Choppies co-founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Ramachandran Ottapathu says the company will focus on a ‘back to basics’ approach over the next two to three years.
This follows an extremely difficult period for the retailer, climaxing in Ottapathu’s suspension on 20 May last year over allegations of accounting irregularities – he was eventually reinstated on 7 September 2019.
Prior to this, at the start of November 2018, Choppies was suspended from trading on the Botswana Stock Exchange Limited (BSEL) and Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) – the penalty for failing to publish its audited annual financial statements for the year ended June 30, 2018.
The suspension lasted for almost 21 months and was only lifted on 27 July this year.
It is hardly surprising then that in the company’s latest annual report, Ottapathu described the past year as the most challenging of his career, characterised by boardroom battles and the closure of stores in some countries.
In an effort to steady the ship, Choppies aims to become the people’s preferred choice of retailer for mass groceries and financial services in the four countries – Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Zambia – in which it operates.
“For the front end of our business, our strategy is to expand and improve the non-traditional offering that people will use and become a genuine local community player,” outlined Ottapathu.
Choppies has underpinned its strategy on a number of objectives, including consolidation of its portfolio, debt reduction, expansion of financial services, and restoring stakeholder confidence.
Ottapathu also notes trade in Botswana – where Choppies currently has 88 stores – is becoming ‘overpopulated’.
As a result, despite his ‘back to basics’ talk, Ottapathu revealed the company is looking to evolve its value proposition in the direction of higher-margin goods and services.
“This year we have furthered expansion in the territory with three new stores, and the addition of new value-added products, especially in grocery and the expansion of fresh produce and meat,” stated the business guru widely known as Ram.