Thursday, December 9, 2010

Mulli Brothers Limited: Inspired by farm produce

In the beginning, there was a bicycle, and the bicycle was with the late Lacton Mulli- father and founder of Mulli Brothers Limited. And the beginning is the early 1970s.

Mulli the senior would wake up early in the morning, inflate bicycle tyres, and set off for the market- to buy farm produce for resell.

The bicycle itself is a symbol of sure-footedness because it simply does not start by cruising off, it requires sustained pressure on the saddles for the bicycle to speed off. Mulli the senior was a strategic man, too; as he moved slowly, at the pace of a bicycle, he also invested in the education of his children.

Today, it is difficult to link Mulli to one product. Increased business growth and more market gaps have seen the Brothers cast their net wider. But it all starts from, and goes back to, produce from the farm.

Propelled by green in the garden, Mulli Brothers Limited has been able to diversify its product portfolio and invest in other sectors of the economy, in the process contributing towards sustainable social-economic development.

Some of the ventures include Smallholder Tea Company Ltd (STECO) in Mulanje, Thuchila Tourist Lodge in Phalombe, Exclusive Garments Factory at Nantipwiri, Thuchila Estate in Phalombe, Flatland Timber sawmill in Chikangawa, and Exclusive Garments Limited.

At STECO, the group grows tea, the country’s second highest foreign exchange earner after tobacco. The venture has helped improve the lives of smallholder tea farmers who depend on tea cultivation to meet daily basic necessities.

The Brothers have also invested in garments’ production through another subsidiary, Exclusive Garments Limited. Its factory stands like a pearl in the sky in Chigumula (at Nantipwili) on the Limbe-Thyolo M1 road. Its involvement begun in 2007.

This is a new undertaking in the Mulli Brothers’ line of business, having sensed gold in garments manufacturing following the enactment of the African Growth and Opportunity Act in the USA, and shows how serious the group takes value addition initiatives.

Over 500 men have found a way of earning a living through Exclusive Garments. In a bid to sharpen local staff skills in the production of high class garments for the export market, Philippine expatriates were recruited.

“The initiative to open the garment factory is consistent with the Malawi government’s objective to turn the country from a predominantly importing nation to a producing and exporting nation,” says the group in a statement.

Signed into law on May18, 2000 as Titles of the Trade and Development Act 2000, AGOA gives African countries a lifeline in terms of engaging in international trade, offering opportunities for local industry growth.

As the doors to the USA opened in 2000, so did opportunities in the timber industry back home. Through Flatland Timbers, Mulli Brothers Limited has extended an arm into the timber industry in order to participate in one of the rapidly growing business spheres. The company joined the fray in 2007 after noting that those engaged in the business were grappling with the problem of meager resources, thus impacting on effective service delivery.

Malawi is endowed with a variety of woodlands and tropical rainforests, important sources for soft and hardwood. With offices in Chikangawa forest in the Northern region, Lilongwe in Centre and Chigumula in Blantyre, Flatland Timbers has become one of the most reliable suppliers for special and well cut timber to meet the country’s growing infrastructural needs.

With more forests of the unique Mulanje cedar on the Mulanje massif and pine timbers in Chikangawa, Flatland Timbers are poised to remain an active player for some time to come.

“Our timber sewing machine is aided using LT20 woodmizers, enabling it to operate for long hours on end, including working on shifts whenever need arises. This helps us meet demand,” says a company report..

In Lilongwe, the company has a factory producing value added products like doors, cupboards, chairs, and is equipped with 40 technical staff comprising mechanics, carpenters, joiners, administrators and managers. Some of the timber finds itself in Chigumula, previously known as Nantipwili, where a sales yard, stocking a wide variety of timber for sale, welcomes customers.

It is interesting that, as if to lead by example and show how timber can help raise infrastructure where once lay level ground, Mulli Brothers Limited has built new office premises in Chigumula on Vipya Avenue off Limbe/Thyolo road.

The magnificent building offers a unique landscape with state of the art communication facilities. With internet connectivity guaranteed, it has become so easy for the Headquarters in Blantyre to manage officesat Kanengo in Lilongwe and Mzuzu. For offices in Migowi and Phalombe, there isa radio communicationssystem to link them up.

The office premises represent yet another infrastructural development initiative by indigenous Malawians who double as equal-opportunity employers and count expatriates staff from India, South Africa, Taiwan and Syrilanka on its payroll.

The mission of this indigenous progressive company is to enhance the profitability and competitiveness of manufacturing companies by assisting the country in its socio-economic development initiatives. These innovations, coupled with aggressive business dynamics,have enabled the company exploit new ideas to empower local people across the country as part of the country’s poverty eradication strategy.

It is a mission that has enabled the group to also invest in the tourism and hospitality industry. Thuchila Lodge is a living testimony to this. At the foot of Mulanje, the highest mountain in Central Africa, rests Thuchila Lodge. It is located within the Thuchila Estate in Kambenje area.

It is a strategic location which enables local or foreign tourists appreciate the scene of a mountain which, at 3, 000 metres above sea level, kisses the skies above. What with a rich forest reserve which serves as home to reach and diverse endemic plant and animal species!

It is also the gateway to the famed Sapitwa mountain peak.

Mulothiwa Bar and Restaurant will do the rest for you. The bar and restaurant offer a wide range of beverages and delicious Malawian meals. A wonderful balcony of Thuchila House, along with terraced open garden, will aid you enjoy wonderful international cuisine.

All these are Mulli Brothers’ establishments borne out of bicycle sweat. Sweat that reminds us, everyday as we partake of Chombe tea, that from the soil we can enjoy and grow.

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