Harare — Starting as a one-man band shop to a leading information and communications (ICT) and stationery supplier, the growth of First Pack Marketing over the past two decades has been phenomenal.
It has catapulted its founder, Langton Chikukwa, from his humble job as a teacher to a leading businessman with a footprint across Zimbabwe.
Speaking in an interview, Chikukwa (47), a holder of a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) recounted his company's humble beginnings.
"The company began in 1998 as a one man band. I had been a teacher between 1990. I taught at a number of schools in the rural areas. Some of my last schools were Malbereign Girls High and George Stark High Schools here in Harare," he said.
Chikukwa believes he was born an entrepreneur.
"The company started from scratch," the executive said.
"It has grown from strength to strength. From a single office, it developed into a shop, then shops and a branch network of 12 across all major towns in the country with Harare alone having five branches," he said.
These major centres include the second largest city Bulawayo, Mutare, Masvingo, Gweru and Kadoma.
First Pack Marketing's headquarters in the Waterfalls area of Harare is an imposing structure housing a double storey complex and offices, spacious parking, warranty centre and a service and repairs centre.
The signage outside the head office tells a story of a company that is on the road to the top.
From phones to office cabinets, ICT consumables, repair and warranty centres, printers and supporting gadgets and laptops, the company deals in various items.
"Our clientele is drawn from the corporate world, almost all (Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-) listed companies, government, parastatals, private companies and walk-in clients.
"Our vision has always been to be the most preferred ICT and office stationery supplier of choice. We have remained focused on that. It still is our mission today. We now have 180 employees across the country," the businessman said.
With most schools now offering computer lessons, First Pack has a ready market.
Having been in the teaching profession, Chikukwa would certainly know firsthand the requirements of these schools and offer products that are compatible with what they want.
As the company continued to grow, it linked up with major international corporates and channel partnerships have been formed.
Among these companies are Epson, HP, Lenovo and Xerox all which First Pack distributes and retails in Zimbabwe.
It also has a warranty centre for one of these international brands.
First Pack offers attachment to learners from various universities like the University of Zimbabwe (UZ), Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT) and the Harare Institute of Technology (HIT).
"That assists us a lot in the development of our human capital base," Chikukwa said.
First Pack also has qualified engineers and technicians trained locally and others in neighbouring South Africa and France, through its channel partners.
Like many companies in Zimbabwe, First Pack has not been spared the prevailing economic challenges.
"The macro-economic challenges have basically affected everyone, not only us," Chikukwa said.
He said the unstable environment and economic downturn and certain policy changes hampered the growth of the company.
"However, to stay ahead of the pack, we try to be innovative and creative," the businessman said.
He is not deterred in his expansion plans.
"As we continue to expand, we want to have infrastructure across, like the one we have at Head Office, and eventually develop an ICT Hub where we will have a one-stop shop for all kinds of different offerings."
The company uses some rented premises but aims to have own structures in the future.
"We are completing a building in Kadoma and rural areas like Mutoko. This is our thrust, focusing throughout all major towns... .and have what we call ICT supermarkets," Chikukwa said.
Mutoko is his hometown.
"We want to expand in a very big way, on the software side. There is a gap, an opportunity where if one specializes and offers specialized services, there is room for growth in that area," he added.
Chikukwa is a winner of several awards like Megafest, Best Stationery Personality and Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) awards.