Apr 19, 2019 Last Updated 4:50 AM, Apr 19, 2019

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.

  • Ba Industries Limited
  • METFRAME
  • Oceania Gas (formerly BOC Gas)
  • Pacific Cement • TUBEMAKERS
  • Vinod Patel – Timor Leste
  • Pacific Cables.

 

VANUATU’S telecom regulator has welcomed the recent move by the ICAAN (Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers) to reassign to it the country’s country-code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) name DOT VU (.vu).

ICAAN manages Internet identifiers globally, including Top Level Domain names for countries and generic names like .com and .org.

Since 1995 and the early days of the Internet in the Pacific region, Vanuatu’s ccTLD had been assigned to Telecom Vanuatu Ltd (TVL) and has been the subject of an ongoing tussle for control between TVL and the Vanuatu Telecommunications Radiocommunications and Broadcasting Regulator (TRBR), which has finally been handed the mantle after ICAAN’s board meeting on March 14 in Kobe, Japan.

“These changes set the scope for a competitive market for .vu domain names,” TRBR said in a statement.

“TRBR has created an environment where multiple Registrars can make their own unique offerings and pricing for .vu names. TRBR wants to encourage the other local Internet Service Providers and possibly web designers to consider becoming Registrars or Resellers of .vu names. A strong collaboration between TRBR and the new Registry Operator is expected to lead to growth of the number of .vu names through international Registrars and resellers across the Internet,” TRBR added.

Over the years and without appropriate laws in Vanuatu, .vu has been at the brunt of domain name abuses, so-called cybersquatting – where ‘squatters’ register and buy domain names cheaply then resell them at higher prices. This emerged as a major concern for the tiny island nation in 2013.

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