Local entrepreneur turns plant fluid into diesel

Lucas ketelo

Aziki Green, a biodiesel manufacturing company, aims to tap into South Africa’s migration to cleaner sources of energy by increasing its production capacity. Zinhle Motsepa, Transform SA Online’s field reporter, chats to the company’s managing director, Lucas Khetelo, to learn more about the company’s business, its vision and his views on supporting small businesses.

TSAO: Briefly tell us about Aziki Green’s business specialty.

LK: Aziki Green is a company that specialises in the production of biodiesel. Aziki is a Swahili word which means success, which is what we devotedly aspire for. Our business involves turning trash into cash. Our main raw material is used vegetable oil. However, we also use fresh oil, at times, though it is more expensive.

TSAO: What influence did your childhood have on your involvement in entrepreneurship?

LK: I have always been business-minded person since I was a young boy growing up in Alexandra Township. During my primary school years I used sell marbles to my peers. I was never interested in staying indoors, I always wanted to be outside and explore and learn new things.  My entrepreneurship peaked in high school, where I sold biscuits; at one stage I had people selling biscuits for me.  I turned to selling things on my own was because I felt that I couldn’t ask my mother for any form of assistance she was overwhelmed with responsibilities.

TSAO: What do you suggest the country should do to nurture the growth of SMMEs, as it seems that current methods are not just enough?

LK: The main obstacle to the growth of SMMEs in South Africa is red-tape that one has to endure just to register a business – something in other countries takes a matter of hours.

Also allow me to explain, that, contrary to perception, we South Africans are not lazy. What we need the most is support. I also beg to differ that the majority of us do not have an entrepreneurial attitude. They do want to become entrepreneurs but they are put off by obstacles.

TSAO: In your opinion, what is the main obstacle that hinders people from starting their own businesses?

LK: The biggest obstacle is lack or little access to sources of financing.  As an entrepreneur with a brilliant business idea, I apply for assistance explaining every single detail, but my application is turned down, because I lack the collateral that they need. So I will remain with just a business idea which won’t be turned into reality.

TSAO: What is the one thing you would like to see changing when it comes to lending institutions financing entrepreneurs?

LK: I would like institutions to start believing in us as small entrepreneurs, allow us to fail as it is part of learning. On the other hand, I am aware that, as financiers, they have to analyse the risk attached to the business. Hence, I am not saying that they disburse funds into any business that comes along, but they should give us some assistance to find out feet and blossom.  Institutions should engage with small companies that are doing well and prospective entrepreneurs to find out what role they can play.

TSAO: How many employees does Aziki have? Any plans to employ more in future?

LK: Currently, we don’t have fulltime employees on our payroll. We only work with four freelancers, but there is a scope of having fulltime employees in the coming months. We are aware that there is a problem of rising unemployment and would like to play a part in tackling it.

TSAO: Where would you like to see Aziki in the coming years?

LK: The Company’s vision is to develop and establish the methodology and physical plant required to manufacture and convert large quantities of used oil and other materials into Biodiesel. The Company is dedicated to providing the open market with a clean alternative form of energy for daily use among consumers.

To be authentic to the vision, stay true and be the first choice of alternative fuel in AFRICA in the next 10 years (#ALITRE@ATIME)

As one can see, our vision statement vividly spells out where we want to be in the coming years. We want to create a big firm that will mass-produce biodiesel to cater for a big market through an extensive network of distributors. We won’t only use used vegetable oil but other raw materials as well.

TSAO: Who and what inspires you as a business person?

LK: Honestly, I am inspired by a lot of people and circumstances. My background also played a significant part in shaping me. I also draw inspiration from both fellow entrepreneurs and even older ones like my technology partner. I am greatly indebted to my technology partner for mentoring me. He made me who I am. It goes to show that it is better to seek guidance from someone well-versed in the industry in which you are.

TSAO: Last but not least, what is your opinion on the topic of transformation in South Africa?

LK: I suppose…by that you refer to socio-economic transformation. Social-economic transformation has never been more relevant than it is now, judging from what the country is undergoing economically. However, for it to be fully comprehended by even ordinary South Africans it needs to be articulated clearly in layman’s terms.

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