Interview: Selling electronics and home appliances in Zambia

Radian Stores Ltd. is the authorised distributor in Zambia for Philips and LG Electronics, selling consumer electronics and home appliances. Jaco Maritz spoke to the company’s director, Abhilash Bajpai, about Zambia’s operating environment.

A Radian Stores branch

A Radian Stores branch

Give us a brief overview of Radian Stores

Established in 1981, Radian Stores, through its quality products and service offerings, has become one of the most trusted names in Zambian households. It is one of the few companies in Zambia to provide 12 to 24 month warranty and back-up service from its fully equipped service centre at Mukwa Road, Lusaka, employing three administrative staff and ten technicians.

Through its various group companies, Radian Stores also has interests in several other businesses like sofa manufacturing, satellite decoders, transportation, and trading in various other consumer products like household and office furniture, cookers, stand fans, heaters, kitchenware and kitchen furniture.

Many Zambians still live in poverty; what percentage of the population can afford your products? Is Zambia’s middle class growing?

We estimate that only about 30% of population can afford the kind of products we sell, even less for high-end products. However, the purchasing power is growing, especially the middle class as more and more private oganisations come into the country and create employment. The major contributors to the rise of the middle class have been mines, banks, NGOs, tourism companies (hotels, lodges, etc), IT and mobile phone operators, etc.

How does Radian Stores distribute its products across the country?

Radian Stores distributes its products through 25 company showrooms and multiple dealers countrywide. The company showrooms are located in important towns like Lusaka, Ndola, Livingstone, Chipata, Kitwe, Kabwe, Mazabuka, Luanshya, Kafue, Solwezi, Choma, Mansa, Kasama and Mpika. Also, we use our own dedicated trucks running on a fixed schedule for the distribution.

What are the biggest operational challenges for Radian Stores?

There are three big operational challenges: high cost of operation, long distances and human resources. These three things challenge us continuously and we struggle to keep our products cost competitive and affordable.

How do you feel about the future of the Zambian economy?

The future looks bright with more and more investors coming in. However, the initiative rests with the government to encourage more investments considering the small population and operational challenges.

What is your message to foreign investors looking to invest in Zambia?

There are opportunities in a lot of sectors (as outlined above) but one has to come with mid- to long-term investments. It is a very peaceful country with a low crime rate, a lovely climate and political stability.