Kelosika Products was established in 2005. It produces Bonutrix, a range of foods that includes three sandwich/porridge spreads and ready-to-use infant supplementary feeds.
The products have proved highly popular with nurseries, orphanages, clinics and both government and private health facilities. The company's factory is in Lobatse while its head office is in Kanye. It employs 13 people, 12 of whom are Batswana from Kanye, Lobatse and surrounding areas. In an interview during the just-ended SMME Conference and Fair in Gaborone, the company's Production Supervisor, Lillian Tshosa, said the fast-rising firm had sealed a partnership with Medswana, one of the country's leading pharmaceutical distributors whose network covers all of Botswana's major towns and villages.
"We began production last January, and our products have not yet been available to the general public in the market, she said. "But from next week, Batswana will be able to purchase various Kelosika products at pharmacies in the Medswana distribution chain. We will soon be starting the roll-out to pharmacies."
Prior to the deal with Medswana, Kelosika produced to order, sealing contracts with institutions like Princess Marina Hospital, Nyangabgwe Hospital, Sefhare Stimulation Centre, Baylor Children's Clinical Centre of Excellence and numerous primary schools around the Southern District. The expansion of the Bonutrix range countrywide marks the highlight of a citizen-owned SMME story that has featured numerous troughs and obstacles. After its establishment in 2005, Kelosika's momentum was quickly weighed down by numerous financial challenges that delayed actual production until January 2009. For this, entrepreneur Patricia Tomlinson and her husband Bill secured funding from the Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) in 2008. With the cash injection, Kelosika quickly set about securing synergies with food testing institutions, acquiring requisite technology and securing off-take.
"The obstacles have mainly been capital to boost production," Tshosa told Mmegi Business. "Our ingredients are expensive. We source our milk from Botswana, but the rest are imports from South Africa because they are not available locally.
"We have worked and continue to work with the National Food Technology Research Centre (NFTRC) for food and production testing. NFTRC conducted the taste tests on how people would accept the products."
Tshosa added that a pilot study was then conducted in the Southern District. The Bonutrix range of products includes ingredients such as peanut butter, canola oil, whey protein concentrate and soy flour. The products are fortified with vitamin premix so that each Kelosika product contains 19 "essential minerals and vitamins".
However, having a sound product alone could not guarantee Kelosika's success. "We had challenges of getting people to understand the value of the product we were making," Tshosa explained. "We had to start with a study showing that the product was of nutritional value. After this, people began supporting it."
Tshosa said figures for the first year of production attest to the high demand for the Bonutrix range. Kelosika secured and delivered orders for 1 410 kilogrammes of Bonutrix products last year, apart from contracts secured with Baylor, various NGOs and cruches. The SMME has even donated products to the Botswana Retired Nurses Society (BORNUS). Thus far this year, production comprising orders for Baylor and the Ministry of Health has hit 15 000 kilogrammes.
Going forward, Kelosika has partnered with the Local Enterprise Authority (LEA) which is helping the SMME receive certification in HACCP and ISO 2200 standards. The certification, which currently is being implemented at the company's factory in Lobatse, also involves input from the Botswana Bureau of Standards, the South African Bureau of Standards, NFTRC and a consultant from the European Union.
"They are helping us secure this certification so that we can hopefully export our products in the future," said Tshosa. She called on the government to support SMMEs via procurement, given the range of challenges most SMMEs face and the substantial contribution they can make to the economy. "We are asking Government to help us grow, improve this economy, enhance nutrition and raise awareness of its importance to health," she said. "Government can help by considering us in tenders for primary feeding, nutrition at clinics and so on."