A breath of fresh air
German efficiency is propelling Zambian air conditioning, ventilation and refrigeration specialist Drake & Gorham to new heights.
Writer Ian Armitage
Project manager Tom Cullum
Zambia is booming and to capitalise on its potential the Government has announced a robust development agenda anchored on critical sectors of the economy, namely agriculture, construction, tourism, manufacturing and mining.
It is a fantastic time to be in business.
"The last year has been good, we must say," says Mark Lüring, the Managing Director of local air conditioning, ventilation and refrigeration specialist Drake & Gorham. "We exceeded our initial expectations and targets for 2013 and managed to penetrate into the mining sector which is a very key industry here in Zambia and ever growing. That is very pleasing. As a local company to get your foot in the door there is encouraging because these are all international firms playing in the mining space and they usually bring in their own suppliers from outside of the country. We have managed to get our foot in the door there and that industry has great potential for us, with good growth potential."
Lusaka-based Drake & Gorham is ahead of the game and is certainly a leader in its markets. Chief Executive Arne Lüring and his son, Mark, are determined to build on its authority.
"We've a great reputation," Arne says. "Our main areas of work are in air-conditioning, ventilation and refrigeration, where we are number one here in Zambia."
The firm isn't a newcomer by any means. It has a heritage that stretches back over 55 years.
The Lüring Family acquired Drake & Gorham through an MBO several years ago. "We are well experienced in all works regarding air conditioning, ventilation, refrigeration, chillers, cold storage facilities and equipment, including the supply and installation of all required or client requested materials and equipment," says Mark. "We provide full back up and after sales service on all supplied equipment and installation work."
In a significant move, Drake & Gorham added Daikin to its portfolio. Daikin is an international leading manufacturer of environmentally friendly air conditioning equipment for all domestic, commercial and industrial applications.
"We are very excited by that," Mark says. "We brought Daikin on board in order to offer a complete portfolio, a full product range of air conditioning solutions. Daikin fills in the gaps in our offering and it is one of the most renowned air conditioning brands worldwide. We have managed to get a partnership with them in Zambia and there is great growth potential for our business in that. It is a premium brand and sits alongside Samsung which we've had for almost 15 years as a valued partner."
It is this that makes Drake & Gorham different. It is a pioneer in the local industry.
"Just because we are in Africa or the developing world doesn't mean we can't be at the cutting edge," Arne admits.
It is its relationship with electronics giant Samsung that enhances their goal to continuously be at the forefront of the newest latest technology. An incentive for Samsung's Triple Protection technology in air conditioners, for example, came from inside Zambia. "We have a historic relationship with them and were in fact the first company to introduce Samsung air conditioning into Zambia," says Mark. "Samsung is a world leader in air conditioning technology and when we first got in contact with them we were convinced it was a good product, decided to promote it and use it as our core brand. We have done a lot of collaboration with Samsung in the past, providing them with important information on the particular challenges we face in our market to improve their equipment with our feedback on challenges we were facing and played a role in the development of their Triple Protection technology. We wrote to them on several occasions to say we had trouble with power in Africa, particularly Zambia, and 12 months later it led to the development of this technology. We have a fantastic relationship and over the years it has grown from strength to strength – if you come to Zambia and speak about Samsung people will automatically associate that with Drake & Gorham."
The Lüring's are, as the name suggests, of German descent. Of course, one of the main stereotypes associated with Germans is efficiency and a certain determination to achieve the highest standards, without compromise. This is true of the culture instilled throughout the business. "My dad is the CEO of the company and from Germany. He believes in quality of the highest standard without any excuses or compromise," Mark explains. "We have never seen the fact we are in Africa as an excuse. We were one of the first companies to introduce multi-split systems into Zambia over 15 years ago for example. It is not an excuse just because you are in a developing country to say we can't apply or use the most modern technology. It just isn't. Obviously there is the challenge of having enough capital – not everyone is as rich or developed as in the industrialised world – but our experience has shown the African market wants cutting-edge technology, quality and is also prepared to carry the cost of such technology, if within in reasonable means. The Zambian market is still very price sensitive but with the right approach and patience it is open for all good technologies."
And demand is growing as Zambia grows, its economy attracting considerable international investment.
"There was a change of Government here in 2011 and we did notice a slight slowdown in business for a short period thereafter. But I assume that after 20 consecutive years with one governing party, investors were holding back to see what route the new Government would take," Mark says. "But the subsequent months under the new Government, has restored the confidence in the Zambian economy and after a good 2013, we see a bright 2014 ahead... new investment coming in has certainly been a fantastic push for the country and it is still coming in. Zambia seems to be a really great investment destination in Africa and we feel very fortunate to be here and be part of it." Arne adds that the company's focus has been on infrastructure, construction and mining: "We have been focusing on the construction sector, a number of our projects are carrying into 2014, and we have got several new projects lined up too specially in infrastructure and mining for the coming year," he says. "If we are as successful in 2014 as we have been in 2013 and the years before that, our growth rate will continue with the help of all of our staff, management and employees."
Drake & Gorham is not the only one benefitting. The country is too and Drake & Gorham has helped to boost Zambia's reputation, while investing vast amounts in the quality and development of its employees.
"Training is essential," Arne concludes. "You have to train in accordance with the latest technologies. We send our staff to South Africa and Asia, in particular South Korea, for annual training and we also have trainers coming into Zambia to train our technical staff. With that we are making continued contributions to Zambia."
To learn more visit www.drakeandgorham.com