W/ro Genet Berhe, Owner and General Manager, ZLN General Business PLC, has been engaged in exporting packed Injera to Sweden, America and some African countries. The company is pioneer for it has implemented the modern innovative vacuum packing technology that keeps Injera fresh and safe for three months without losing its taste, appearance and freshness. Our staff writer, Fekadu Abiye sat with Genet and discussed her company establishment, its packing technology and produced the following excerpts.
Q.Who is W/ro Genet Berhe?
I was born in Addis, Merkato, and the largest open air market in the continent. I am one of the 12 children in my family. I attended my elementary class at Catholic Cathedral School then I joined the then General Winget School. I did not continue my further education but got married at my early age and then went to Sweden.
Q The phrase ‘It is impossible for me’ is common in the minds and souls of many Ethiopian women. Do you believe in this thought?
We Ethiopian women develop this stigma from our family and the society at large.It seriously affected our journey to success. I confirmed you that the traditional thought that grew in our mothers’ mind kept them subservient of their husbands. But now thanks to education and modernization, a big change has occurred. Saying this, it does not mean that we have gone miles. Still, it is a beginning work on the area and this should be encouraged to drive out the negative thoughts from the generation’s mind. I am against this traditional tough and I struggle to create a change in my life. I developed in a society where the jargon was commonly accepted but the patience and my personal passion developed from the Swedish life of engaging myself giving care to old people that gave birth to ZLN General Business P.L.C. Company.
Q. Tell us about ZLN General P.L.C. Company and its products
My company namedZLN General Business PLC .ZLN is an abbreviation compiled by taking thefirst letters from the names of my daughters. Zstands for my first child Zyaid, L stands for my second child Lydia, andN stands for Nathanya. The reason I called my company in the name of my children is becauseI was always thinking about them when I think about business.Three of them are my inspiration and energy in all my ways.
It is established in 2010, ZLN General Business PLC works on packing and exporting a traditional staple food, ‘Injera’. It operates with a share capital of 4.5 million Ethiopian Birr .We export our products to Europe, America and some African countries under the brand “Mesob” a symbol of product quality, freshness and its reliability. It runs with 12 employees and has the production capacity of baking and packing 3000 Injera per day. We began the work exporting packed Injera to Ethiopian and Somali people living in Sweden.
Q. What makes your company different from other Injera exporting companies?
It is known that there are many Injera exporters in Addis. But ZLN General Business P.L.C. product is different as we apply a Swedish technology that helps the output remain fresh for three months without getting spoiled. This is achieved because the vacuum packing technology inhibits the growth of bacteria that cause get spoil. Besides gas testing equipment also keeps its high standards of freshness and quality. Integrated with our packing and operation units, and our food safety management system that records and controls to ensure traceability for all of our products makes us different.
Q How is business in Ethiopia when compared with the trends of doing business you developed while you were living in Sweden?
Before I explain about business situation in Ethiopia, let me tell you about the Swedish business environment. In Sweden banks are always open to any entrepreneur to give credit service who came with a sound business proposal. Moreover, to get a trade license there is no need for the investor to go in person to different offices. Rather, it is through online application that you get your license. Although I do not dare for this to be applied in our country presently, from my observation and engagement in the area in Addis, I also saw lots of developments. Business in Addis is more than my expectation. By the time I started processing to get trade license, I was afraid that every road leads me to difficulty. But in actual situation I have not faced bureaucratic procedures that touched my feeling and I met willing individuals who were ready to serve me.
Q Celebrating International Women’s Day the Addis Ababa Chamber organized Women networking workshop and in this workshop you were inspired while introducing your products to the audience. What motives drives you to do so?
You are right I get impressed by the phrase “Grip the opportunity” which was forwarded by Wr/o Mulu Solomon, President of the National Chamber and the renowned business women. As I understood the phrase give lessons to Ethiopian women in different walks of life to knock the opportunity door to be successful in their life, realize their dream and develop professional career.