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Mabano on making affordable roofing products

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INTERVIEW: Godwin Mabano is the executive director of Mabaati Roofings Systems. He spoke to Agnes E. Nantaba about their operations and other pertinent issues in the construction industry.

What are the key elements in your management style as a manager?

The main element in management is setting a target and recruiting the right people who can work with the manager to achieve it. With the right team, strategies and tactics are well executed. I am results-oriented manager who also works to balance the interests of everyone given that we have a team of both formal and casual employees.

Most of the workers learn on the job so it is very crucial for me as a manager to push them to learn as fast as possible. As a growing company, we need committed people who are never pushed but love their job.

In terms of execution, I am really an all round manager who works from corner to corner. It makes management easy knowing where the gaps are and how to fill them. At the moment, we are producing up to six products including iron sheets, fencing materials, accessories for roofing products and expanded metals for ceiling as we plan to diversify into barbed wire and nails.

What is your assessment of the construction industry in Uganda?

The construction industry in general is a very huge one.  We are doing fairly well as producers of roofing materials and more companies are coming up to tap into the market. However the political unrest in Southern Sudan caused a slump in business, which we are feeling on the sales side as it is our biggest market.

Five years ago, there were four or five major players in the roofing materials division. Comparing their prices then and now is more than confirmation that the industry as a whole has steadily progressed. As more players especially Chinese join the industry, we the existing ones tighten the belts in terms of quality to maintain the competitive advantage and relevance in the market.

The construction industry still has enormous opportunities for roofing materials manufacturers that are not yet untapped. What opportunities are you working to tap into?

Roofing products as an industry is not yet fully exploited but there are several factors that come into play if we are to tap into such opportunities. There are many materials that do roofing such as cement, sand, clay, steel and many others. However, basing on Uganda’s weather pattern and ease of doing roofing, the cost should be considered. For instance, countries like Southern Sudan largely go for concrete and stone coated steel due to the too much heat, which such materials help to control. For the Ugandan market, we are still blessed with favorable weather that can feed into any roofing means.

With the slump in the market in Southern Sudan, we partly shifted focus to Northern Tanzania knowing that the market is not fully saturated as we wait for calm in Africa’s youngest nation.

Low investment in research and development is one of the key challenges to Uganda’s construction industry. How is your research portfolio?

There are new and better technology for roofing materials in developed countries such as Egypt, Turkey and China that we are researching about the financial constraints notwithstanding.

While we started with producing only four tones of iron sheets a month, we have since grown our production capacity to 15 tons of even other products and still going.

It is something we are looking into as we raise more capital to support such huge investments. We are still going about research and innovations into newer roofing technologies.

The construction industry is filled with big and established players in the roofings division. What is your business strategy to maintain relevance?

Big players also have their challenges of doing business that come with expansion. We currently operate on a lower wage bill as compared to the big players and at the end of the day produce the same quality products at a slightly lower cost.

This alone has kept us relevant in the market although it does not stop us from expanding into more products and growing production capacity.

What is your projection of Uganda’s construction industry especially in the the roofings division in the next few years?

The industry is growing with more players coming on board. For instance there are even some small companies with one or two machines producing on such a scale. A coil comes 90% finished product and only requires corrugating and cutting into a finished product that is of the same quality like us or even the big players in the market.

Although some are struggling, there are many other companies that are coming up to tap into the roofings market.

Where do you see Mabaati Roofings Systems in the next few years?

We started by working based on orders but we are currently moving into mass production to allow us engage in shop-by- shop marketing strategy and to improve visibility in the market. This being a growing economy still poses opportunities especially in the construction industry as infrastructure becomes government and private sector’s priority area for investment.

Although products such as barbed wire and nails are already in the market, we intend to go into such areas given that they are not yet fully exploited.

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