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The makings of Kuda Tagwirei

by Staff reporter
12 Jun 2022 at 08:26hrs | Views
Businessman and serial investor Mr Kuda Tagwirei had endured an energy-sapping and disappointing 12-hour wait to refuel his car at a local service station sometime in 2003 when he had a moment of epiphany.

He could not understand the logic of a business subjecting customers to such an inordinately long wait for service.

That fuel queue was to be the birthplace of what was to later become one of Zimbabwe's largest fuel companies.

"We started this business after we had spent a long time – almost 12 hours – in a fuel queue when we wanted to travel to South Africa," said Mr Tagwirei, referring to himself and his wife, Sandra.

"We said this business must be done better.

"We asked ourselves: How could we be in a queue for this long?

"In everything that I do, I am always looking at things that I can make or do better; I do not invent things."

The media-shy businessman was giving rare insights into how he started and nurtured his multi-million-dollar business empire to Seventh Day Adventist Church members at a meeting dubbed "Faith-Driven Leadership" in Harare on June 4.

The multi-millionaire, believed to be one of the wealthiest Zimbabweans living in the country, is a devout member of the church.

The name of their fuel company, Sakunda Holdings, is carved out from the couple's first names – Sandra and Kuda.

Mr Tagwirei started running the fuel company in 2003 and the business grew in leaps and bounds.

"Many people think we started in 2018 when in fact we started in 2003," he said.

"When we started the business, we were using our bedroom as our office in Belvedere.

"We started by selling just 15 000 litres of fuel." The size of Sakunda Holdings today belies the company's humble beginnings.

In a space of nine years, Sakunda went from selling 15 000 litres to pushing around 60 million litres per month, which at the time accounted for over 80 percent of fuel sold in Zimbabwe. Somewhere along the line, the company was approached by authorities and offered a share of the Beira pipeline because Government had no money or capacity to ferry millions of litres of fuel it was contracted to carry.

"I remember people coming to me and saying my business was now a security threat because we can't have a monopoly.

"They were saying imagine if Sandra and Kuda said they did not want to give fuel to Zimbabwe." He was, however, not deterred even though the market was very competitive. When he ventured into the fuel industry, about 150 companies had fuel retail licences, but by 2012, only five were left, including Sakunda Holdings.

"There were about 150 oil companies that were issued licences.

"This was because there was a problem whereby major oil companies had decided to pull out of Zimbabwe, so Government decided to issue those licences."

But it was not plain sailing for the businessman.

He had to suffer the ignominy of failure on his way to the top.

In an ill-fated attempt to expand their business portfolio, the couple ventured into poultry farming.

They soon realised this was not their forte after the business crumbled spectacularly like a deck of cards.

"At some point, we started a small poultry business.

"Because of electricity challenges, the chickens, more often than not, went bad.

"We had bought deep freezers and blast freezers, but electricity was a challenge.

"In 2014 or 2015, we had a lot of assets but we did not have cash flow, so the business could not operate.

"We were now being taken to court because people wanted their money."

He credited God for showing him how he can use his riches to finance and further His work.

"I believe that the only thing I won't sell is my birthright, everything else is for sale as long as I can achieve my objective," he added.

"I know what the Lord called me to do; that the money that we get is for the work of the Lord, to do specific things regarding the work of the Lord, that is what I was called for."

He added that his ultimate goal was to one day build a church.

Source - The Sunday Mail