Venturing into a sector dominated by deep pocketed multinationals is no mean feat. The odds are even higher when trying to break into a one such as oil that is known for its ruthless cartel style of operation. London Business School graduate Malvin Chiwanga is however not one to shy away from competition no matter how cutthroat it may be. He joined the sector in 2018 with his own company Matrix Petroleum and has managed to carve out a share for himself. In an exclusive interview with CEO Business Africa, Chiwanga opens up about what inspired him to start the venture and his plans for the future.
Give us a brief profile of yourself and tell us what inspired you to join this industry
Malvin Chiwanga graduated from the London Business School with speciality in Business and Economics. I have previously served as the Head of UnoMedical Southern Africa for ten years. During this time, I was the highest-ranking corporate officer in charge of total management of the organisation. I was later appointed to the Board of Directors of the company based in the UK.
Currently, I am the founder and CEO of Matrix Petroleum Group where I am responsible for leading the development and execution of the company’s strategies. I also serve as Chairman of Matrix Group, providing leadership to the board, and is responsible for the board’s composition and development.
I also have a vast understanding of the stock markets backed by years of experience in trading as well as research which has allowed him to set sights on listing Matrix Petroleum on the London Stock Exchange by the end of 2023.
What inspired you to join this industry and what are some of the personal values that have enabled you to succeed in your career?
I am a leader who is driven by seeing others grow and I never shy away from competition, particularly when it brings our dream closer to where we want to be. I joined this industry because am particularly inspired by starting something from scratch and seeing it grow hence the idea of venturing into business and give it the due attention for growth. I believe there is no substitute for hard work if one is to succeed in any career. Apart from hard work, other personal values that have contributed to my success are dedication and having a vision.
Tell us a brief history of your organization and what gap in the market was it founded to fill and how has this changed over time?
Matrix Petroleum was initially incorporated in 2018 with the aim of supplying petroleum products in some of the Indian Ocean Islands as well as the Southern African region with specific focus on South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia as well as other countries within this vicinity. This vision has grown with time with the inclusion of renewable energy, transport and logistics portfolio on the company’s core business, so far, our plan is shaping perfectly well in these markets, and we expect to continue penetrating these targeted markets.
What products and services do you offer and What are the markets do you currently serve?
Our specialty is in petroleum products, and we are also into renewable energy as well as transport and logistics. On petroleum products, we are big on the wholesale of paraffin, jet A1 petrol, diesel and we are particularly able to deliver these in any part of the world. In terms of new products, we see ourselves consolidating on renewable energy in the near to medium term future.
Currently we are visible in the Indian Ocean Islands, Southern Africa (Zimbabwe, South African and Zambia as well as Eswatini).
What separates your company from its peers in the industry?
As a predominantly new entrant into the petroleum industry, one must understand that this is a highly complex industry with cartels which make it difficult to penetrate. What has made us different is our ability to deliver our products within the agreed time spans, being able to drive our vision with a competent complement of human resource and an ability to work in any part of the world. We have also been able to grow tremendously well under the circumstances bearing in mind that we are growing in the midst of a pandemic.
Give us a brief about your company’s key numbers and some of the most important milestones that it has achieved so far
Matrix Petroleum has grown to a company with an annual turnover of over US$150 million and employees that number around 30,000 (both direct and indirect workers) in all the market we operate in.
Our important milestone would be being able to register the company in the UK in the past four years and managing to spread our tentacles over a vast market of about 12 countries has been very rewarding. As we stand, we are in negotiations with other players for expansion in parts of the SADC.
Sustainability is a big concern for the energy sector. How is your company adopting to meet the rising need for more sustainable business operations and a better, cleaner planet?
There is a lot of talk around cleaner energy sources as well as environmentally friendly operations. While this has been seen as a threat to the petroleum industry, we believe we have to continuously find ways of settling for an acceptable level of emission from our products. We are also fast moving into his renewable space to stay afloat.
What have been some of the setbacks you have faced in the past, but which made you to change your strategy or focus, to get better at what you do?
Not so much of setbacks as of yet. We are primarily focused on growing both the brand and the market space. Perhaps it is important to notice that like anyone else we are affected by both the downward and upward movement of petrol and petroleum prices worldwide. We are also not immune to other ravaging implications of COVID-19 that is affecting everyone.
What are some of the opportunities and challenges in your industry and how do you intend to take advantage of them to enable your business to thrive in your market?
We have quite a number of the opportunities in the emerging markets and these can easily be taken advantage of though conjuring up partnership with other players in these market. Our focus is to partner with state owned oil firms in these countries so we can coin our footprint with time.