HARARE – PRO Air Zimbabwe founder George Munengwa is an unassuming entrepreneur.
Despite harvesting seven prestigious awards since his air conditioning and refrigeration services company was formed four years ago, the youthful businessman remains hungry for more.
Our business editor John Kachembere caught up with the affable businessman, who recently won the Institute of Directors Zimbabwe (IoDZ) 2015 SMEs Director of The Year accolade, to discuss his plans for the company and other issues affecting the economy. Below are excerpts of the interview.
Q: Congratulations for winning the IoDZ award. What does this accolade mean for you and your company?
A: The award is recognition of the work we are doing in Zimbabwe under the current economic environment.
It is also an affirmation that we are in the right direction as a company.
When I started Pro Air in 2012 my vision was to conquer Zimbabwe within the first five years and I am happy to say that our brand is now known in every nook and cranny of the country.
Our eyes are now set on penetrating the regional market starting with South Africa before moving to the European and American markets.
Q: These are quite big plans for an emerging company. What makes you think you can achieve these goals at a time when most local and international companies operating in Zimbabwe are closing down due to unfavourable economic conditions?
A: My secret lies in the biblical book of Proverbs. Interestingly, this is where I derived the name of the company — it’s called Proverbs Air, but we have shortened it to Pro Air. I got an inspiration from Proverbs 3 verses 5-10, which talks about trusting in the lord.
Since quitting my first formal job in 2012, I have learnt to put my trust in God and He has not failed me.
I got my first contract exactly three weeks after resigning from my job and God has continued to bless us abundantly.
What this shows is without God as the foundation, no company can survive for long. I believe that with God on our side, we can become a multinational company.
It is also important to note that although we are in business to make money; our aim is not centred on making profits only but to create sustainable relationships with our clients.
This has helped us to survive during difficult times when other companies are folding up.
I have also learnt that humility is critical in business if you are to remain viable.
It’s a virtue that I have learnt during my interactions with different people from diverse backgrounds.
Q: How is the air conditioning business in Zimbabwe and is there room for growth?
A: This industry comprises companies that primarily install and service heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment.
As operators, we perform tasks that include new installations, additions, alterations, maintenance and repairs.
The industry has a great future, but unfortunately the majority of our people are yet to grasp how air conditioning works.
Most people think that air conditioning only works in summer to cool down temperatures, but this is not always the case as it can also be used to heat up homes, offices and cars when temperatures are down.
We are doing everything we can to educate and inform Zimbabweans that air conditioning should be part of our daily lives hence our pay-off line “make the weather behave 365 days indoors”.
Our aim is to ensure that our customers are fully aware of the fact that air conditioning is not a prerogative of the elites only but for everyone.
Q: How do you intend to go about this awareness campaign?
A: I am passionate about branding and I am going to use that passion to spread the word and teach people how air conditioning works.
For instance, some people are still of the notion that air conditioning works for life once it’s installed, which is very untrue because, like every machine, it needs to be serviced at least twice a year.
We are also planning to venture into manufacturing air conditioning products so that they become affordable to our people.
Q: What is your advice to other upcoming entrepreneurs who are finding it difficult to make a breakthrough?
A: Everything begins and ends with God. Trust God and put him ahead of everything you do and you’ll prosper.
Most people in Zimbabwe have great potential to become successful entrepreneurs but remain trapped in an environment where they are not happy due to fear.
If you truly trust God, He is faithful to remove any fear and thrust you into your area of expertise.
I have also learnt that good business ethics are crucial in growing business.
That has been my mainstay when conducting business and it has helped me to widen my customer base.