The Managing Director of Binatone Nigeria, Prasun Banerjee, talks about his brand and the new innovations targeted at the heart of the Nigerian consumers in this interview with Anna Okon
Although a big player in the electronics sector, Binatone is facing competition from new brands springing up regularly; how are you coping?
Competition will always be there. Whenever there is a demand for a category, there will always be competition. But we believe that we give good value for money in proposition. We give a product which is affordable, has value for money and at the same time, gives peace of mind.
We are available, pan Nigeria and one of our strengths is giving the consumer peace of mind. One of the ways we do that is to declare two-year warranty on each of our products.
We have a service centre that is well equipped with trained engineers to take care of consumers even when they have complications beyond the two years covered by the warranty.
Concerning the issue of adulteration, there are so many Binatone brands all over the place selling cheaper than yours; is that a threat to you as a business owner?
Whenever you have genuine products, fakes will be present. So it is something we have to work on. We have been working with Standards Organisation of Nigeria in identifying and destroying fakes and taking the perpetrators to court. Some cases are still in court.
What we do is that whenever we see any product being converted to a fake, we try to exit that model and launch a new model. We try to keep one step ahead of the fakers.
I advise customers to buy from authorised agents and distributors of our products and from leading electronic outlets and supermarkets where there are no fakes.
How is the practice of faking impacting on your bottom-line?
It is not really affecting our bottom line because as I said, we also try to stay a step ahead of the fakes. It is not really a big threat.
Don’t you think that it is because of the unavailability of Binatone products that you find so many brands in the market?
In terms of availability, you are right. We were limited to certain class of retailers, now we have started expanding our retail network.
We only had few supermarkets and retailers in Alaba but now we have big retail shops across Nigeria. We are working with the top retailers in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja and Lagos.
What are the challenges that come with your expansion efforts?
In order to expand, one needs to invest, get their share of space in the showroom, and in order to get this share of space, they need to do visibility exercises in terms of product display and demonstration.
We have demonstrators that we train on a regular basis on key features of the products and how to handle and sell them.
Some merchants are our first point of contact with the customers. The trained demonstrators are one of the touch points that we have.
The second touch point we have is in terms of the display. The customer gets to have a touch and feel of the product. He gets it near to his house; he does not have to travel far to get the product.
So our products are available in every supermarket and top retailers across the 36 states and the FCT.
Abuja looks after the entire central and North; Port Harcourt looks after the East; Onitsha looks after Onitsha and Enugu and Lagos looks after Lagos and the South West.
During this process of expansion have you observed a need to branch into the hinterland?
What we are doing is to expand step by step. Once we see that a certain market has potential, we open a branch there. Onitsha was big for us; our next target is Kano or Kaduna to cover the entire North.
We have a vast team of people here. I would like to also point out that all the fans that you see here are assembled in Nigeria. We have an assembly unit here in Nigeria and we are planning to assemble some other items here as well.
We have given employment to many local people and we have also done good business and generated revenue for the government.
Which other products are you planning to assemble in Nigeria?
We are looking at blenders and smoothie makers. We are still at the discussion stage. Since we have stabilised with fans we want to take it step by step with the next product. So we take one product at a time and go on from there.
Do you have challenges bringing in your raw materials?
Initially most manufacturers had that challenge but in the last two months, there have been changes. Foreign exchange has been readily available and relatively stable. There is big hope for manufacturing in this country. I think once the forex gets available freely, markets will again bounces back and boom.
I don’t have too much to complain about in terms of bringing in raw materials because we are getting good support.
How has it been managing Binatone?
I have been managing the affairs of Binatone Nigeria for one and half years. During this time, we have been able to do good business although there have been some economic challenges.
Binatone as you know is a well-known British brand that has been in Nigeria in the last 40 years.
It started with electronics and over a period of many years, it shifted its product offerings to fans, kitchen appliances, power products like UPS and stabilisers.
We are leaders in fans. We have a wide range of fans. We recently introduced a tower fan with a Bluetooth speaker which means that if you switch on your fan, you can pair your phone to the Bluetooth speaker and listen to music.
The purpose is to launch this one of a kind product that is not available anywhere. We are happy that we are launching it in Nigeria for the first time.
How would you compare your market shares in Nigeria and the UK?
Nigeria is a very huge market filled with a young population. Nigeria is one of our home countries. It is a huge opportunity for us that our fans are coveted in every household in Nigeria.
How about the performance of your products in both markets?
Our products are well accepted products. We are not premium products, we are value for money and value to the many products. They are products which the middle class will always like to buy.
How are you responding to demand for products that meet the energy challenges of the Nigerian environment?
To take care of the energy challenges, we have rechargeable fans and we will be launching more fans with rechargeable capacity. We know that this is a challenge in Nigeria and there is an opportunity there. So we are one of the pioneers of rechargeable fans in Nigeria.
Are you also looking at making fans that could use solar energy?
We have another company which is based outside the UK and which does that. Discussion is going on but there is no product right now that is commercially available to take care of that challenge. But I am sure that if there are driverless cars, there should also be solar fans.
The government has come up with the procurement policy that says expatriates should not be used for any skill that can be sourced locally; how are you responding to this?
Absolutely, we are doing that. We have very limited expatriates only wherever required, basically the MD. Across all our products and divisions, we have locals running the shops.
Refinitiv Expands Economic Data Coverage Across Africa
Building on its commitment to drive positive change through its data and insights, Refinitiv today announced the expansion of its economic data coverage of Africa. The new data set allows investment managers, central bankers, economists, and research teams to use Refinitiv Datasteam analytical data for detailed exploration of economic relationships and investment opportunities among data series covering the African continent.
Securing reliable, detailed, timely, locally sourced content has not been easy for economists who have in the past had to use international sources which often can take many months to update and opportunities to monitor the market can be missed. Because Africa is a diverse continent, economists and strategists need more timely access to country-specific data via national sources to create tailored business, policy, trading and investment strategies to meet specific goals.
Africa continues to develop critical infrastructure, telecommunications, digital technology and access to financial services for its 1.3bn people. The World Bank estimates that over 50% of African inhabitants will be under 25 by 2050. This presents substantial opportunities for investors who can spot important trends and make informed decisions based on robust and timely economic data.
Stuart Brown, Group Head of Enterprise Data Solutions, Refinitiv, said: “Africa’s growing, dynamic and fast evolving economies makes it a focal point for financial markets today and in the coming decades. As part of LSEG’s commitment to empowering the global markets with accurate and timely data, we are excited about making these unique datasets available via the Refinitiv Data Platform. Our economic data coverage of Africa will provide our customers with deeper and broader inputs for macroeconomic analyses and enable more effective investment strategies and economic research.”
Refinitiv Africa economic data coverage:
- Africa economics content comprises around 500,000 nationally sourced time series data covering 54 African nations
- Content is sourced from national statistical offices, central banks and other key national institutions
- The full breadth of economics categories in Datastream including national accounts, money and finance, prices, surveys, labor market, consumer, industry, government and external sectors
- International sources including OECD, World Bank, IMF, African Development Bank, Oxford Economics & more provide comparable data & forecasts across the continent
Refinitiv® Datastream® has global macroeconomics coverage to analyze virtually any macro environment, and better understand economic cycles to uncover trends and forecast market conditions. With over 14.2 million economic times series map trends, customers can validate ideas and identify opportunities using Refinitiv Datastream. Access its powerful charting tools, 9,000 pre-built chart templates and chart studies for commonly used valuation, performance, and technical and fundamental analysis.
Refinitiv continually grows available data – the China expansion in 2019 covered a unique combination of economic and financial indicators. Refinitiv plans to expand Southeast Asia covering Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines and Malaysia with delivery expected in 2021. This ensures that Refinitiv will have much needed emerging market economic content.
Oil Rises on Drawdown in U.S. Oil Stocks, OPEC Demand Outlook
Oil prices rose in early trade on Wednesday, adding to overnight gains, after industry data showed U.S. oil inventories declined more than expected and OPEC raised its outlook for oil demand.
Brent crude futures rose 28 cents, or 0.4%, to $63.95 a barrel at 0057 GMT, after climbing 39 cents on Tuesday.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures similarly climbed 28 cents, or 0.5%, to $60.46 a barrel, adding to Tuesday’s rise of 48 cents.
Oil price gains over the past week have been underpinned by signs of a strong economic recovery in China and the United States, but have been capped by concerns over stalled vaccine rollouts worldwide and soaring COVID-19 infections in India and Brazil.
Nevertheless, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) tweaked up its forecast on Tuesday for world oil demand growth this year, now expecting demand to rise by 5.95 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2021, up by 70,000 bpd from its forecast last month. It is banking on the pandemic to subside and travel curbs to be eased.
“It was a welcome prognosis by the market, which had been fretting about the impact the ongoing pandemic was having on demand,” ANZ Research analysts said in a note.
Further supporting the market on Wednesday, sources said data from the American Petroleum Institute showed crude stocks fell by 3.6 million barrels in the week ended April 9, compared with estimates for a decline of about 2.9 million barrels from analysts polled by Reuters.
Traders are waiting to see if official inventory data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Wednesday matches that view.
Market gains are being capped on concerns about increased oil production in the United States and rising supply from Iran at a time when OPEC and its allies, together called OPEC+, are set to bring on more supply from May.
“They may have to contend with rising U.S. supply,” ANZ analysts said.
EIA said this week oil output from seven major shale formations is expected to rise by 13,000 bpd in May to 7.61 million bpd.
African Energy Developments Demand Sustained Investment With New Projects in Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, and Senegal
In the past twelve months, the African energy sector has seen several encouraging developments – in the form of both Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and strategic partnerships – that have advanced the sustainable development of its natural resources. In fact, despite a global downturn in investment in 2020, FDI flows to developing economies accounted for 72% of global FDI, the highest share to date. Given the magnitude of Africa’s oil and gas reserves – not to mention its abundant renewable resource wealth – the continent remains a highly attractive market for inbound investment, which is vital for its growth.
Take Uganda, for instance, which is home to one of the largest onshore discoveries in sub-Saharan Africa. Following multiple petroleum discoveries in Uganda’s Albertine Graben – estimated to contain 6.5 billion barrels of oil, of which 1.4 billion are considered recoverable – foreign investments into the country are expected to reach nearly $20 billion. Last April, Total E&P Uganda B.V. signed a Sale and Purchase Agreement with Tullow Oil PC, through which Total will acquire Tullow’s entire 33.34% interests in Uganda’s Lake Albert development project and the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP). Five months later, the Ugandan Government and Total signed a host government agreement for EACOP, representing a significant step toward reaching a final investment decision. The deal pushes along an extended development process – slowed by infrastructure issues, tax complications, then COVID-19 – that not only promises to bring first oil by 2022, but also provides a pathway to monetization via associated transport infrastructure.
In addition to developments at Lake Albert, the Ugandan Government has proven its commitment to attracting FDI to its hydrocarbon sector through its second licensing round held last year, as well as its invitation to local and foreign entities to forge joint-venture partnerships with the Government. By prioritizing the establishment of mutually beneficial partnerships, the emerging East African producer aims to facilitate the successful transfer of skills, knowledge and technology, initiating an influx of technical expertise and working capital into the country.
“Those who have been locked out from access to opportunity want the same from the energy sector that the energy sectors want from governments. We must not forget local content, local jobs, local opportunities especially for young people and women” Stated NJ Ayuk Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber.
Meanwhile, in West Africa, Senegal has been reaping the rewards of a long-standing partnership with Germany, which has resulted in more than one billion Euros in funding, including significant support for small-scale power plants and renewable energy projects. Holding sizeable potential for solar and wind energy development, Senegal serves as a regional leader in renewable deployment as a means of rural electrification. Indeed, energy is a central component of poverty alleviation across Africa, with electricity access enabling greater independence, clean cooking and potable water, as well as dramatically improving the well-being of individuals, businesses and communities alike. Rural populations are cognizant of the challenges posed by a lack of stable electricity supply – increased urban migration, lack of access to basic services, low economic competitiveness, to name a few – and distributed renewables can represent the fastest and least expensive path to electrification.
European interest in Senegal has shed light on and served as a model for co-operation opportunities between renewable-rich African countries and developed partners, which offer cutting-edge technologies and technical expertise to transform raw resources into viable off-grid and mini-grid solutions.
Furthermore, while the cost of deploying renewable technology has never been lower, the availability of renewable-focused capital has never been higher. Investment in commercial and industrial solar has demonstrated resilience against the pandemic, continuing to be seen as a safe investment in light of rising utility costs and increasing distribution of both solar and financial technologies. Yet resource potential and low costs of equipment are not enough; Senegal and other resource-rich African nations require active investor interest and strong government support to unlock diversified energy mixes. In turn, a lack of investment represents a pointed threat to the achievement of long-term energy security.
“Young people and women have shown their great resilience, and it is our hope we close these deals in the renewable energy sector, Africans can have a sense of some hope that they will be included in the industry contracts and opportunities. It is no longer correct for the African to be the last hired and the first fired” Concluded Ayuk.
Moreover, without sustained levels of FDI continuing to move the needle on oil, gas and renewable developments, energy export revenues run the risk of being stranded and resources left undeveloped. For emerging producers like Uganda – as well as Tanzania, Kenya, Mozambique, among several others – this would mean foregoing critical government revenues that could aid in a much-needed, post-COVID-19 economic recovery. FDI is vital to Africa’s growth, and while it may be challenging to procure capital in a tepid global economy, it is even more difficult not to. Yes, COVID-19 has put emerging producers in a tough spot: new exploration is seen as risky, and new producers lack existing assets or low-cost development of marginal fields on which to fall back. However, it is not an option to slow or postpone time-sensitive developments that promise to harness natural resource wealth and make sustainable improvements in standards of living across the continent. Africa requires a sustained flow of investment and has proven time and again that it offers the scope of projects and magnitude of resources that are worthy of foreign capital.
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