Javeh Jafari: Building a Signature Premium Brand within the Personal Health Care Segment

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The lack of locally made products in Zimbabwe’s FMCG market, and almost complete reliance on importation from neighboring countries and other regions, was the main inspiration for Javeh Jafari to come up with quality products for consumers to avail a signature premium brand within the personal health care segment and prove that it can be done locally to the highest international standards if the vision and the right resources are used. Javeh is the founder and CEO of Merken, which is the sole manufacturer of high-quality oral care products in Zimbabwe. Merken’s product portfolio in the country includes a variety of toothpastes, mouthwashes, and toothbrushes. The Zimbabwean government has designated the enterprise as a national project.

Merken; Providing the Best Oral Care Products

Merken Investments (Pvt) Ltd is a privately owned Zimbabwean company and manufacturer of oral care products in Zimbabwe under the registered trade mark of “Merken”. Choosing oral hygiene as the first line of personal health care was also to differentiate the brand by uniquely standing out among the other local brands that produce less complex products such as house detergents or soaps and so on. With Merken, the team has managed to achieve consumer satisfaction with its premium quality products with almost any customer that has switched to its products from the conventional imported brands of the multinationals that they’ve been previously using.

Javeh is closely involved in practically every aspect of Merken’s operation, from client connections to supervising production, processes established, supply chain management, and keeping a close eye on the company’s finances. His responsibilities include developing the company’s short- and long-term plans, as well as creating, planning, implementing, and integrating the company’s strategic direction.

A Success Story has Many Failures

For years, Javeh has worked in a variety of businesses, from tobacco and cigarettes to being an independent business counselor for firms in OOH advertising, mining and processing industries, and renewable energy. Success, according to Javeh, is the point at which you finally manage to make failure history by making the right and different choices; and a successful business is one that, with a persistent focus on its core objectives, progresses forward along the path of past failures to reach its ultimate objectives by consistently making the right choices and generating outcomes.

Every success story, only shows the great outcome but not how much one has invested in time, effort, and work until such goals have been achieved.

According to Javeh, in the Merken story, success actually comes from persistence and the team’s determination to achieve the company’s objectives, and that’s the market share that it has managed to gain by differentiating its products as high-premium quality products while maintaining affordability for the mass, and alongside that, convincing the consumers to trust and gain confidence in local brands and thereon building a loyal customer base nationwide in a span of less than two years.

There have been many proud moments on Merken’s journey. But when, for the first time, Javeh actually saw the company’s products on the main hypermarkets’ shelves next to all the other international brands throughout the country on its nationwide launch that made him feel really proud of the entire Merken family that made the vision a reality.

Every Voice should be Heard

One of the most successful methods to encourage employees, according to Javeh, is to listen to them and make them feel as though their voice will be heard and that attempts will be made to solve their concerns. This will allow them to play a more active role in the operations. Rather than being passive employees who simply follow orders, they will be active employees who can come up with innovative ideas that will benefit the firm. This will also instill confidence in their abilities and boost their self-esteem; once they realize they have room to make errors, they will learn from them, resulting in improved performance and more actively engaged workers.

Javeh feels choices are the ultimate fundamental of success and that will be, by choosing persistence. As a business leader, one has to make the choice to not give up. Persistence and determination to succeed are two of the most important pillars of success in order to thrive in life and business, because they work in tandem and are inextricably linked to personal development and improvement from past failures. He asserts, “When one learns from experiences and moves on by progressing and making better appropriate choices and by determination on achieving the goals and not giving up on them, success is certainly assured.”

Choosing to Keep Moving Forward

One of Merken’s major shortcomings, according to Javeh, accrued at the peak of the Valley of Death during its development, was its reliance on third-party corporations for nationwide distribution and product marketing. This was confining the company’s revenue stream to a single source, leaving it vulnerable. He says, “The main affect was seen during the COVID-19 pandemic almost immediately after our launch when, due to national lockdowns, we weren’t able to supply our customers or any other potential new customers as we’ve had to follow and entirely adapt to the working routine of our third parties’ distribution networks.”

Merken’s management has had to build its own in-house distribution network by recruiting nationwide merchandisers and logistics personnel, as well as training them on Merken’s products, core values, and customized CRM on a regular basis. This allowed the firm to reach clients all across the country, far beyond the traditional clientele they had previously served, and to maintain a continuous supply in order to establish a larger, more loyal customer base.

Another stumbling block, according to Javeh, was the pandemic’s impact on the worldwide supply chain across several industries. The issue was made worse by the quick rise in international transportation costs, which pushed commodities prices to one of their all-time highs, which is still rising. As a result, Merken has begun to source and secure its raw materials within its own region, rather than looking beyond its continent, in order to reduce shipping costs and supply lead-times, which were not only affecting its production but also necessitating an increase in the company’s working capital.

Merken continues to invest in extending and increasing its intellectual property by inventing more unique and new premium products that differentiate themselves from traditional brands in terms of quality, innovative packaging, naturalness, and environmental friendliness. As a local manufacturer, it has the benefit of being able to quickly adapt to custom goods for clients based on their needs.

Stick to the Plan

When it comes to achieving work-life balance, Javeh feels it all simply comes down to time management and keeping to plans; time management may be short-term or long-term. “Prioritizing time for both personal and professional life, based on my energy peaks and troughs, by ensuring that when unexpected personal issues arise, they are addressed as top priority; otherwise, if one doesn’t take care of “me time,” including self, family, and health, then there will be no successful business to go back to,” says Javeh.

A Leading Producer of Premium Quality Health Care Products

Merken’s aim is to be a catalyst for change in the regional market by developing a holistic, long-term business model that inspires, encourages, and supports real wellbeing and respect for all living things and the planet Earth. In terms of goods, the firm aspires to be a leading manufacturer of high-quality health-care items that go beyond oral care. Personally, Javeh wants Merken to become an African brand for the entire African continent; “A Proudly African Brand“.