Kal Tire’s John Martin looks into Africa’s crystal ball
John Martin, Southern Africa Vice President at tyre management company Kal Tire, has worked in several African countries for close to 30 years. Over the years, he has gained exceptional on the ground knowledge about doing business in Africa. In this article he shares some of his insight with WhyAfrica
By Leon Louw owner and editor of WhyAfrica
John, doing business in Africa for many years has given you great knowledge of what the real issues and challenges are in Africa. Can you share a few on the ground operational issues in African countries that you have to deal with on a daily and weekly basis.
Operationally speaking, one of the most challenging issues we have to deal with is the ability of people to identify risk and respond to that risk, during both working hours and non-working hours.
However, to mitigate this challenge, our in-house training program, LMS (Learning Management System), is purposely designed to incorporate safety practices, as well as risk and hazard identification, as an integral part of the competence development of every team member.
Kal Tire’s LMS therefore provides ongoing competence development of the team members with the overarching objective to create a culture of safety.
Local legislation and governance practices in many countries is a critically important issue that always requires a full and clear understanding before entering a new market.
Poor insight into local legislation can very easily derail any of the best laid plans and intent. Kal Tire has the ability and the patience to accommodate varied demands and expectations of localised government and governance, however, we are unable to tolerate unfair tax assessments and all too common demand for facilitation fees that is often encountered.
What is your outlook for the continent, and for Kal Tire’s operations in Africa?
I remain very optimistic about the outlook for the continent, specifically for the mining industry. The world will always require significant volumes of metals, some of which can admittedly be provided through metal recycling processes, however the bulk will, for the foreseeable future, still come from mining operations. The African continent remains the host of some of the largest unexploited ore reserves on the planet, which over time will need to be mined, thereby supporting our growth as a continent. As mining opportunities develop throughout the continent, Kal Tire will be there to support and serve our customers, therefore the outlook for Kal Tire is aligned, in my opinion, with the optimism for the continent.
Why, in your opinion, has Kal Tire been so successful in Africa?
Kal Tire’s success can be attributed to a combination of many factors. However, one of the key success factors remains the competence and capacity that resides in every Kal Tire team member. As a service focused organisation, we are heavily invested in the competence of our team members to ensure that every customer has a positive experience at every one of our touch points. Our training programs are standardised throughout Kal Tire internationally, meaning that our tyre technicians across the globe all receive the same training, resulting in a consistent level of capability.
What does it take to be a successful leader of a large company like Kal Tire in Africa?
The definitions of leadership can be quite vast and diverse, and I don’t believe that anyone can be a successful leader without ensuring one’s team is, in their own right, successful leaders. What has worked for this company, is for the entire leadership team to become and behave as leaders, as defined by Kal Tire’s AIMS and living these values. In doing this, we have managed to place the company in a position of leadership in the markets we operate in and improve both the operational and financial performance of the local entities.
South Africa has been through a relatively tough period over the last 10 years or so. What is Kal Tire’s view on the country in terms of opportunities? Is South Africa still Kal Tire’s bread and butter on the African continent?
Despite the challenges of recent years, the trajectory that Kal Tire is currently on in terms of overall business performance, is very positive and encouraging and an affirmation of the overall quality of the business we have, as well as the customer base utilising Kal Tire’s services.
South Africa, by virtue of the size of the market, remains the foundational unit on which the regional structure is dependant for resources and support. Opportunities continue to exist in many forms in the South African market, which we will pursue in a deliberate and balanced fashion.
There is significant scope in South Africa for the expansion of Kal Tire’s core competencies and range of services, including full on-site services, both underground and surface mining, OTR tyre repairs, managed inventory and planning, and technical support and analysis of product performances.
Which countries and regions do you regard as great opportunities in Africa over the next five years or so?
The Southern Africa Region seems to be the one African region that has the most potential over the coming years. The range and variety of metals and minerals that is available in this region must place it as a top destination for exploration and investment. The southern regions of the DRC, Botswana and potentially Zimbabwe, appear to be attracting significant volumes of foreign investments into their respective mining businesses. Unfortunately, South Africa has not been able to position itself quite as well as its neighbouring countries when attracting the much needed foreign direct investment.
Kal Tire has or had operations in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Zambia. What is your view of these countries as markets for Kal Tire, and what are the challenges?
Kal Tire’s current footprint in Southern Africa includes South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana and Zambia. These are the primary bases from which other countries in Southern Africa are served. Most countries in the Southern African region present opportunities for growth, however, not all opportunities are risk free. Currency risk in a number of Southern African countries, will likely prevent Kal Tire from opening up wholly owned subsidiaries, however, in the interim, we still manage to sell our products and services, as and when required.
John if you could give companies advise on how to successfully run a company in Africa, what would it be?
This continent is loaded with unrecognised and unutilised talent – employ your magic team, each of whom should align with and associate with your company’s core values and culture. Thereafter, train and develop and nurture that talent as a means of retention and creating loyalty.
What new Kal Tire products can we look forward to being launched in the future?
Kal Tire has in recent times partnered with Maxam tyres on an international scale to offer our client base an additional option of high-end tyre performances for OTR applications. The measured performances in various applications have been extremely encouraging. There is now further justification for customers to invest in Maxam’s performance with the release of their new EcoPoint 3 compound, which will certainly place the brand in the same echelons of the world’s most reputed OTR tyres.
Additionally, Kal Tire continues to release innovations and value propositions that are attracting significant interest. The release of the Pitcrew AI technology is an exciting proposition and massive stride towards the automation and real-time condition monitoring of mining wheels.
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