The Business Year

Sameer Jaffer

ANGOLA - Industry

Sameer Jaffer

CEO, Suave

Bio

Sameer Jaffer is the CEO of CCA in Rwanda, Angola. The company represents the trademark Suave in Angola. He was born in Toronto, raised in Canada, studied at the University of Carlton in Ottawa, and later joined his father in the family business in Angola.

TBY talks to Sameer Jaffer, CEO of Suave, about the company’s history, expansion of brands, and goals for the coming year.

Founded in 1997, SICIE (Suave) operates in the national market as an Angolan company specialized in industrial production, packaging and distribution of hygiene products. What has been its trajectory during its 25 years of history?

From 1997 all the way to the end of the civil war in 2002, we focused on building and investing, buying additional units and converting plants; not only in the toilet paper line but also serviettes. It was a significant challenge, because there was no infrastructure and only inadequate energy. I remember how the industrial boom really occurred in 2002, after the end of the civil war there was an influx of international investments. The growth rates rose drastically over the subsequent years all the way to 2015. However, we were one of the first industries here in Angola, which gave us a huge advantage that continues today. People know that SICIE (Suave) has been present for the past 25 years. So, Suave has become both a commercial brand, a social brand, an emotional brand, and a personal brand in Angola. Subsequently, we expanded from our initial business lines over to industrial rolls, then the professional line, and the hand towels line, and so on. Later, in 2007, we developed the baby diaper and sanitary napkins lines followed by adult diapers, which was developed in 2015. Today, we have over 175 SKUs produced locally in Luanda with close to 40 sales points nationwide and hold about 70% market share. Our main goal has been to establish a quality brand. We were the exclusive representatives of Kimberly Clark from 2009 to 2014. If you look at our brands today, we manufacture quality brands for the population. We have labs in our factories that make sure our products fully meet international standards. Finally, we are ISO certified, and have been involved with the Ministry of Industry in many seminars and training programs regarding quality control.

Unlike many retail companies in Angola, SICIE (Suave) produces locally at its Viana plant, providing over 2,000 jobs for the local community, also, managing its own nationwide distribution network for its 40 stores. What are the main advantages of producing in Viana for Suave?

Our factories in Viana, we count with a staff of 2,200 workers. 1,200 of them belong to the main manufacturing sector and the other 1,000 work at our distribution channels, that is the stores and the transport departments, in marketing, and so on. Regarding the advantages of operating in Viana, we purchased the land in 2003, becoming one of the first industries to be located there. It was challenging and costly for us, but the government has assisted us. Nowadays the area is dynamic and is even becoming somewhat overcrowded. The advantages here are available local workforce living in the area, plus established transport and logistics, and improving infrastructure. 

How do you solve the lack of training when hiring new local staff?

We hire considerable local manpower, which is our way to give back to local communities.  We invest heavily in supporting employees and their families where they have any issues. For example, we do monthly medical reviews on each of our workers. We provide meals and transport to mitigate the economic hardships being faced these days.  For future growth, Educational plans are crucial for both the company and its workers. At Suave, we make sure that we invest more in hygiene, security, and of course, in the technical and social aspects, so that our workers feel comfortable at work and at home. Finally, we invest in regular training in all company departments: Customer service, Fire Hazards, Health and Safety, etc.

Looking into the brands managed by the company; beyond Suave, you have Brilux and LavaPro. What was the expansion process of those new brands?

We focused on gaining brand equity through betting on the quality and on the diversification of our brands across the different social segments. Under the umbrella of Suave, we manage 42 brands today. We have eight to nine brands in the baby diaper line, three brands in the adult diaper line, and about seven brands in the baby wipes line. Besides those, we have the detergent line as well, featuring Brilux, Lava Pro and Suave being our main brand. We have a considerable volume of private labeling being done by manufacturers in China, Thailand, Dubai, Canada, Turkey, Europe, and South America. We are strongly committed to brand building, which is a challenge, since there are only so many brands you can establish in a market. We have been highly involved with the Angolan market for 25 years, and the idea is to remain a force for at least the next 25 years. Hopefully, we will be able to produce more brands and invest more in brand building in the future. Connecting Suave to all of our brands does help, but we have also tried to diversify somewhat, to increase availability in the market.

What are your goals and expectations for 2022?

Our main focus for 2022 is to build quality brands. In order to achieve that, we have several projects in mind that will certainly reinforce the value of the company. In that regard, we have just started a recycling project that should be ready for launch by the end of 2023. Beyond that, we have also purchased four new lines of baby diapers. We continue to grow, expand our lines, and acquire further consumer commitment in Angolan society, with the objective of remaining one step ahead of our competitors by innovating and further developing current and new products. We also intend to export to the DRC, to Zambia and to Namibia for further expansion. Our vision is and always will be to innovate and evolve in to the best Hygiene manufacturer in Angola. We want to make sure that we provide our customers with amazing quality and affordable prices, and at the same time, highly innovative products. For us, that summarizes what creating a quality brand is.

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