than the locals because no local produces the raw materials and the locals get the raw materials from the same sources as me, so they inject markup prices.
So, in a nutshell, SA is better than the locals.
As an electronics engineer by profession, where did you learn the skills to manufacture detergents?
I have seen various detergent productions both locally and abroad.
I saw that I had the skills to operate and maintain the machines.
Since I understand machines, that’s how it all started, to mix raw materials, it’s quite easy.
I have a lot of support and I also studied chemistry for two years at the University of Botswana (UB) so that helped me too.
How is the company doing in the market?
We are present in a number of stores which include: Payless, Sefalana Shopper Tlokweng, Saverite Supermarket Tlokweng, Sefalana Jwaneng, Square Mart, Saverite Supermarket Mochudi, Chanda Brothers to name a few.
But the receipt of products is still very slow, many of them are still trying it.
Our largest presence is in the Kgatleng region.
What challenges are you currently facing?
Marketing is our biggest problem; when you sell detergents in small bottles, the only way to succeed is to mass produce.
We always sell low volumes.
Another is that manufacturing machinery and tools keep breaking down and therefore require constant maintenance and vigilance.
There are more challenges, if I name them all, I will never end!
Haha, let’s focus on the positives instead – what’s been your biggest strength since starting this entity?
We sell quality products at low prices.
For example, we sell our dishwashing liquid in P13 to individuals and in P12 to businesses.
Compare this with other dishwashing liquids, you can see the difference there.
Where would you like to see Tlou Detergents in the years to come?
We would like the company to sell to the maximum, if not to all the stores in the chain.
It’s the Big Dream!
What difference has Tlou Detergents made in the retail market?
We are slowly bringing in locally made detergents that can compete with South African detergents, which hopefully in the long run will remove them from our shelves altogether.
But we’re not there yet since most of our retailers are still trying out the products.
Let’s hope they settle there because once the chain stores can embrace us, great things will happen.
This is a local business producing local products, how does the #Pusha BW campaign work for you?
The #Pusha BW campaign advertised and raised awareness of the business.
We are very grateful for that.
Unfortunately, we can’t talk business without mentioning Covid-19 – how has the pandemic affected your business?
We have been hit hard.
With wars in which we have no say; transportation is bad because fuel prices are high, raw materials are expensive.
At the height of the pandemic, BIUST was making sanitizers and soaps, were you at the forefront?
Very true that BUIST was engaged in this exercise.
With my experience with detergents, they asked me to help them and I did.