Fri, 27/03/2015 - 12:05
Current Issue 77
Riding the Storm
Mantrac Nigeria is using its extensive reputation and expertise, as well as its international influence as Caterpillar’s sole dealer, to overcome Nigeria’s market slowdown
Writer: Matthew Staff
Project Manager: Ben Wigger
Mantrac Nigeria is capitalising on its international reputation and experienced team in the country to successfully defend its market position in a sector that continues to challenge and test efficiencies.
With 2015’s general election within Nigeria leading to business dramatically slowing down across the wider industry, the need to improve internal operations and cement itself as a preferred partner for equally challenged customers has never been more significant.
A company as established and widespread as Mantrac though has been able to rise to the challenge in as positive a way as possible, and is in the process of maintaining and consolidating in the present, while keeping an eye on future growth.
“The significant growth we had experienced in previous years has helped us to maintain our market share during this period,” confirms the company’s Strategic Planning and Marketing Manager, James Agama. “The pace at which the construction industry is growing at this time in Nigeria has been very slow since 2014 but we still ended that year well in terms of the numbers we achieved.
“We decided, going into 2015 as well, we will aim to maintain and defend our market share.”
Mantrac Nigeria has subsequently ensured that it makes the most of the 10 branches it has stationed in the country servicing the world-renowned Caterpillar brand, as well looking into new supply chain opportunities as part of an extensive drive for improved internal efficiencies and overall value.
Despite the challenges befalling Mantrac Nigeria, the Group’s prime concern has always been, and still remains, its customers and how best to collaborate and work together to overcome less lucrative periods in the industry.
This may not translate in terms of the scale of product sales at present but addresses aspects such as turnaround times on its delivery of machinery, as well as the levels of customer service provided.
Agama says: “We are looking at how we can support our customers much better than we used to because at times like this, they need to be a bit more creative about the use of their machinery as well, in order to get the best value out of them. That’s where we come in.
“It is critical for our kind of business to be there when the customer needs you. You need to make yourself available and be ahead in providing new information about machines and how to optimise efficiencies.”
This process begins at Mantrac’s central African office in monitoring global construction trends and identifying the best possible innovations for the continental market and, specifically, the company’s own longstanding customers in the region.
Agama continues: “It is critical at this time to work closely with our business partners, financial partners and customers.
“We operate on a global scale and have a lot of support and resources in place to assess our customers’ operations and introduce the right products to best help them, one of which is our ‘product link’.”
Another key differentiator and advantage that Mantrac Nigeria holds is its role as the sole dealer for Caterpillar; a relationship that has formed the crux of the former’s growth in Africa. This partnership is, again, especially significant in more challenging times.
“They are the finest brand in the industry and come with levels of experience which helps in adopting global best practices,” Agama states. “It is key to understand the market and to forecast where possible, and Caterpillar helps in sharing that information on what different products are needed and what is happening in general within the industry.”
This translates into the monitoring of global economic and industry trends, and how best to adapt these, both within Nigeria and within the company itself.
“We invest a lot into the training of our very experienced team of people, and also on things like IT systems, on a regular basis,” Agama adds. “Working for a brand like Caterpillar, it’s critical to keep improving our internal efficiencies through investments and we are indeed investing all the time in different areas like IT and our people.”
Best value possible
The company’s commitments to external partnerships and activities also comprises an ever-growing corporate social responsibility influence, including a comprehensive initiative to improve levels of education and skills growth within the industry.
This will help the level of skills entering the construction sector and Mantrac Nigeria itself in the future, as the company looks to capitalise on the eventual, but inevitable, revival of the industry following this year’s election.
“Depending on who wins the next election we expect the market to pick up in either the next couple of months or by the end of the final quarter of this year,” Agama explains. “As it is, we need to look at how much more we can do in 2016 - where we expect the market to be much better as infrastructural development improves.
Throughout the entire strategy though, the needs of Mantrac Nigeria’s customers remains paramount, leveraging the unparalleled levels of experience and knowledge that the company has to hand through being one of the industry’s major players on the continent.
Agama concludes: “We are committed to providing the highest level of support as we look for new ways to reduce maintenance and lifecycle cost.
“We want to be able to discuss with customers one-on-one and engage them and identify their needs because we know they will need some guidance as they run their operations.”