Prakmat Convenience Centre — celebrating a milestone

2018-11-21 06:00
General manager James Elisha with the first shift employees.PHOTOS: jyothi laldas

General manager James Elisha with the first shift employees.PHOTOS: jyothi laldas

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PRAKMAT Convenience Centre (Engen) Stanger Manor has long served the community as the service station of choice in the area.

Five years ago, two employees at Engen Petroleum Ltd, Penny Ngcongo and Caroline Ligwa realised their dream of one day owning their very own service station.

They made applications for various service stations in pursuit of their dream.

“Our journey started with our first application which was in 2010, unfortunately we didn’t have enough collateral and we were not short listed.

“A few declined applications later, Prakmat Convenience Centre came up for sale. We confidently applied having learnt a few things from the previous declined applications. After struggling with putting together the required unencumbered cash by the franchisor, we were finally appointed as the dealers,” said Ligwa.

This year they celebrate their five year anniversary with Prakmat Convenience Centre - which offers a filling station, quick shop, bakery and car wash - and reaching this milestone was not an easy road.

“We can say that we got a baptism of fire, when we bought the business we believed that it was pumping certain volumes and just before we started, a competitor that had closed down for over 10 years suddenly opened and that put serious strain on our finances as the projected income was much less than the actual income. The business didn’t have a dedicated operator for a few years before we took over so there was no staff morale, the business wasn’t looked after and there was so much that needed to be done,” said Ngcongo.

However, after struggling for the first few months through the teething stages, the two-woman team had grown the business by over 20% of its volumes and significantly reduced their staff turnover.

“We have built relationships with the locals and the surrounding businesses and organisations, and this has contributed to our growth,” said Ngcongo.

Speaking about the businesses greatest achievements, Ligwa said: “In a forever changing, volatile market, we have grown the business when the markets a going down. We have been selected in the top three service stations in KZN by Engen and we have maintained an A level position for three years in a row with Engen Retail Standards Compliance.”

A strong propeller for Prakmat Convenience Centre is their belief that they do more than just sell fuel.

“People often says that fuel is fuel and it’s basically the same no matter where you fill up. We have differentiated ourselves to be the service station of choice by offering an exceptional customer service experience that is consistent, quality fuel, wide offerings and a clean service station and accommodating, friendly staff. We pride ourselves in the brand that we operate under, which is the leader in the oil industry Engen. Engen truly lives its pay off line ‘With us you are number one’,” said Ligwa.

Speaking about Prakmat Convenience Centre’s location,

Ngcongo said the service station is situated in a prime spot.

“It is a perfect location as it catches trade from the residents in Stanger Manor and there are a few schools and businesses in the area. We also service travellers who are connecting from the N2 to Greytown via the artery road R74. Residents, governmental departments, construction companies, businesses and taxis from the surrounding areas such as Madundube, Glendale and Maphumulo use the R74 to Stanger and they all use our service station.”

The ladies run their business with a simple ethos, provide quality products and services to customers, make sure that the customer is number one, ensure that the customer’s expectation is met and exceeded and uphold the Engen brand, and adhere to its slogan, “With us you are number one”.

Prakmat Convenience Centre employs a diverse team who are eager to provide the best service with a friendly disposition.

“So at the top is Penny and I as directors, James Elisha is our general manager.

We have five supervisors from the different departments, we have seven staff members in the bakery, eight in the car wash, nine in the quick shop and 19 in the forecourt,” said Ligwa.

According to Ngcongo their customers choose Prakmat Convenience Centre over their competitors because of the dynamic service that they offer customers.

“It’s the cleanliness of the service station, the quality of our product and the brand that we trade under, Engen is a strong brand, this is what differentiates us and this is why we are the service station of choice to our customers.”

Looking to the future, the ladies see the service station growing even further.

“We envision wider offerings to customers, a one-stop convenience shopping experience. This type of business will definitely grow as more people are buying cars.

“In the next few months we are going to be revamped, meaning, the site will be totally knocked down from the tanks underground for a new forecourt. It’s a huge project that we have been waiting on for a few years now. We are going to be upgraded to a 1 PLUS tier. It’s going to be a totally new business with better offerings. We are also looking at expansion as business women and acquiring more service stations in the near future. We would like to grow our portfolio and build an empire,” Ligwa said.

The ladies expressed their gratitude to their customers who are the reason they have come this far.

“Prakmat Convenience Centre would not be where it is now without its customers. We truly appreciate the support we get from our customers. When we started five years ago we didn’t know that we would be so welcomed and supported by customers and staff. We promise to be always there to listen to the needs of our customers and providing the excellent customer service experience they have come to know at our service station. We will continue to support the schools and institutions that we have been supporting throughout the years.”

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