The office, located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, was opened in June and is part of a strategic expansion that has been in the works since 2013, when Ronen Blum was brought on board as Regional Sales Manager for Africa. “Africa is a sleeping giant,” explains Ronen, “but what we are seeing is growing political stability, and governments encouraging foreign investment by way of privatization. This is especially true in Ethiopia, where its capital Addis Ababa plays the role of continental capital.” Not only is Addis Ababa a major transport hub for the entire continent, it is also where the African Union has its headquarters, as well as the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and other continental and international organizations. As such, it is a cosmopolitan center, advanced in terms of trade and Western business practices. The office is manned by two representatives; Biniam Shumet, a biomedical engineer, who will serve as Technician, and Ephrem Tesfaye, an engineer, who will serve as Sales Manager.
Although Tuttnauer is not new to the African market, the sales office will dramatically increase growth potential in Ethiopia, where over 200 autoclaves have been sold to date. Until now, sales have either been direct, by way of government tender, or through local distributors. In any event, the private sector remained largely untapped due to regulations which require a local registered presence. “Now we have feet on the ground, actively knocking on doors,” says Ronen. Perhaps even more significant is the ability to provide local training and post sales support such as parts and repairs, which goes a long way in building credibility especially for large government tenders. The fact that registration and receiving the appropriate permits was extremely difficult, according to Ronen, may actually work in the Company’s favor. Few competitors have a local presence, and in a business culture that emphasizes loyalty, Tuttnauer’s first mover advantage may very well secure its position as a leading supplier.
Aside from Ethiopia, Ronen has been busy developing contacts in Ivory Coast and French West Africa, where the Company’s market presence is minimal. “Currently, sales are handled by the European office, but we need to partner with local dealers and translate our materials into French,” he explains. “The potential is huge because of the overall lack of players.” To that end Ronen has hired Dr. Sombie Abou, a local pharmacist, as the new Sales Manager for the region. In addition, Ronen is working with Eyal Marom, owner of a medical supply company and business consultant, to develop a dealer network in Nigeria.