Shreeji Group is very well-positioned in the construction industry since it comprises not only Shreeji Construction but also Laxmi Trading and Shreeji Investment. Could you elaborate on the activities of these three companies?
My first business is Shreeji Construction, which started building activities in 1996, and then came Shreeji Investment, which consists of apartments and commercial buildings’ rentals, a sector with great demand at the moment. In the initial phase of setting up the business ventures, endless hours of effort and energy was required in order to see the growth chart rising. Approximately 80% of the firm constitutes of young employees with lack of work experience. I chose to guide each individual in their field such as marketing, finance, or even the managerial post to cultivate a learning mindset. This enabled the implementation and exchange of the knowledge between a theoretical individual and a highly-experienced leader. If you have to expand more, you need experienced people who are highly qualified to lead the fresh team of newcomers in order to succeed in business. Fresh people equals risk, but it works. Many experienced employees have a fixed mindset. They will bring their own methodologies they have applied previously in other companies, however, not necessarily that will suit our business dynamics since we, the entrepreneurs, make our own business patterns and growth strategies. Unfortunately, these employees will feel offended and insulted if told to modify their ideas, hence a barrier will be created within the business. Growth mindset and culture of growth is the core value to succeed.
A third company is Laxmi Trading, through which we import wholesale and retail building materials and hardware, including home appliances. As a building contractor, I know exactly what is required in the market and the type of products concerned. Since the market for products in Seychelles lacked quality, we decided to bring in quality products, whilst also controlling the market in terms of pricing. When I started, I found that the prices were quite high and people could not afford to buy, for instance, wood; we decided: why not? since we are a building contractor, we can bring in the building materials and try to create more competition so quality is controlled, so we have safer houses and buildings. That is why our Laxmi Trading brand came into existence.
Shreeji Group has ventured in other sectors with GOPI Veg, Food and General Merchants, and the touristic development Four Feathers. Can you explain what these two businesses entail?
GOPI Veg. Food & General Merchants is focused in the importation and wholesale of vegetarian goods. Given Seychelles’ diverse population, there is a community that consumes vegetarian food and products; I myself am a vegetarian.
There are two Indian communities in Seychelles. There is a community from the western part of India, Gujarat – where I am from-, and there is a community from the southwest, Tamil Nadu, Kerala. The Gujarat community is very much involved in the construction industry and comes to our shop in Providence because we provide products that are traditionally consumed.
Moreover, since the world is becoming more health-conscious, we decided to be the providers of healthier products. By having these products on offer, we also create awareness within the community and encourage a change of eating habits.
In addition, we are venturing into the tourism business, which is Four Feathers PTY LTD. We believe there is a demand for touristic developments that cater for different classes of tourists; for instance, pensioners are not being catered for. Everyone wants to go on a nice holiday but not necessarily pay for a five-star hotel. Hence, we are trying to do it in a way that people will be able to control their own budget, based on a short or long stay. We aim to capture this type of customers by entering competitive rates into the market, as we will provide a combination of self-catering and bed-and-breakfast facilities: people will choose, if they want to have a long stay they can choose a small bungalow in self-catering, and if they want to stay for a week or so they can choose a bed and breakfast.
Overall, we are expanding in several areas. All our businesses are family businesses and as we say, you cannot put all eggs in one basket. We chose to have several baskets and do several types of businesses. If one is down, another one will be up. As such, we can use our maximum overall energy and capacity.
We are interested to know the story of a successful businessman who has found his place amongst Seychellois. Could you tell us about your personal story?
My father landed here in the late sixties. He was in Kenya for a few years working for a company that then came to Seychelles. He then worked as a general supervisor for the Mahe Beach Hotel.
Once settled here, he brought the family so that we could be together; consequently, I landed here in 1975. I was 5 years old. I studied in the Seychelles English River school for nine years, and then for my tertiary education, I went to India. I did my engineering in India and I came back to Seychelles in 1994 motivated to develop something of my own at a young age. I gathered professional experience as a Quantity Surveyor and even a Site Supervisor and understood the market and the type of construction fitting for Seychelles. I worked for a local company and in 1996 had my own license. That was the starting point. I have always believed that every entrepreneur should know what it takes to climb the ladder in a business from experiencing work as a laborer, receptionist, financier to even a driver.
I am currently very much involved in the community, as a member of the Governing Board of the Seychelles Institute of Technology in order to build on and respond to the local demands of technical and vocational education and training, which is something I believe is very much needed in the country. Being an active member as Seychelles Country Brand Ambassador for Lions Club International gave me the opportunity to network and connect to pursue goodwill duties. I am looking forward to becoming the upcoming Club President of Melvin Jones Lions Club of Seychelles in July 2017, as this will inspire me to perhaps accumulate more opportunities to set social enterprises to aid our society in need.