From Lobatse, Botswana to the Johannesburg Stock exchange, right through to one of the biggest markets in East Africa, the Choppies juggernaut bulldosed its way over the sub continent in 2015, to cement its rising tag as a pan African retail giant.
Reflecting on the year, Choppies director Ram Ottapathu singled out the listing in the Johannesburg Stock Exchange as a milestone moment for Choppies, although the process also required him and fellow directors to shed off significant chunk of their shareholding to meet the minimum required to float in the JSE. “It’s not that I wanted to, I was forced to sell, but I’m still the biggest shareholder and I have got no intention to step down”, says the man famously known as Ram.
South Africa became Choppies’ target for market expansion in the same period as the Botswana company took their tally of stores in the country to 40, adding 12 new stores in the Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Free State, and the North West Provinces.
Ram is the first to admit that the aggressive entry into the South African market has stimulated some hostile and chauvinistic reactions from established South African retail brands who have had first hand experience of the unpleasant effects of the Choppies expansion to their once thriving operations in Botswana market.
The South African retail brands now view Choppies’ entry into South Africa as an extension of the wipeout it had achieved in Botswana.
It is not only in South Africa where Choppies had a splendid 2015, as East Africa economic powerhouse, Kenya, also did not escape the Choppies expansionist realities that saw the Botswana company acquiring Ukwala Supermarkets’ 10 stores, for a deal estimated to be $10 million.
Choppies’ East African presence is gaining momentum with plans afoot to open a first Choppies store in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, by March-April next year.
Another new market, Zambia, was penetrated in November, with the opening of the first Choppies store in Lusaka, while a partnership that would see Choppies entering the Namibian and Mozambican markets by next year has also been completed, according to Ram, whose target is to operate over 200 stores in six African countries by 2016.
In Zimbabwe, where they had 18 stores at the beginning of 2015, Choppies increased their presence to 28 stores by the end of the year as well as completing the setting up of their distribution centre in Harare.
Despite the pan African expansionist move, Ram says Choppies remain very committed to its Botswana roots where they have 78 stores.
According to Ram, four or five new shops will open in Botswana in 2016, in areas such as Nata and Kang where Choppies currently has no presence.
Ram hopes 2016 is just as good as this year has been for everyone associated with the Choppies brand.