Botswana: Giving Furniture And Vehicles a New Lease of Life
Raptec Investments specialises in the manufacture and renovation of furniture and vehicle interiors.
Kgotla Rapitsenyane, the company's managing director identified a need in Palapye for upholstery services. "We repair car seats, repair car floor carpets, car roofing according to clients' requests. We can match colours to make an impressive interior décor. My company also repairs car door panels," Rapitsenyane said. Old home and office furniture is also given a new lease of life at Raptec Investments. The company manufactures couches, with some made out of cane from Zimbabwe. However, Rapitsenyane says the leather couches have proved to be popular with the Palapye community.
Beanbags, which he says are also a favourite with the community, are designed according to clients' requests.
"We also make leather handbags, polish leather jackets and leather sofas and restore their colours," he said.
At the company's workshop, situated at Palapye's old mall, they also manufacture television stands and chest of drawers using cane. He says that they make almost any furniture, from reception office furniture right to home furniture.
To build a couch he says they use any fabric including rexin and leatherette. The process of building a couch, he says, takes up to three days. With a beanbag, "we use rexin. It is the simplest to use for making a beanbag.
"It takes less than an hour to do it. First we make a sketch, and cut it according to measurement and patterns and then put the zip in. Afterwards, we fill it with foam chips, which comes from the polythene foam, which comes as off-cuts from the factories working with foam. We buy them in Gaborone at companies like Foamex," he said.
Rapitsenyane says the business of making beanbags is the easiest and most profitable in the upholstery business. He says that nowadays a lot of people prefer to buy beanbags instead of sofas at furniture shops, which are sold at very high prices. It is the fact that bean bags are sold at affordable prices that sees businesses like Rapitsenyane's flourishing.
"People prefer us because we make what the client wants. That is our competitive edge. We also carry out repairs on them," he said.
Raptec also makes furniture out of cane. To make a cane table, we use timber and wind it around the cane.
Though the market is lucrative and the business is flourishing, Rapitsenyane confesses that a lot of people in the community are not well versed about things like beanbags and couches, which they just see as a form of luxury for the rich. He says that his company has a challenge to aggressively market company products to the Palapye community and the peripheral areas. He says from the few public campaigns his company have undertaken, the market seems to be responding well to their products.
Rapitsenyane says that he is constrained by lack of sufficient funds to build a bigger clientele base in the central district region, which currently has a serious demand for his services.
Rapitsenyane, who is a marketing professional by training, said that he has developed some marketing strategies to sell his company to different stakeholders who might need his services.
"We use signboards on main roads, fliers and what I term business to business marketing. I also send out letters to big companies and government agencies advertising our services. I have noted that combis have addresses and cell phone numbers of their owners, so what I do is when I see that their combi seats are worn out, I call them," he said. He relates a story in which he was walking down a car park and noticed a car whose interior décor was worn out.
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"I made a quotation and slipped it inside the car, with my company's contacts and the next morning he called me and brought his car over to our workshop. We worked on it and gave it a new look. Ever since, the owner has been happy and sometimes brings his friends over to repair their cars," he said.
He added that the fact that they deal with foam materials, which are quite hard to transport, because they take up a lot of space, makes it difficult to transport materials from Gaborone, where their main suppliers are based.
This means, he said, they have to make do with "local suppliers in Palapye, who do not have some of the special materials we need," he said.