AfricaLive: Please tell readers a bit about the DNA of HOG Engineering and your motivation for starting the enterprise.
Ziggy James: We were registered as Hour of Grace initially back in 2008, before we decided to abbreviate the name and become HOG Engineering. The company was a general merchant institution at the start, with various product lines such as energy drinks and other multipurpose items. In 2012, we pivoted from general supplies and began specialising in engineering.
Our journey has been difficult as is the norm when it comes to entrepreneurship in Ghana. Startups do not have any access to funding from anywhere other than from their own resources. If you do not have the ability to raise funds on your own then it will be difficult to remain afloat.
In our infancy, we began importing transformers and selling them. This was a challenging product line to maintain because import duties were very unfavourable. To this day, import duties are quite heavy with more people being into importation.
AfricaLive: What are your ambitions, both in the short term and long term, when it comes to trading internationally?
Ziggy James: At the moment, we are into the importation of electrical accessories. We also install the transformers that we source from overseas and cater to various projects that need them. Going forward we are working hard to ensure that we have a manufacturing facility that produces the electrical materials we import from China. The materials we are importing at the moment can be assembled here and we would make lots of savings long term.
Creating partnerships with foreign entities that have the technical expertise would suit us well. The government has a good track record when it comes to promoting manufacturing firms and funneling Ghanaians towards the products of a particular manufacturer. We, therefore, believe starting a manufacturing plant will be beneficial for us, because there is a high chance of government backing.
AfricaLive: What international partnerships both in the region and abroad are you involved with?
Ziggy James: We have cultivated partnerships with Chinese companies who supply most of what we use while also offering support. Immediately after the Covid-19 restrictions are lifted, I expect a delegation from China that will come and conduct a feasibility study for the plant we intend to build. We also work with public entities such as the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG). We hope that when the manufacturing plant is operational, entities like ECG, Gridco and ERA lend their support and patronage. Entities like these that engage in large projects with budgets to match can help elevate us from one level to the next within a short period of time.
AfricaLive: Whom would you say needs your services the most in the Ghanaian market at the moment?
Ziggy James: The utility companies need our services the most because we work hand in hand. Whenever there is a capital project in the country, private licenced contractors are usually highly sought after. We happen to be a private licenced contractor that helps utility companies work better by building up their infrastructure.
AfricaLive: Within Ghana and West Africa, what do you consider to be the primary opportunities and threats facing your sector?
Ziggy James: There is a lack of political will amongst our politicians when it comes to doing the right things for our people. Sometimes you find that worthy companies like us miss out on government tenders while inexperienced and unskilled entities benefit through nepotism and corruption.
AfricaLive: How do you plan to diversify and grow from a company that operates in Ghana to one that has a reach in the region and the entire continent?
Ziggy James: Our proposed production plant is at the centre of our diversification plans. With the plant in place, firms in neighbouring countries will opt to buy from us instead of importing from overseas. Our plant will open us intra-African trade opportunities. The pandemic has slowed down our planning towards the production plant, and things will only get clear once we know the way forward post-Covid.
AfricaLive: What is your approach when it comes to fostering innovation and excellence within your sector?
Ziggy James: We have invested heavily in human capital. Our approach has always been keeping a keen eye on students who are talented and driven. We take them under our wing and give them opportunities to work and learn with them.
AfricaLive: What does an ideal relationship between the private and public sector look like to you?
Ziggy James: That relationship will be enhanced if we get our data right. We must do this by collecting data on all companies and businesses regardless of size. This will help the government know about the best-performing companies and then help them out accordingly. It will also help expand the tax base and raise more revenue since the government at the moment only cracks down on the few registered companies for taxes.
AfricaLive: If you were to bring together Ghana’s leaders from government, higher education, and business to a roundtable meeting held at your HQ – what would be the main item on the agenda?
Ziggy James: I would stress the need to create an enabling business environment and support for business people. The other important issue is policy. Some policies currently in place make things more expensive and more frustrating for importers. I believe there is a lack of knowledge and reluctance to dialogue with importers when it comes to the government and also port officials. We need people that facilitate us not impair us.
AfricaLive: What main message would you like to communicate regarding your company and regarding Ghana?
Ziggy James: I would like to tell investors that HOG Engineering is a company that has competencies that can exceed expectations. I would also tell them that Ghana has some of the best engineering talents in the region and the whole of Africa. Those two reasons for me should make them interested to partner with us and would definitely lead to good returns.