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Magic in a bottle

Baitshepi Sekgweng
  • Meet the boss

You’ve probably heard of happy hour but what about magic hour?

Kathiku is the Hambukushu term for the magical 60 minutes before the sun sets, when the sky comes alive with colour; it is also the name of an exciting new alcoholic brand in Botswana.

Run by the impressive Ineeleng Kavindama, Kathiku Beverages has been flying off the shelves since first hitting them at the start of the year.

Kavindama, 47, tells their story…

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Kindly introduce yourself?

I come from a village called Kauxwi in the Okavango region and I’m the founder of Kathiku Beverages.

Before we talk booze, take us through your career path.

I was a top fashion designer based in South Africa and retired at the age of 26 in 2001.

I came back home to diversify into other businesses like medical equipment supplies and vintage car rental.

So how did Kathiku Beverages come about?

Since I was still in medical equipment supplies business, our contract with Ministry of Health was not renewed so we were forced by circumstances beyond my control to diversify.

Following the lifting of the ban on alcohol sale last year, Kathiku was established.

Why the name Kathiku?

Kathiku is my Hambukushu name which means the magic hour just before sunset.

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Kathiku Beverages is about paying homage to my fatherland in the Okavango Delta and about paying tribute to our tourism sector.

What was the motivation behind forming this business?

Currently the Beverages industry is male dominated and most of the brands on liquor stores are owned by foreign companies.

We felt it was time for Batswana to be actively involved not just as employees but as a 100% citizen owned company.

What products do you offer?

We have an in house brand called Kathiku which is a beverage collection based on the big five animals of the Okavango Delta, namely: Kathiku handcrafted pure Gin 43% alcohol (Elephant), Kathiku handcrafted Vodka 43% alcohol (Lion), Kathiku Elder Flower & Rose Infused handcrafted Gin 43% (Leopard), Kathiku Blondie Cream Liqueur 15.5% alcohol (Buffalo) and Kathiku English Toffee Cream Liqueur 15.5% alcohol (Rhino).

We also distribute a range of Energy drinks pre-mixed with 5.5% alcohol of vodka, gin and dry lemon, Rum & raspberry and canned wines with 13.5% alcohol from Stellenbosch, Cape Town, South Africa.

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Magic in a bottle
UNIQUE: The Kathiku Big Five collection

Are your drinks made in Botswana?

As a new entrant in the Beverage industry we do not want to bite more than we can chew.

There is no alcohol ban in place to stop alcohol imports.

Our retail shelves are full of imported brands mostly foreign owned and the law allows that.

So if we can’t beat them why not join them? Besides that, most retail stores in Botswana also import their stock for their shelves because there is no law against that.

I don’t know of those who own manufacturing plants.

So what’s your business model?

Our business model is simple: we import our products ready for the market, store them at the warehouse which we own rent-free, distribute our products to stores across the country through a third party – hence we managed to fund our project without getting a loan from financial institutions.

And how is the business doing?

So far so good.

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It’s early days but the road to establishing a new brand hasn’t been as bad as we had assumed.

The template is the same as any other business.

Listing with Sefalana and Checkers Stores remains our huge milestone thus far.

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This made our products accessible to the public.

All our products are available across the country and in 19 Sefalana stores.

Batswana tend to shun local brands, how have your products been received?

I am aware of that mentality but I always remind them that not all locally owned products are of low quality.

Besides, how do you rubbish something that you haven’t experienced? But so far the reception has been positive.

That said, we do not compromise on quality; our products are premium and of top notch quality hence Kathiku spirits (Vodka and Gins) fall under the category of ‘Handcrafted spirits’ and not mass production.

Our products have also complied with the quality standards of the countries of where they were manufactured hence it was easy to satisfy listing requirements of major retailers like Sefalana and Checkers.

Most importantly, our products don’t give a hangover! You can actually have a drink during the week and still get up fresh without a splitting hangover commonly known as ‘Babalaas!’ They are that good, smoothest and most mixable for even cocktails.

With several established brands already in the market, what makes Kathiku Beverages different from the rest?

Kathiku Beverages are a must have for any beverage collector.

We have some of the cheapest handcrafted spirits on the market.

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Kathiku Big Five collection is also handcrafted which means the products were not mass produced, so special attention went into the infusion of the spirits.

Attention to detail went into the selection of the ingredients and is also made from 100% grain neutral spirits.

It is a must have in any person who collects beverages.

Kathiku Big Five collection is even ideal to display in your house.

The collection is also ideal for visiting international tourists as it’s something for them to go back with instead of just collecting African artifacts.

The spirits also have cork closures (caps) like those for champagne and wines to give them that handcrafted finishing instead of the usual Aluminum closures.

What challenges have you faced/are facing?

Just like any other new entrant to a market, it takes time and capital to create brand awareness.

Hence we started an awareness campaign during the festive season last year so that by the time the products hit the stores people were already accustomed to the brand.

Why were you so confident the business would work following lengthy alcohol bans during the peak of Covid-19?

We utilized the Covid-19 alcohol ban to cement relationships with our suppliers and to position ourselves so that by the time the alcohol ban was lifted we were ready.

The only hiccup was of course the suspension of alcohol licenses which set us back time-wise by a few months, so our first consignment only arrived in December 2021.

By that time retailers had gone on holiday for the festive season, hence we only concluded listing in April this year and only had two months to distribute to 19 Sefalana Stores.

What does the future hold for Kathiku Beverages?

We are looking at getting our products on the shelves of main retailers in Botswana by the first quarter of 2023 then expanding to neighbouring countries like Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and definitely internationally because our brand Kathiku was created as a tourist brand hence the big five animals concept.

Any other products in the pipeline?

Time will tell but Kathiku Beverages will definitely have a wine line and ‘Methode Cap Classique’ line popularly known as Champagne.

How many jobs has Kathiku Beverages created?

Our company is brand new so we are running a tight ship of a handful of people with strategic duties.

We are not at the point of incurring unnecessary overheads like huge wage bills hence we outsource strategic areas like logistics which is a key component of the business.

We have engaged local courier companies to distribute our products across the country.

Our main focus is currently marketing and distribution of Kathiku Beverages.

We also collaborate with local artists to push our brand and even engage local graphic artists for digital marketing because that’s where the world is going.

On a personal note, how do you spend your free time?

I like travelling because it broadens my scope and gives me the inspiration to embark on new challenges like this Beverage business.

I also like catching up on soap operas and movies to kill time.


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