When a young man working as a miner in apartheid South Africa, Khei Modiagane, 54, decided that working was not for him he came home in 1979 to start a taxi business.
“I’m a business man at heart,” says the Gabane father of four. Modiagane talks of his journey since 1980 when he started ferrying people around in his first taxi to the first filling station in Gabane, which he has just opened.
“I saw that my General Dealer, Gabane Supermarket was not doing so well since Choppies arrived in Gabane and thought I should open a filling station next to it to improve business,” he says from his office at his shopping complex in Gabane where the filling station is located. He has been operating the shop since 2007.
“Choppies is not good for our small shops because when it opened, customers migrated and our stock now expires in the shop. I’m soon going to have to close shop,” he further states.
Two weeks ago Vivo Energy launched his filling station; the first Shell garage in Gabane and the only filling station in the village.
Gabane which is just a few kilometers from Gaborone has become attractive to people working in the city seeking cheaper accommodation. “We were suffering to get fuel. One had to drive to Mogoditshane to get fuel and it was costly because of the amount of fuel we used to and from. It wasn’t easy to get this filling station off the ground, but eventually with the help of Vivo Energy and National Development Bank, I won the uphill battle,”
Modiagane says looking up in recollection.While running the taxi business in the 80’s, Modiagane decided that it was time to go into a different business. He says; “It was too demanding. I couldn’t even attend to my moraka and other areas of my life.”
In 2002 after selling the taxi business Modiagane started a poultry business which also turned out to be too demanding. In his search for the perfect less demanding business he later opened Gabane Supermarket which he has been running successfully until the giant, Choppies arrived in the village and took his customers.
The versatile business man says he has held ambitions of opening a filling station since 2004 and has been trying to get it off the ground without much success, but when Choppies came and his supermarket was threatened he intensified his efforts. “The biggest challenge was the land board who took over a year to make a decision to let me go ahead with my plans.
Those people never made a decision.
I would go to Molepolole every three months to be told the same story that they had not yet made a decision. It was like I was forcing people to do something that had never been done before.
I even attempted to get financing before I could get the letter of commitment.
Well, that didn’t work. “There was also the issue of the Environmental Impact Assessment. Even people are now happy to have a filling station in the village, at first some were skeptical saying the fuel station would pose an explosion risk.
I never gave up but kept on trying.“My persistence eventually paid off and I now get people expressing their gratitude for the convenience.
The business is doing well and I haven’t run into any challenges yet. Though Shell is not the first I tried for, it turns out people are very excited to have Shell Extra fuel.”
After knocking on doors of other filling station brands marketers and being told that they couldn’t open in Gabane, Modiagane thanks God for Shell and says; “It’s like God had reserved Shell for me. People love it and the guys at Vivo were welcoming and very helpful.”
Modiagane is confident of the future. “Motorists queue for the three pumps that we have and I’m already thinking about installing two other pumps so my customers don’t wait for too long. I’m also thinking about opening a Shell Select Store to replace my dying supermarket.”
Modiagane has 18 employees working for his company, Nikomi Enterprise which runs the supermarket, shopping complex and filling station.
When he is not working on his business, he says he loves going to his animals in the cattle post where he also rests.