Mr. William Snollaerts, is the Managing Director of JARA Development Limited, a discount supermarket and retail chain, which has just opened a new outlet in Benin City, the Edo State capital. In this interview, he explains how the conducive business climate facilitated by the Governor Obaseki-led government in Edo State made their incursion into the state seamless and the company’s strategies to transform the shopping experience in the anciet city. EXCERPTS:
Can you give us a general overview of your operations in Nigeria so far?
JARA is a brand new store concept and it opened its first store last December in Lagos. Over the coming years, we aim to grow to at least 100 stores. JARA is Nigeria’s first discount supermarket and retail chain, created by Nigerians, and specifically for the Nigerian retail market. JARA offers customers the best value on all the core products that satisfy all their everyday needs.
Do you operate in other markets apart from Nigeria?
We do not! We see a major opportunity in Nigeria and it will take at least a decade to have a balanced footprint in most states of the Country. Nigeria accommodates more than 200 million people and we see the huge market potential in our home market.
Why did you choose Benin City for this new outlet?
Benin city is a vibrant city and has a very interesting market with about 1.5 million inhabitants. We got the opportunity from the Edo State Government through the Edo Development and Property (EDPA) to have a partnership to develop a property in a location we believe is ideal for our brand.
What special value do you plan to offer Benin people apart from what they are already used to?
JARA wants to offer the Benin consumer a basic, modern, clean, convenient and friendly store with quality goods at a low price in order to enable the consumer save money on their basic food needs. JARA also offers monthly promos and extra discount on bulk purchases.
Do you plan to open more stores in Benin?
At the moment, we are working on several projects in Lagos and Kaduna, whilst still considering some potential locations in Benin. We believe Benin city has interesting business opportunities for modern food retail.
How would you rate the operating environment in Edo State?
We interacted with Governor Godwin Obaseki a few times and our experience was he remains a driven and enthusiastic leader who aims for rapid economic growth in Edo State. We are convinced that with such an approach, he will no doubt stimulate entrepreneurship and enable a thriving business environment.
How well did the state government provide needed support for your operations?
The EDPA provided a whole lot of support with the leadership of the Executive Chairman of EDPA, Mrs. Isoken Omo. We were provided all necessary rights and assistance into making this concept a reality in the city of Benin.
How would you rate the ease of doing business in the state?
We did not experience the usual bottlenecks associated with the processing of necessary documentation. Therefore, we are absolutely encouraged by the pace and will be happy to continue to conduct business with Edo State
How would this venture empower the indigenous population in Edo State?
JARA will at the starting phase provide some job opportunities, but we believe the biggest advantage will be the snowball effect of more businesses being supported in Edo state by the government which will create more employment and in turn more spending power.
Do you think Edo needs a massive mall; if yes, would you be willing to take the plunge and invest in such an enterprise in the state?
There are so many variables involved in developing a massive mall as you say. The success is dependent on location, accessibility, investment, and the variety of businesses that would commit to paying rental fees.
What would you say to potential investors coming into Benin?
They should ensure that they are able to gain access to the decision-makers in all the relevant areas of authority and ensure they will support their business ideas and understand the value they are bringing to the people of Edo State.
Is there any other important point you want to make in this interview?
We strongly believe in the potential of Nigeria with the largest population of the African continent. Nigerians have a positive mindset, and a natural flare for business. Nigeria will be an economic superpower for the coming decennia with the right political vision and renewed infrastructure.