Interview with Leister Sales Manager Africa Rachid Benlakhouy
Rachid Benlakhouy having joined the company back in January 2012 and is now an old hand at LEISTER. In January 2018 he was on a business trip for LEISTER – as he has been doing many times before. This time it was Tanzania. Read the interview with Rachid about this trip here.
He was interviewed by Silke Landtwing, Manager Corporate Communications. She has been at LEISTER since October 2017 and is responsible for corporate communications and various marketing texts.
Rachid, what kind of difficulties do you face when traveling to and around Tanzania?
Firstly, there were problems with the visa. The Tanzanian embassy in Berne no longer issues business visas, so I had to buy one as soon as I arrived. As you can probably imagine, that involved a lot of waiting and standing in line. Obviously I wasn't the only one who had to buy a visa. But the officials there are very friendly and helpful.
Then it took me over an hour to travel about 21 kilometers in a taxi – even though it was a Sunday. The roads in Dar es Salaam are always pretty packed. During the week, you have to factor in even more time – it can take anything from 90 minutes to three hours.
Another major issue is the risk of malaria. You have to be on your guard all the time to minimize the risk of infection.
What sort of precautions do you take?
I always have several anti-mosquito sprays with me and I spray myself several times a day to maintain the protection. I also wear anti-mosquito wristbands at all times and, despite the heat, I generally wear long-sleeved shirts, especially at dusk and in the evening. Ideally, I would spend the whole time in cool, air-conditioned rooms because the cold drives away the mosquitoes, but that isn't possible most of the time – only at night in the hotel room. Luckily, my hotel was right on the sea this time so I could enjoy a mosquito-free dinner in the outdoor restaurant, because they don't like the sea breeze. By the time I got back to my room, just a few meters away from the sea, the air was swarming with them again.
It doesn't sound very pleasant, apart from the dinner by the sea. Are there any highlights on a trip like that? If so, what were the highlights of this trip to Tanzania for you?
Yes there are definitely highlights: I got to see how much has changed for our distributor, for the customers, and for the market since our last visit in August 2017. I always enjoy seeing the beaming faces of the customers and business partners when I show up and offer them solutions and exciting new innovations.
From left to right: Rachid Benlakhouy (Leister AG) with Fransis Mambosasa (fitter) and Edwin Magambo (Nabaki Afrika) in Nabaki's showroom
And of course, as a Sales Manager, it's always a highlight for me when I sell LEISTER machines or devices. This trip was particularly successful for me. For example, we were able to sell a TWINNY S to a fitter who came back for more training. The last time he took part in the training was a year ago. Then a print shop bought a UNIPLAN E from us for welding advertising banners. And an existing customer, who I had a very quick consultation with on my last trip about five minutes before I left, bought a miniwelder geo2. That makes me happy. Not just because that's how I earn a living, but also because I see how excited our customers are and how pleased they are with their new LEISTER product.
Rachid Benlakhouy with Fransis Mambosasa at Nabaki Afrika's training center
And, of course, it's always a highlight to arrive back home, tired but healthy.
I know you have very limited free time on business trips, but did you manage to do anything fun outside of work this time?
Yes I did, which is very unusual because I normally don't go out in the evenings for safety reasons. There's no sofa in my hotel room, so I normally spend my evenings sitting on the bed under the mosquito net watching TV or browsing the Internet. But this time was different – I was invited to play tennis (a grin spreads across his face). The owner of Nabaki Afrika, Hamish Hamilton, invited me to play on his private court in the early evening. Thankfully, business isn't always done in the office – sometimes it's on the golf course or, in this case, on the tennis court. I didn't have any tennis kit with me, but Hamish was kind enough to lend me everything I needed, including shoes.
Hamish Hamilton (owner of Nabaki Afrika) and Rachid Benlakhouy
And who won?
I had to make an effort to prevail this time. There will be a rematch for sure.
Congratulations. It remains exciting. And apart from that, what was your favorite part of this trip to Tanzania?
The fact that every visit brings us a few steps further forward. We get to know new customers, discover new sales channels, and find new approaches which enable us to be even more helpful when it comes to the effective selling of devices and machines. Our support is important because there is still a lack of experience at the local level.
What would you recommend to someone wanting to travel to Tanzania? For example, what food should you definitely try? What are the must-see sights? What should you watch out for? I'm not just thinking of people on business, but those who want to visit Tanzania on holiday as well.
When it comes to food, Indian cuisine is very popular. It's phenomenal in Tanzania and no wonder – there are lots of Indians living in Tanzania and their families have been there for several generations.
And the view of Kilimanjaro. When you land in Arusha you get an amazing view of it. And the landing approach along the coast of Dar es Salaam is so beautiful it never fails to impress.
As for what you should watch out for – as I said before, malaria is a real danger. One bite from an infected mosquito is all it takes. You really need to take it seriously and protect yourself at all times.
And I would say the traffic is a danger as well. Unfortunately, crime is also an issue. I've heard that people are being attacked because thieves want to steal their cash. So I would recommend organizing a taxi straight from the hotel if you want to go anywhere. And it's better to arrive in the daytime if possible.
We're nearly done now. Just one last question: What was the temperature difference when you arrived back in Switzerland in winter?
(laughs) Do you really want to know? In Dar es Salaam it was 30 degrees; in Zurich Kloten it was 5 – 6 degrees.
Welcome back. And thank you for sharing some really interesting insights into your job and your trip. I'm already looking forward to our next interview.
Please contact us if you have any questions to Rachid Benlakhouy or if you would like information about our products. We are looking forward to your e-mail.