In business, unchecked and uncontrolled moisture can cause corrosion, condensation, mould or slow down a production process. On the other hand, the right amount of moisture can go a long way in helping expand the shelf life of perishable goods such as foodstuff to even more complex tasks such as preserving the potency of drugs in the pharmaceutical industry.
DST East Africa, a subsidiary to the Swedish company Seibu Giken DST, offers a complete line of desiccant dehumidifiers that are considered to be some of the best on the market today.
The company set up their shop in Kenya in 2018 but have operations in Egypt and South Africa.
Business Insider Sub-Saharan Africa (BI SSA) recently had a chat with DST East Africa managing director, Mahran Ahmed (MA) about how they are make money out of 'thin air'.
“We manufacture dehumidifiers, these are equipment mainly used worldwide in the pharmaceutical industry and also in the food industry. There are many different applications of dehumidifiers from greenhouses to storage facilities. They can be applied anywhere you need to control humidity, even on a domestic level e.g. protecting houses from damages,” Ahmed told BI SSA.
Dehumidifiers can be applied in a wide range of tasks to control moisture levels in the atmosphere such as in bridges, confectionery products, dry air storage, grain storage silos, greenhouses, pharmaceuticals, shipping, supermarkets and wood storage, etc.
Here is an excerpt of our conversation.
BISSA: What attracted you to the East African Market and made you pitch your tent here?
MA: We picked East Africa and Kenya specifically because first, Kenya is a gateway to Africa, there are ports here that deals with international business not just in machinery but whatever service one needs. Kenya is also stable and stronger economically compared to its neighbouring countries.
BISSA: What is your marketing strategy for Kenya and East Africa to ensure that you are visible?
MA: Our general approach is Expos, specialised expos for the food industry and equipment. We also do digital marketing where we approach a physical market, industry-specific magazines, articles such as this in different outlets but it is mainly the face to face exposure of Expos where we either visit or exhibit in Expos.
BISSA: Running a business normally comes with a lot of challenges and doing business in Africa is not a walk in the park so, since opening shop here what are some of the challenges you continue to face?
MA: One challenge we continue to face as a company is introducing and selling the concept here, It’s not widespread. It was only commercialized and widespread in Europe less than 20 years ago and they were only specific people who used it so introducing the product, explaining how the product works and ensure clients or the user understands what the product could do for them and improve their lives remains a challenge.
The cost of importing international products such as machinery and manufacturing equipment also still remains high.
BISSA: DST is currently represented in over 40 countries across the world majority of them being in the west so what would you say is the similarity and difference between doing business in the west and in Africa?
MA: If you take the example the pharmaceutical industry in Europe and the EU, for instance, they are standards they have to abide by and thereby they require specific equipment and dehumidifiers to keep up with those standards but when you come here not many companies abide by those standards, save for a few big pharmaceutical companies so most just manufacture drugs because there is nobody that enforces these standards in the pharmaceutical industry so, as soon as there is a body that will enforce these standards we will find a huge market here and beyond.”
BISSA: In East Africa what are other potential markets you have already identified which you would wish to expand and enter after conquering Kenya?
MA: After establishing a stronghold in Kenya. we are looking to get our name out there in Tanzania and Uganda and we plan to do that in 2019. Rwanda is also very attractive and Ethiopia and Somalia less so at the moment but Ethiopia is really opening up and changing their way and approach to Business, the agreements between Ethiopia and Eritrea, for instance, is great and that region is becoming more attractive as time goes but for now, we are focused on establishing our foothold in Kenya and looking to Uganda and Tanzania as the next approach.