ESTABLISHED six years ago as a start-up with a single employee, Shumani Industrial Equipment is on track to double its size by the end of 2021. Significant contracts such as supplying the largest logistics group in the country, as well as clinching a major share of the food-and-beverage market, has made it the biggest black-owned industrial equipment supplier in South Africa.
That’s according to MD Victor Nemukula, who said, “It has been a difficult but fulfilling six years”. The company’s initial strategy to focus on only one materials-handling product range, namely forklifts, as well as targeting large corporate customers only, has paid handsome dividends. “We knew it would take us longer to gain traction going this route, but all we needed was one major contract to set us off on our growth path.”
A particular highlight for Nemukula, who has been at the helm of Shumani since its inception, has been the significant inroads it has made into the food-and-beverage sector. Its classification as an essential services sector during COVID-19 allowed Shumani to continue with its momentum in a challenging business environment during the restrictions imposed.
“While we did see an initial impact from an earnings point of view, we were not as negatively affected as one would have imagined. This was mainly during the first three months while we reconfigured the business for an online operating environment. However, once we found our way, we quickly discovered how resilient we were,” he said.
While many companies downsized during this period, Shumani instead remained on course to gear itself for long-term expansion, continuing to grow in 2021 and even add to its head count.
This business model is predicated on superior customer service, with Shumani guaranteeing a 95% uptime and a maximum three-hour response time. Therefore, Shumani has technicians on-site at all of its major customers’ operations. “The pillar of our business is our rapid response time. We ensure we are an integral part of our customers’ operations.”
Nemukula’s strategy is to see Shumani diversify into the construction space, where he foresees major opportunities in both the built environment and the government’s infrastructure development programme.
“We have the necessary skills base and are used to running complex operations with maximum efficiency and cost-effectiveness, making the sector a natural fit for us. However, we also believe that significant untapped potential remains in the sectors where we currently operate in.”
Commenting on the latest trends in the materials-handling, logistics and supply chain sector, Nemukula said product providers are now interfacing directly with customers. While this places considerable pressure on timeous delivery, Shumani has both the flexibility and adaptability to meet this growing requirement.
Another major trend, and one accelerated by the pandemic, has been an increased adoption of automation, digitisation and remote monitoring. Here Shumani’s philosophy of only supplying “world-class” brands has allowed it to stay ahead of the innovation curve and introduce the latest technology as soon as it becomes commercially available.
“For our customers who supported us right from the beginning, it could not have been easy to entrust their critical operations to a start-up. This provided us with an opportunity we will always cherish and is the basis of the many partnerships we have established since. To our employees who have stood by us since our beginning, it has been an equally exciting journey. We are excited to see where our shared vision for the business will take us next.”