Grant Aids Export Packaging Firm



A small agriculture based business will soon be able to comply with international standards and expand its export market after being awarded the National Export Strategy (NES), grant to buy new machinery.
Zonah United’s managing director, Naheeda Maqbool, the grant of over $85,879 will enable her to acquire new machinery and hire permanent staff as she was previously only using casual staff.
The passionate entrepreneur, who is from Suva and still in her 20’s, began her business back in 2012 armed with a Bachelor in Commerce (BCom) degree and support from her family. Today, Ms Maqbool’s company exports certain spices overseas and with the installation of the new machines she hopes to employ women in positions that are normally set aside for men. “It’s been in our environment that certain jobs have just been men oriented and we want to change that, from loaders to truck drivers, staff in the factory, we want to it ladies.” “Why can’t rural women do that? Behind our companies vision is women empowerment,” she said.
Ms Maqbool, explaining her current operations, said Zonah United does its own small scale processing but to meet the basic international standard it will need the machinery so now they will be doing their own packaging, grinding and filling for “retail package of agricultural products that is going onto the shelves in markets overseas”.
Minister for Industry, Trade and Tourism, Premila Kumar, as she handed over the NES to five local companies, said the assistance will be used solely for the upgrading of infrastructure, procurement of value adding machines, equipment and addressing storage problems. “In addition, the grants will also enable the respective companies to reach out to grass root communities and villages who may have goods, but have no market access because of transportation problems,” Minister Kumar said. Ms Maqbool also has some advice for young Fijians. “The thing with business, when they say you just need to have an idea and need to just work towards it- I would say you need the idea and the cash. In Fiji, for start-ups it’s not that easy to get funding so you need to know if you have the capability to take the risk to put down whatever you have earned into the business- whether it is going to be a failure or a success, you have to be ready for that. If you are ready for that, go for it but also, if you have family support, then well and good.” Another sobering fact is, she explained, is that you don’t start seeing profits overnight.
“On your returns, when people say that they can recoup their investments overnight, it’s actually not true as far as my experience goes. In business, when I got into it I knew I won’t see the profits in three to five years. You need at least three years to establish yourself, you need to roll, you need to come across your expenses, you need to work towards it and this is where the rolling skill comes in, how you utilise the funds.”
On the assistance, she was advised by Investment Fiji and other Government officials on the availability of the facility. Minister Kumar said as an ongoing exercise, the Ministry conducted an impact assessment of 46 companies that were supported since 2015. She said the assessment revealed that majority of the grant given to these companies, were well utilized. “This is an indication that firms have been implementing their projects in a timely manner, thus the positive outcome. The export sales for the firms before being assisted was $42.4 million. The export sales after being assisted by the Ministry increased to $79.6 million.” The other companies assisted were Bula Batiki Association, Civa (Fiji) Pearls Ltd, Paper Source South Pacific (PTE) Ltd and Tropical Aquarium Fish (Fiji).