Budding entrepreneur, Letlatsa Kalaila, harbours a dream that one day, his Ndu Fresh Chickens will become a regional force in the poultry business.
However, his more immediate task is to be the leading poultry brand on the domestic market. The company currently supplies supermarkets and small cookeries in and around Maseru.
Mr Kalaila says he is in discussion with various prospective customers in order to expand the company’s distribution chain.
Situated in Ha-Mabote, a few kilometers from Maseru’s central business district, Ndu Fresh Chicken Farm has been rearing, slaughtering, and packaging poultry products since 2014. The company also slaughters chickens reared by other poultry farmers.
The business, which derives its name from Mr Kalaila’s nickname ‘Ndu’, slaughters 4 500 chickens every two weeks although the slaughterhouse has the capacity to handle 3 000 birds per day at full capacity.
The company’s two farms in Ha-Mabote and Koalabata currently house 15 000 chickens.
“At Ndu Fresh Chickens, we supply full chickens, 1.5 kilogramme braai packs, one kilogramme chicken chunks, 600-gram chicken chunks, one kilogramme chicken stew, chicken offal as well as heads and feet,” Mr Kalaila told the Sunday Express in an interview this past week.
The 37-year-old said he left a high-paying managerial position in the South African mining industry in 2014 to launch the business.
He had worked in the mines for close to two decades after joining the industry as a 17-year-old.
“I set myself the goal of retiring from fulltime employment by 35 years of age in order to start my own projects and that is exactly what I did,” said Mr Kalaila.
His journey to success has certainly been arduous and punctuated by many challenges.
“When I went to work in the mines in 1996, I had to forego admission at the National University of Lesotho to take care of my siblings. This was after our mother, who had been the breadwinner, had passed away,” Mr Kalaila said.
However, that did not dampen Mr Kalaila’s spirits to further his studies as he later enrolled into a tertiary institution in South Africa. He now has a master’s degree in Business Administration.
“Some people don’t seem to understand why, with all my educational qualifications, I have chosen to be a poultry farmer. But I had to build this business from scratch, which is a challenge and like I said earlier, my dream is very big.”
Although he is yet to start reaping profits from the business, Mr Kalaila believes poultry farming is a viable business which has a big domestic market.
“It is a business I highly recommend, although I would advise that whoever wants to venture into the poultry industry must be prepared to do it on a large scale to help address the high prices of chicken products in the market. High prices are the biggest barriers in the business.”
Farming, Mr Kalaila said, was a natural choice because he had always been fascinated by the profession.
“The choice of the business was also inspired by the high unemployment rate in the country. Since I consider myself a community-builder, I started this enterprise as a way of reducing unemployment.”
The company has a compliment of 19 fulltime and six temporary employees. However, the business has not been without its challenges, including those relating to accessing finance for development.
Mr Kalaila said this challenge had forced him to use his own resources, which he said was affecting plans to expand the enterprise.
According to Mr Kalaila, this is why the business has not yet developed its own chilling and mass storage facilities, forcing the company to improvise.
Another challenge is the business lacks the certification needed to boost its chances of increasing its market share. Mr Kalaila said he hoped this would be achieved by August this year.
However, he emphasised the company enforced health and safety standards prescribed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security as well as the South African Poultry Association.
Mr Kalaila says most Basotho do not seem to realise there are more benefits in production as opposed to being involved in other downstream activities such as retailing.
“I am someone who believes that real power is in production as opposed to retailing. The real power of the world lies in production,” he said.
“I have noted with concern that as a nation, we seem to be ignoring this fact. Instead, we seem to be focusing way too much on politics.”
For the entrepreneurship spirit to grow in Lesotho, Mr Kalaila notes, people should use their employment experience as a foundation to kick-start their entrepreneurial ambitions.