Boom is one of the most recognisable and most loved Zambian brands. Trade Kings Limited is the company behind this brand and many other well known local household products. I sat down with Group General Manager, Luxminarayanan Subramaniam, to find out a little more about what it takes to run Zambia’s largest FMCG company.
We had our chat over a late afternoon lunch at Hussar Grill and Restaurant, situated at East Park Mall in Lusaka. The restaurant caters to meat lovers and wine connoisseurs alike with their extensive award winning wine list. Hussar Grill is renowned for absolute excellence in selecting and flame-grilling only the finest quality beef, aged to perfection and generously brushed with their signature basting sauce. Lux is vegetarian and opted for a light tomato and onion salad, and a cold Malawi shandy, the perfect meal to offset a very warm day.
He begins by telling me the story of the man behind it all, founder, Mr Iqbal Mohammed.
“The quest for being enterprising came to him naturally at a very young age. During his school days, he used to hire his father’s car over the weekends, load it with provisions, drive down to Chipata, sell his wares and return in readiness for school on Monday. In the early 80s, armed with a small amount of capital, he acquired a readymade textile outfit in Lusaka, thereafter he set up, Universal Bakery which further led him into trading in fast moving consumer goods across Lusaka. Each was a trail blazer on its own merit. A successful experiment carried out in his garage gave birth to Boom detergent paste in 1995. His parents were very supportive in all his ventures or “adventures”, that he embarked on. He cites his mother in particular as playing a pivotal role in his formative years as he made his foray into business. She expressed utmost confidence in all his actions and stood by him even when things went sour. Her words of encouragement instilled in him the “never give up” attitude.”
Lux joined the group as Group General Manager in August, 2016, and when it comes to his leadership insights, Lux reveals that he believes in the simple philosophy of delegating autonomy with responsibility to ensure growth, something he picked up from Mr Iqbal.
“Mr Iqbal strongly believes the main characteristics every leader needs to have are humility and modesty. They help one adapt to change. Often leaders are guilty of biting off more than they can chew and get stressed out. This stress is in turn, permeates across the organisation leading to high levels of frustration. Great ideas come from all strata in the group. It could be a machinist who increases efficiency with minimal costs or on the other end of the spectrum, the sales director, who drives their team to think outside the box. Thinking out of the box, is a divine virtue, in my opinion. I strongly encourage it at every opportune moment.”
Noting how running such a large business can be daunting, I asked Lux what his thoughts were on what role communication plays in business, especially when it comes to communicating the core values.
“Frequent communication in any business is important, as well as frequent training programs to drill in the core values of the company. Furthermore, regular training programs to reskill and upskill staff convey the strong message of your core values. When our company started two decades ago, we had a handful of a staff, and everyone knew each other. Gradually the organisation grew and a policy was put in place for induction. Every employee has a tailor made induction program. The new employee works within the “buddy concept”, where a senior member of staff mentors them. That is how we make sure new employees understand the culture of our organisation and the model has proven fairly successful.”
On leadership, he emphasises the importance of continued development and growing oneself as a leader.
“Resources are readily available on the web to help you gain insight into being a better leader. It’s important to grasp the simple philosophies practiced by eminent and successful leaders. Life is a learning curve. Be receptive to new ideas and do not ride on your predecessor’s strong legacy; create a stronger one of your own.”
Closer to the end of our conversation, I asked a final question, to Mr. Iqbal this time around. I couldn’t hold my curiosity on this one matter, “What is your vision of the future?”, his response came to me via email a few days later.
“Sitting at my desk, I sometimes reflect on how we have ballooned in the last two decades. I never imagined this mammoth growth. I feel there is nothing more I can do, as my grey hair is catching up and I am not at the pace I used to be 40 years ago. Hence I look at it as a journey and not a destination. I look upon the younger generation, who are now being groomed, to be the pioneers of the future and I am confident the changes that they bring, would leap frog this business enterprise, to a different unimaginable dimension. I believe in dreaming the impossible and bringing it to fruition.”
- IQBAL’S BUSINESS GEMS
Serve humanity with humility and reach out to those who reach out to you.
Philanthropy has been my ethos and I am a strong believer in giving back to the community. This runs strong in my DNA and prompted me to coin the signature line of Trade Kings as “IMPROVING LIVES.”
God has given us two ears and one mouth to listen more and talk less. The more you listen, the more you learn.