Velos Enterprises Ltd has a CV almost second to none in Zambia when it comes to construction contracting, building a positive reputation for overcoming challenges in order to finish projects no matter what
Writer: Matthew Staff
Project Manager: Kane Weller
For 40 years, Velos Enterprises has ingrained itself into the retail infrastructure of Zambia, having played its part in the majority of the country’s shopping malls, and in establishing itself as one of the leading names in national construction.
Growing exponentially and organically over the years, the Company’s recently elevated status as a subsidiary of Union Gold Group has opened up the door to even more concerted opportunities in recent years, ensuring continued prominence in the years to come.
“The growth of the Company has been commercial rather than acquisitional, building on the reputation we have formed and the success of the projects completed over the years,” states Velos’ Managing Director, Nick Frangeskides. “The Company was initiated here in Lusaka by my late father and since I’ve taken over, we’ve enjoyed significant growth to be one of the larger contracting companies here in Zambia.”
This family-orientated facet plays naturally into the hands of a business that prides itself on quick decision making, heightened mobility, and flexible operations; being able to set up at a prospective site with very little bureaucracy or delay.
An additional foray into project finance and the ability to carry out turnkey projects has further compounded its vertical integration ambitions more recently as well, ensuring that Velos is capitalising on its own in-house capabilities wherever possible.
“In turn, this ensures that we retain our biggest strength which is that we deliver,” Frangeskides affirms. “That is what we’re reputed for in the market place; that we will complete the work laid out for us. We may have differences of opinion along the way, or have to overcome difficulties, but the most important thing is to complete the job and to make sure that our name is out there for doing so.”
Everything is local
Such reliability and project security has been rewarded with significant tenders across Lusaka and the rest of Zambia throughout the decades, while personability and close collaboration with clients further compounds the Company’s strong ‘word of mouth’ status.
Frageskides explains: “If we look at the marketing side, ideally we like to be involved in a project from its outset, sitting down with potential clients and negotiating the logistics of the project.
“This might not always be possible but it is our preferred mode of working and at the very least we are usually tendering on contracts by way of invitation. Some you win, some you don’t but generally speaking, when it comes to the larger private projects, we will at least receive a shout to put a bid in.”
Having such an accomplished track record inevitably paves the way for more and more landmark contracts each year, and has in fact culminated in the vast majority of shopping malls in Zambia having been influenced by Velos Enterprises’ expertise; including Manda Hill and the Great North Mall.
And perhaps most importantly of all, every inch of the Company’s portfolio has been constructed by Zambian hands; the business overcoming industry-entrenched challenges and difficulties relating to retention and training to boast an entirely localised driving force.
“Everyone here is local,” Frangeskides affirms, “but because we have to adopt a new workforce in each particular area that we’re working in, the workforce inevitably increases and decreases according to demand.
“Of course, an added difficulty then arises if the area we’re working in isn’t blessed with abundance of skills, in which case we take time to bring people up to speed, but unfortunately then lose some of them once the project has been completed. It can be frustrating but that’s how the game goes - sometimes you’re very busy and sometimes you’re not - but the important thing is to ensure that we are up-skilling local individuals with each new contract.”
The CV speaks for itself
Bringing to mind aspects of corporate social responsibility (CSR), Velos has gone one stop further to try and bridge the skills gap and overcome this challenge somewhat, by encouraging local partners to branch out and set up their own businesses; Velos then supplying the materials, and the new company providing and managing the labour.
While not directly employed by Velos this aids both consistency and local enrichment, and will be a core focus on a wider scale for the business moving forward.
“Another way to offset the hiring challenge is to identify longer-term employees who have more entrepreneurial skills, so that one person can turn his hand to numerous processes, rather than hiring numerous people for each process (tiling, bricklaying, plastering etc).”
CSR in general is something which Frangeskides admits Zambian construction has been a little late in addressing, but is certainly an aspect that Velos is already honing and embracing in order to achieve an even more concerted local influence in the future.
You only have to look at the business’ supply chain as an indictment of his claim, with local business partners fully aware that a relationship with Velos is a lifetime one.
“We don’t just drop people because a new player has come into the market,” the MD elaborates. “Relationships mean a lot to us and local relationships especially. So by and large, as far as is possible, we do everything within the walls of Zambia.”
In turn, looking forward, this established standing in the industry allows Velos to refine and improve more internal intricacies, including a recent focus on improved mechanisation across its plant and equipment. And this will no doubt contribute to the Company’s ongoing appeal in the country over the next 40 years as it keeps ahead of the industry curve, ahead of its own likely growth, and - most importantly - ahead of its competitors.
“Our CV is out there and speaks for itself,” Frangeskides concludes. “Our aim at any one time is that particular project we have on the go.
“No matter what problems we face or what challenges - both internal and external -we have to overcome, the focus is always to finish the project as promised.”