Clocking up years of trading in the islands, the Vinod Patel Group of companies is now looking at ways to monetise all those experiences and know how through its very own export business consultancy.
Calling it the Business Support Services for Pacific Islands, Fiji’s leading hardware and building material retailer aims to offer its many years experience of doing business in the Pacific to foreign investors who are – like them -- keen to do business in the islands.
“I mean we always talk about unique selling prepositions and I think that’s one of our major unique selling proposition in the export market. We can really stand behind a product and say we’ve tried it out, we’ve tested it out in our Fiji market. It works for our business and I’m pretty sure it can work for yours,” Vinod Patel’s General Manager of Exports Division, Atin Patel, tells this magazine.
“We want to reach out to the Pacific Island market and understand their business. Traditionally exports businesses are all about supplying products. But at Vinod Patel, we have changed our approach. We are helping them to grow and better their business by providing knowledge and know-how and also ensuring that we have necessary resources to support this. We are focused on providing this in the Pacific Island market because we are the same.”
Patel adds that for the past three decades Vinod Patel had gained a lot of experience exporting hardware, building products and tools to the islands of the Pacific. Vinod Patel & Co, has many reputable brands and lines of
products and services and being positioned in Fiji makes it an ideal export hub for many Pacific Island countries.
“As we’ve kind of gone through few phases of changes and growth we’ve become more than just about supplying items, we are now starting to act like business consultants to our customers who are merchants themselves. So we’re helping them in planning, helping them with inventory management, helping them with actually maintaining their stock. These are things we’re trying to do for them to run their business better.”
General Manager Sales & Operations for Vinod Patel Group Neelesh Pal Singh adds their export consultancy business is just one of the many new products the Fiji-based company is rolling out. In addition to supporting
exports in the islands, the group is also going big into harnessing technology including the Internet to reach a wider market.
One of the upcoming initiative is DIY – Do It Yourself Video production – short videos on simple, quick home and appliance repairs that home owners can do.
“Soon you’ll see a lot of DIYs videos available in our stores where we’ll educate our customers on how to do things themselves on their properties. That’s our major plan for 2019 and beyond,” says Singh.
“We have come up with our new e-Commerce website, and there are several marketing initiatives we have taken, especially in the digital space. We stock genuine products and supply only the best. Our products are branded, tried and tested and apt for our customers in the Pacific. That’s the edge we have.”
Adding more to that, Singh explains about the call centre. “We’ve got a very strong presence in the customer service area and we’ve got a fully operational customer care where we’ve got a group of very highly trained
team members who are interacting with customers, helping them solve their problems. Live chat and Facebook integration and everything so as we speak, it’s operational and happening.”
An exciting product Vinod Patel promotes is its container homes, because according to Patel and Singh, such homes are suitable to the islands.
“We’ve branded it as endless solutions because you could use it as your home, as a laboratory, as a field office, and evacuation center even. We’re doing emergencies as a portable nursing station, so anything you think of, you can fully customise it,” explains Singh.
“These are factory made, customised. It’s solid steel however, it comes with insulation which keeps you cool and you can have a 2 bedroom or 1 bedroom with kitchen facility, living room, a toilet, shower, everything.”
Construction time of such container homes Singh adds takes up to 3 days only, and reasonably priced. Atin Patel adds, that the future is bright for the leading hardware retailer with exports and the overseas markets holding the potential for more growth.
“We’re looking at expansions even locally and as we’ve pointed out our expansion into the Timor Leste market came about after we did our due diligence and we look at how we can get our brand name out there.”
Company Profile – Vinod Patel:
Named after the founder of the company, Vinod Patel Group is a family-owned business that first opened its store for trading in the Fijian town of Ba on the west coast of Fiji’s main island. It celebrates its 57th year of
operation in April this year. It stocks more than 25,000 different products with a workforce of over 1300 people.
By Fiji Women’s Rights Movement
FWRM’s vision is for the women of Fiji to be free from all forms of discrimination, have equal access to opportunities, and to live in a healthy environment where the principles of feminism, democracy, good governance, multiculturalism and human rights prevail. In line with this, a core part of FWRM’s work is promoting women’s participation and leadership in different spaces and levels of decision-making.
This includes young women and girls and recognising that their experiences could draw meaningful and significant contributions to dealing with existing social issues. Hence, the ground-breaking and pioneering work with empowering girls has been a popular, high-profile feature of FWRM’s Intergenerational Women in Leadership Programme (formerly Young Women in Leadership Programme).
In 2006, FWRM began working with girls, in response to a research, “Violence against the Girl Child in the Pacific Islands Region” by the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre. The research highlighted the different forms of violence and discrimination girls faced because of their perceived inferior status in Pacific Island society (due to patriarchal cultural norms).
Girls were vulnerable to physical emotional and sexual abuse and exploitation. There would be no better voice to share these experiences than the girls themselves but this would mean challenging what society dictates, ‘girls are seen not heard.’ The women’s movement and feminism has always been about challenging the norms and inspiring transformative change.
Recognising the leadership and capacities of women across all diversities, including age groups, FWRM moved to create a platform that empowered girls to speak. The idea was to use more innovative approaches, like arts and sports, to encourage girls’ creative expression. One of the first activities was ‘Picture This,’ which involved the girls in FWRM’s International Women’s Day celebrations. This became a staple for IWD and to this day, girls have always been part of the March 8 celebrations.
The concept evolved until in 2013, when the GROW, INSPIRE, RELATE, LEAD, SUCCEED (GIRLS) Theatre programme was launched. It involved girls in theatre arts and rugby, encouraging them to share their stories in a positive space and challenge gender stereotypes.
GIRLS became a phenomenon, creating wonderful vibrant young leaders and inspiring the formation of the GIRLS Club. GIRLS sparked a love for activism and advocacy among the participants and created an impression with parents. For this reason, the GIRLS Club was created as another avenue for the GIRLS graduates to continue learning about advocacy, engage with the Movement and help mentor the next cohort of GIRLS.
FWRM Movement-building International Women’s Day celebrates the contributions of women and girls to society, although in reality, they largely go unrecognised every day. Females in the labour force do less paid work per week on average than males, females do far more unpaid household work, with the end result that females do 6 hours per week more Total Work per week than do males.
(Narsey, Fiji Women and Men at Work and Leisure 2013) Women and young women are under-represented at leadership spaces, with only 7.2 per cent of women in Pacific parliaments. (Pacific Women in Politics, 2018) FWRM recognised the power of movements in catalysing change, particularly the women’s movement who have dedicated decades of work to dismantle existing patriarchal and discrimintory barriers that hindered gender equality.
FWRM formed key partnerships, including the ground-breaking and inspirational We Rise Coalition. The Coalition is made up of Pacific feminist groups including FWRM, International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA), femLINKPacific and Diverse Voices and Action (DIVA) for Equality .
The Coalition moves to creating visibility for margnalised voices, by providing enabling spaces and mobilising women through their networks. This was evident during the Pacific Feminist Forum in November, 2016 when We Rise provided support to bring together over 100 women human rights defenders from across the Pacific into one space to strategise, re-energise and strengthen their networks and amplify their messages.
Recently in 2017, We Rise was able to sponsor 31 participants from Civil Society organisations and social justice groups from across the Pacific to attend the 13th Triennial Conference of Pacific Women and Sixth Meeting of Pacific Ministers for Women at Novotel in Lami.
The Coalition’s work in empowering and mobilising women is a key partnership in moving towards FWRM’s vision for Fiji and the Pacific, to realise gender justice, freedom and equality for all. This International Women’s Day, FWRM pays tribute to the women’s movement and stands in solidarity with them globally to amplify the call for justice and an end to all forms of discrimination against women and girls.
References: A Girl Child. (1993). Balance, [online] (November), p.10. Available at: http:// www.fwrm.org.fj/images/fwrm/publications/balance/pdf/1993_BalanceNovember.pdf [Accessed 13 Dec. 2017]. Pacific Women in Politics. 2018. National Women MPS. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.pacwip.org/womenmps/national-women-mps/. [Accessed 16 February 2018].
THE CEO of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) sees the outcomes of the recent 14th meeting in Manila of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) as mixed. PNA CEO Ludwig Kumoru said there were some good steps forward by the Commission.
These included the adoption of a Port State measure which includes arrangements for appropriate inspection of tuna vessels when they come to port. This will close one of the remaining gaps in the Commission’s monitoring and control scheme and is well adapted to the region where many of the major ports are in small island developing states.
Other positive steps included the adoption of a measure to reduce marine pollution from fishing vessels, including banning the discharge of plastic, and the adoption of a Rebuilding plan for Pacific Bluefin. However, Mr Kumoru was disappointed in the outcome of the revision.....
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THE Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) controls the world’s largest sustainable tuna purse seine fishery. PNA Members are Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu. Global leaders in tuna conservation and management Through using the zone-based management, PNA makes conservation and management decisions within their collective Exclusive Economic Zones.
Many PNA conservation measures are world firsts – such as high seas closures to fishing, controls on Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs), protection for whale sharks and the 100 per cent coverage of purse seine fishing vessels with observers. In 2011, the PNA skipjack tuna caught without using FADs was certified by the Marine Stewardship Council as sustainable, creating the world’s largest sustainablåe tuna purse seine fishery. PNA controls around 50 per cent of the global supply of skipjack tuna, the most commonly canned tuna.
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A PAPUA New Guinea company has joined forces with a Fiji firm for development of its next generation banking software. CloudApp Laboratories (PNG) Limited – a new tech start-up – has joined Fiji’s Software Factory to make a push into the Papua New Guinea market. CloudApp is owned 51 per cent by PNG’s NASFUND Contributors Savings and Loan Society.
The remaining 49 per cent owned by Software Factory Limited of Fiji. A two-day conference at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva from October 12-13, charted a way forward for the joint venture’s presence and expansion in PNG. The workshop will help the new Tech Start-up come up with a new Strategic Plan and also a list of new innovative features to be incorporated into its Next Generation Banking System.
“The innovation we bring to our target PNG market is a new banking system that is functional, robust, affordable and supported on shore with the presence of a strong local service team,” CloudApp Labs PNG’s chairman Ian Tarutia said. Tarutia is also the CEO for PNG’s NASFUND and Chairman for the NASFUND Contributors Savings & Loan Society Limited. “PNG has always been heavily dependent on foreign-made systems with little or no local service provider,” Tarutia said.
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