#10Q: Meet the new BIC GM for South, East, Central Africa
Meet Marc D’Oliveira, the new GM for BIC in South East Central Africa - 10 questions on his plans for growing the brand in Africa.
Marc D’Oliveira will lead BIC’s operations for South East Central Africa (SECA). The brand is focused on developing and growing its market share by increasing its distribution and strengthening its footprint. As an integral player in the development and execution of BIC’s expansion strategy and a successful track record in developing markets and strong financial, strategic, and managerial skills, BIC believes D’Oliveira is ideally placed to lead its SECA team and drive its business forward. He has been with BIC for more than 11 years and played an instrumental role in the successful expansion of BIC in Africa, leading the business’s latest acquisition and subsidiary establishment in Kenya and Nigeria. The Middle East and Africa region is a key developing market for BIC as it has the world’s youngest population, growing economies, a rise in urbanisation, and an increase in purchasing power.
1. What is at the top of your to-do list?
Over the past couple of years, our focus has been on growing our presence in the region. Africa is an important region for BIC as it presents ample opportunities for our business. In the past 10 years we’ve opened new subsidiaries and factories here, and today our presence is stronger and more strategic than ever. As we continue driving growth in South East Central Africa (SECA), one thing I want to do more of is place the consumer at the centre of our business. Consumer demands and behaviour are fast changing and we, as a business, need to adapt and innovate to remain relevant to these changing needs.
2. What are your core deliverables?
My core deliverables are focused on three things: people, business, and community. My first focus in on people, because you can have the best strategy in the world, but without the right people you can’t achieve much. My objective is to continue to foster a positive and dynamic environment that inspires and drives our talented team members across the region.
On the business front, my efforts will be on retaining our leadership position in our core categories. BIC is and has been for many years the market leader in Stationery in South Africa as well as the rest of SECA. BIC also offers the safest and most popular branded lighters in Africa, so my mission is to cement our leadership position in all three categories. BIC is also among the leading brand in disposable shavers in value share. In South Africa, we’ve been the leader in the male category for years now and I’m proud to say that last year we became the leader in the female category.
We are currently leading a number of community-focused projects across the region, most notably our ‘Buy a Pen, Donate a Pen’ drive that first launched in South Africa in 2012 and has now expanded to Kenya and provided more than 10 million pens to kids. We also have a number of partnerships with local and international NGOs to help transform the education system by promoting social entrepreneurship and innovation in education. We recently signed a partnership with Enactus Kenya to launch a three-year BIC Educational Challenge that invites university students to focus on providing solutions for education issues.
3. Tell us more about your strategy?
BIC is the number one Stationery brand in the region and my strategy for SECA is to continue to drive growth for our core ballpoint pens like the BIC M10 Clic, but also focus on added value product in ballpoint pens, colouring and graphite. In lighters we will continue to educate our consumers on the quality and safety of our products, in addition to engaging them with relatable content and in shavers, we will be introducing new and innovative products
4. Your biggest trend for the next decade on the continent?
Digitalisation is a main trend that we don’t see slowing down anytime soon. As Africa becomes more connected, we see consumers turning to online platforms for information, entertainment, and shopping. We also see an exponential growth for e-commerce as it emerges as a retail platform and new online payment services make it easier and safer for consumers to buy online. This is a space that BIC is currently exploring and will be investing in.
5. How will you grow the business in Africa?
Africa is among our key developing markets – we have a strong legacy in the region with a presence in South Africa since 1957. Our growth in Africa has been driven by our proximity strategy that aims to strengthen our presence on the ground and bring us closer to our consumers. Last year we launched two new subsidiaries in Africa including our East Africa headquarters and our Nigeria operations. Based out of Kenya, our East Africa subsidiary acts as a development engine for the domestic market and an export hub servicing Kenya, Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. In Nigeria we’ve acquired the leading stationery brand, Lucky Pens, and set up a new manufacturing facility to service the growing demand in this market. In 2020, BIC is focusing on strengthening the two new subsidiaries, optimising our operations, and expanding our footprint to grow our business in Africa. We are also focusing on strengthening our partnerships with our distributors to ensure that we continue getting closer to our customer.
6. What are the key challenges of entering new markets in Africa?
I think back to the recent investments in both Kenya and Nigeria, and for me it is evident that markets in Africa, although there are similarities, each market is different and needs to be treated differently. There is no ‘One Size Fits All’, and by accepting this we are naturally drawn to look for local skills to improve our knowledge in order to succeed.
7. Do you have a life philosophy?
“It always seems impossible until its done.” – Nelson Mandela, We are challenged every day, professionally and personally, if we give up before we try, we will not get anywhere, and when we do try we move forward, sometimes small steps, sometimes big steps, but forward none the less.
8. How do you inspire others?
To inspire others, you must understand the motivations of each individual and earn their respect. You have to be sure you elevate their successes and support them through the hard times.
9. What are you currently reading?
I am reading, Who Moved my Cheese? by Spencer Johnson. The book reinforces the power on the mind, attitude, in dealing with change, and how this can result in more success in your life, both professionally and personally.
10. What is your superpower?
My superpower is listening, I believe you can gain a lot of knowledge and understanding from what others say, whether in a formal or informal environment.
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