Monday, October 09, 2006

Mavana Village Business Model

Qalitu take over Bhani's store in Lomaloma
May 27, 2004, 16:00

It's hard to find some local indigenous people buying into a business operated by an Indian entrepreneur, considering some of their troubles within this sector.

Front entrance of the store in Lomaloma

However, in Vanuabalavu on the province of Lau, the village of Mavana through its Qalitu Enterprise Limited have done exactly the same and bought off Bhani's store in Lomaloma.

The store belonged to Bhagwan Patel & Sons who migrated from Bombay during the colonial days.

Bhagwan's elder brother Mabubhai first came to Lau in 1951 and set up the first store specialising in the wholesaling and retailing of goods in Sawana.

After falling ill Mabuhai called for his younger brother to come over to Lau soon before in 1964 he died and was buried in Sawana.

The business relocated to Lomaloma in 1967 under Bhagwan proprietorship and since then had been servicing the Vanuabalavu people, including nearby islands for 37 years.

On the same year, Bhagwan later brought his wife, Bhani and son Jaynti Lal to help run the business. He had another son, Mahendra Kumar, now in Canada and a daughter Ramila Ben, now a nurse at the CWM Hospital who were all brought up in Lomaloma.

Jaynti, been the eldest studied at Adi Maopa and further to Lelean Memorial school where he became headboy in 1982. After form six, he returned to help his mother manage the business before his dad died in 1989.

Now at 42, he says leaving Vanuabalavu is a sad feeling because some of the best part of his life was spent on the island.

" I have been here in Vanuabalavu for 37yrs and it feels sad to leave but for other reasons, my children are schooling in Suva and commitments that is why I am leaving Suva," said Jayanti, who left Bombay for Lau when he was only four.

"Our relationship has been close with the Vanuabalavu people as I know everyone on the island because I brought up here and school and it has been very easy running the business here.

Stock take time - Vuli Vuatalevu Manager Qalitu Enterprise Ltd store checks out the stock with Jayanti Lal at the Bhagwan Patel & Sons store in Lomaloma

Bhani, now 74 arrived when she was 37 years old, spent two weeks in Suva before travelling to Lomaloma.

She says, age and the fact that two of her grandchildren are studying in Suva motivated her to sell their business.

"Biu na bisini baleta kau na gone makubuna sa vuli i Suva, dua fomu six dua fomu three. Sa sega vinaka me lako tale e dua na vanua me lai qaravi kina na nodrau vuli (The reason behind selling the business is that of my grandchildren who are schooling in Suva, one in form six and another in form three as it is not good to have them stay in another house and study)," Bhani said speaking in Fijian.

Bhani said the decision to sell the business to Qalitu Enterprise Limited was purely done on the basis that Mavana was a village with a proven record in business enterpreneurship.

"Baleta sa koro vinaka ko Mavana qai kororatou ga sa rawata na bisini dua tale na koro sa korolailai, kara sana sega ni rawata na bisinisi," she said referring to the reasons behind giving the opportunity to Qalitu Enterprise Limited.

The village of Mavana has nurtured some of the best business minds that the country has known and they include none-other that the Prime Minister himself Laisenia Qarase and Reverend Josateki Koroi, former president of the Methodist Church of Fiji.

Rev Koroi runs a kakana dina business involves the supply of staple crops like dalo, cassava and kumala to seven government institutions and feeds over 1000 plus people in the Viti Levu.

Other top achievers from the village include Mesake Koroi, former Editor Daily Post and now Fiji Police spokesman, Seko former SAS soldier known better for his part in rescue mission at the British embassy in Oman, where a fellow Fijian Labalaba died.

Turaga ni koro, Josateki Vakaloloma revealed that 20 years before Mr Qarase even became leader of the government, he along with village elders had initiated the move towards a business enterprise.

Thus the organising of fundraising drives and income generating activities like bazaars, annual village soli during the Christmas holidays and eventually the forming of Mavana Investment Limited and Qalitu Enterprise Limited.

The investment company according to Mr Qarase, is made up of the all the funds collected by the people during the fundraising drives and has been re-invested into financial institutions and bank with good rates.

The people of Mavana are also able to buy shares and invest more money into the Mavana Investment Limited and like the PM says the idea was to provide a back-up source of income to the villagers.

"Over $15, 000 dividend has been given to the villagers from the investment company and it has funded most of development work in the village. But this continues every year and we target to reach $20,000," he said.

"The second company Qalitu Enterprise Limited owns the village store which has run for some years now and located in Mavana. The company operates a lease land of 514 acres of land, which is been used for farming, cattle farming and copra farming.

Now the decision to expand the Qalitu Enterprise Ltd store coincided with the decision that Bhani wanted to sell her business.

" We will just buy the $100,000 stock from Bhani's business in Lomaloma and also she has agreed to connect us to all her key supply sources to enable us to continue the good service she had been doing for 37 years," said Mr Qarase.

" Bhani has also been coaching our managerial team on some of the skills and techniques of running the store in Lomaloma, which is very much welcomed by the company.

Mr Qarase agrees that now that the deal to takeover the business is secured, the challenge now is not only to keep up with Bhani's style of service, but importantly to enhance their business both in Mavana and Lomaloma.

"We will try to keep up the service especially in all aspects of business and help the people of Vanuabalavu, as well as improve the business for the Qalitu company," he said at his Naivaka home after sealing the deal with Bhani.

"Bhani has also given us sound advice about giving credits which she said was not a health way to run a business.

Mr Qarase like the rest of villagers is enthusiastic about the move and said that they are estimating a circulation of close to $900,000 dollars when the two stores are operating simultaneously.

"We will welcome the competition as it is really good for our participation in business," he said.

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