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Mukuku keeps wheels turning

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ALMOST hidden in the mad rush of downtown Harare, Steso Motor Parts, a local enterprise established and run by a local entrepreneur, Stephen Mukuku (43), can easily escape notice.

Report by Phillip Chidavaenzi Senior Features Writer

His office walls — which give off a faint scent of engine oil — are lined with car parts.

Mukuku has managed to establish a solid customer base in an overcrowded business environment through specialisation in Mitsubishi spares.

“I decided to focus on the Mitsubishi because it’s a very good product,” he says.

“It’s unfortunate that its image has been tarnished locally because in Zimbabwe there is no back-up in terms of competent mechanics and the spares.”

Our interview is briefly interrupted by a middleman seeking a car part on behalf of a customer at a cheaper price so he can add a profitable mark-up.

After protracted negotiations, a deal is struck. Negotiation dexterity is priceless in the business, Mukuku says.

His mobile phone rings, for the umpteenth time, and he attends to a client at the other end of the line.

Mukuku says most of their products are imports because genuine parts are hardly available on the local market, unless if a Mitsubishi is broken up

With experience in the motor industry spanning 25 years, he says the ace up his sleeve is specialisation in original parts at a time when pirated parts are awash on the market.

“Most of these vehicles have original parts, but most of the spare parts on the market are pirated and these are not very good brands,” he says.

Mukuku says he is recording good business despite the many car parts dealers in downtown Harare because most of the dealers sell small accessories like filters while he specialises in “hardcore components”, including gear boxes, carburettors and fly wheels.

His experience in the corporate world — where he started off as a motor mechanic at Amtec in 1986 and ended up as a workshop manager with Nissan Clover Leaf  in 2004, has brought much value into his own business, especially in terms of good corporate governance and personalised relationships with customers.

He says the business has been so profitable and there was great potential to transform it into a multi-million-dollar enterprise, having drawn customers from as far as Bulawayo, Mutare and Beitbridge.

Continuous research blended with an enterprising spirit has made his company a force to reckon with in the industry.

“For three years, we looked for Mitsubishi RVR Diesel 4D68 rockers and we could not find them even in Japan.

“But we persisted and finally had them manufactured and brought them into the country.

“We are probably the sole supplier of the product in Zimbabwe,” he says.

Mukuku says although small-scale entrepreneurs face challenges in accessing loans for working capital from banks, they play a significant role in the economy.

“We are helping to drive the Zimbabwean economy.

“We are the ones keeping the wheels turning. Every company relies on its fleet (of vehicles).  If your fleet is grounded, you can’t do business,” he said.

Small players in the industry, he added, have an edge because they bring in parts quickly without any bureaucratic bottlenecks.

Born in 1969 in a family of four, Mukuku is married to Linda and they have three children.

Both are pastors with a local church.

Mukuku says his faith has helped him keep his head above water in an industry where temptations to engage in unorthodox business practices abound.

“We maintain business integrity,” he said, adding that while the gospel of prosperity is biblical, people need to understand the importance of hard work.

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