Quality Supermarkets, one of the most prosperous business ventures by Ugandan entrepreneurs, is testament to why determination and hard work, are pertinent ingredients for success
Writer Emily Jarvis
Project Manager Callum Philp
Quality Supermarket is a leading locally owned supermarket in Uganda. It was legally incorporated on 11th August 1994 as a private company trading under the name of Quality (U) Ltd. From humble beginnings as a roadside grocery store in old Kampala in the 1980’s, Quality Supermarkets have been able to build a chain of the biggest and fully-stocked modern supermarkets in the suburbs of Kampala, namely Ntinda, Martin Road, Lubowa and Namugongo (Kyaliwajjala), so as to reach out and take services closer to their wide client base.
This family business was started by Mr and Mrs Mutungi back in the early 80s to support their young family. The small grocery store sold basic subsistence goods and was frequented mainly by neighbours. By 1990, they knew that the potential for growth was tangible. Going by a tried and tested philosophy of the customer is king; the Mutungi’s had grown a loyal customer-base and were able to expand their store in 1994. Testament to this philosophy, by 1999 Quality Supermarket had grown into a three storey mega store.
“We had built a team of innovative managers and staff with great experience in satisfying our customers’ demands. Our unwavering commitment to high quality products, exceptional attention to customer care and deep commitment to ethical business practices propelled our business to greater heights,” explains Mary Mutungi, Managing Director of Quality Supermarkets, who has personally watched the company grow to reach new heights.
Its growth continued and by December 2006, they had opened a second branch in Ntinda Shopping Mall, another suburb of Kampala. Two years later, they opened Quality Shopping Village, a fully-fledged shopping centre in the prestigious suburb of Lubowa on the outskirts of Kampala. At the heart of the shopping centre was Quality Supermarket whilst the rest of the space was opened to other businesses including restaurants, boutiques, salons, bookshops, pharmacies, banks, children’s play areas, and leisure activities.
In April of 2012, a further Quality Mall was completed in another upcoming suburb in Kampala, Kyaliwajjala, and Mrs Mutungi says this expanded her understanding of the customer: “We wanted to offer a wide variety of products that allowed our customers to satisfy their shopping needs under one roof at the most affordable and customer-friendly prices, and ultimately, offer convenience. Our slogan shopping made easy captures our deeply cherished philosophy. With the malls, it really epitomises what we dreamed and hoped.”
The supermarkets are frequented everyday of the week because of the exceptional customer service and the wide range of products carefully selected from suppliers in Uganda, Dubai (UA E), South Africa, Turkey, Thailand and China. Quality Supermarkets adhere to the most modern quality control measures when it comes to their product sourcing, as well as placing emphasis on strict hygiene standards. In the past, people went to local markets to buy fresh produce, now you can find them in supermarkets. At Quality Supermarket, Mrs Mutungi says that they have hand picked their suppliers to ensure that they get the best produce Uganda has to offer. “Everything you need for that fresh cooked meal, you will find in our fresh produce isles,” she affirms.
Moreover, with the introduction of an in-store butchery and bakery, Quality Supermarket has started packaging their own meat and dairy products. Private branding is a rising trend in the supermarket business, and one that the chain is keen to take advantage of. “To further increase our customer-offering, in 2012, we set up an in-house bakery at two of our branches and also set up our own butchery. Now, in 2014, we have moved to privately branding some of our products that we make in-house which has expanded our own product line,” highlights Mrs Mutungi.
Going Above and Beyond Customer Expectations
The concept of decentralising the branches and moving away from the hustle and bustle of Kampala city centre to the suburbs was a first in Uganda. Quality Supermarkets made the decision to make shopping more convenient and exciting for customers and went the extra mile to tailor make the services and products in their supermarkets. “Our customers like the idea of not having to navigate through traffic jams; the ability to find all they needed right in their neighbourhood. It truly was ground breaking. Even today, Quality Supermarket is still the only hypermarket found in the Kampala suburbs,” Mrs Mutungi adds.
In 2010, Quality Supermarkets introduced the Quality Bonus Card to reward customers for their loyalty and support. For every purchase, a customer with a card earns a 4% discount off the total amount he or she pays for the merchandise. This goes to the card, which can later be redeemed in the form of goods worth the points accumulated over time. “Our strength lies in identifying and satisfying the needs and tastes of our customers,” Mrs Mutungi continues: “We do enough market research to identify what customers in all our branches need, before embarking on supplying them. We tailor make all our branches to suit the needs of the people in that particular suburb, and the addition of a bonus card across all our stores has been really successful.” In addition to this, customers can now use Visa and MasterCard in Quality supermarket, which is a very recent and welcome development in the Uganda retail market.
Over the years, the supermarket chain has secured membership and trust from outstanding business partners such as the Uganda Investment Authority, ISO, Uganda National Bureau of Standards, Uganda Dairy Development Authority, reputable Bankers, Insurance agents and many other bodies. “This shows just how respected we are in Uganda. Having convenience stores on your doorstep that stock the right goods of the right quality makes us a desirable partner,” Mrs Mutungi further explains.
“Expansion is just the beginning”
In a space that was once largely dominated by international supermarket chains, Quality Supermarket set themselves apart to rise to the top of the market. As such, the supermarket giant is looking to further expand, which is something that Mrs Mutungi is excited about: “We have big plans for expanding to different suburbs in Kampala, before venturing out to other parts of the country. This is just the beginning for us.” With over 350 permanent staff currently under the Quality Supermarkets wing, this number is set to change dramatically alongside the growth plans.
Goods for the Everyday Customer
In order to be the leading one-stop shopping centre in Uganda, Quality Supermarkets provide exceptional services that meet the general public’s shopping needs. By stocking a wide variety of goods for their customers including meat, fresh produce, baked products, tinned foods, clothes, drinks, electronics, health and beauty products, stationary, wines and spirits and many other goods that are in daily demand. “Plus, our convenient opening hours of 8am-10pm Monday to Sunday and even throughout Public Holidays, we give our esteemed customers plenty of time to shop on their schedule,” Mrs Mutungi surmises.