Fuelling Botswana one tanker at a time
Three years ago, Rebaone Emmanuel Seema traded the high life of expensive suits and jet-setting across 16 countries in four continents mingling with the business elite for overalls and work-boots – and he hasn’t been happier.
The feisty Seema worked cushy jobs that opened doors for him to the outside world switching between countries such as Dubai, Brazil, Peru, France, and Canada.
In Africa, Emmanuel, as his Grandmother still calls him, has worked in Egypt, Central African Republic and Rwanda amongst a plethora of others.
Now the Mahalapye native has retreated back home and is working on a legacy of his own with the newly found Seema Tankers, a fuel transporting industry.
The 40-year-old father of four lets The Voice’s Lame Modise into his world as he explains exactly how he intends to shape up the local petroleum delivery industry, which his company, Seema Tankers joined three years ago.
Q: How have your travels influenced the person you are?
A: I believe today I am a better person because of the experiences and different attitudes that I encountered on my business exploits while at LHS, a Peruvian company with projects as far as Brazil.
Having to manage a project in Brazil while stationed in Peru meant long hours of travel; the language barrier was also a problem.
Q: And how did you deal with this barrier?
A: I mitigated this by finding ways of getting through to the people.
I took evening Spanish classes and became very fluent in the language.
Q: Really, can you say a few words in Spanish?
A: (laughs) My Spanish is rusty, it has been a while since I came back home and I have forgotten most of the language!
Q: How did you and the family cope with your globetrotting?
A: Being away from home was always frustrating to all involved.
I would often leave my family for months at a time and that would be really painful.
The silver lining in the situation was that my family would visit me wherever I would be and get to experience the cultures and attitudes of the people in the countries that I travelled and worked at.
Q: Considering you had been in ICT and worked for corporations like Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC), what sparked your interest in the petroleum industry?
A: I had worked all over the world and wanted to come home.
I pondered on business ideas I could do and realised that there were not many Batswana in the fuel transport industry.
It took me a good three years to get to where we are as Seema Tankers – we are already in line to compete with the country’s largest fuel supplier.
Q: Had you always known you’d be a petroleum industry player?
A: No! All I knew was that I would eventually have an establishment of my own and create a legacy for my children.
Going into a business that was totally different from what I had studied (BSc Computer Science at Botswana Accountancy College (BAC)) and practiced in my career (ICT Specialist) was quite challenging.
I had to do extensive research into this new business venture and it took almost two-and-a-half years.
Seema Tankers has only been in operation since mid 2017 and is gaining traction and momentum because it has a sturdy foundation based on research and bench-marking from large industry players.
Q: How has the transition from ICT to Petroleum Logistics been thus far?
A: The journey has not been easy. I have had to self-finance and go as far as the United Arab Emirates and China looking for the right tools for the trade as well as further insight into the business.
I am thankful to my wife who believed in my vision and supported me through the whole journey.
Q: Seema Tankers is your biggest operation – exactly how big is it?
A: Seema Tankers currently operates one 50 000litre capacity tanker that has to date supplied over six million litres of product to places as far as Sekoma and Ramokgwebana since we started operation in June 2017.
Q: Where do you intend to take Seema Tankers after it has gained momentum in the country?
A: We have actually established a relationship with some businesses in the fuel industry in Zimbabwe and Zambia and intend to establish a footprint in at least one of the countries in the next five years.
Q: What else are you doing in terms of business ventures?
A: I have another business operation in Phakalane Acacia Mall, Seema Wash Bay, which is an upmarket car wash outlet that has been well accepted in the Phakalane community and surrounding areas such as Oodi and Mochudi.
The Seema’s are also into farming with a sizeable stock of breeding cattle.
Q: What does Seema Wash Bay offer that sets it apart from other car wash outlets in the city?
A: I believe in hands-on operation in all that one does because customers really appreciate knowing the owners of the establishment are visible and not behind the scenes.
I don’t have a problem with wearing boots and overalls and putting in some elbow grease to show employees how things should be done (laughs).
Even at Seema Tankers, I am hands on and actually take some trips with the drivers to pick and drop the product.
Q: Are there any expansion plans for the car wash business?
A: There obviously are some plans to expand going into the future.
We are actually looking at malls being built along the Mohembo and Charleshill border posts.
We have seen these opportunities from a survey we’ve conducted and have realised that there is a lot of traffic along those routes and therefore we need to place ourselves strategically for maximum returns.
Q: Do you have expansion plans into the city, with regards to the car wash?
A: Yes, there is a lot of room for growth and partnership opportunities with car wash owners in strategic places that are not well set up like ours.
Q: How do you intend to run these partnerships without swallowing the individual run businesses?
A: One of the advantages that these ‘individual run’ businesses have is that they are in commercially strategic places.
Seema Wash Bay then brings in a new look and a level of professionalism to the establishment for maximum profits.
I wouldn’t want to take a business opportunity from an individual who is trying to make a living – hence the partnerships and not a total buy out.
Q: You seem passionate about entrepreneurship especially amongst the youth, what advancements have you made in that regard?
A: I am an entrepreneur and believe in the power it has in creating employment. Currently, I have 22 permanent employees and some on a casual basis between my two operations.
I will hire more as the businesses grow and will simultaneously improve the lives of Batswana.
In promoting entrepreneurship, I have an open door policy to all aspiring entrepreneurs who might need help in starting up any kind of business.
I have been fortunate enough to have been assisted by people I had never met and extend the same to anyone who might need my help.
Q: What is your advice to anyone who might be thinking of starting a business?
A: Identify the right people, share your thoughts with people whom you know will support you – for me that person was my wife.
She continues to give support and pushes me to work hard and achieve my goals.
Q: It is Friday, what are your weekend plans?
A: I typically work seven days a week. I spend my Saturday mornings at the car wash and alternate by going to the office to work on the following week’s uplifts (collections) and delivery schedules as well as my Bulk Vehicle Operators (BVO) assignment.
I also have a debriefing of the past week’s operations and the coming week’s plan and schedule.