When hit with a global pandemic and the associated lockdowns mere months after launching in South Africa, coupled with a traditional dealer network unresponsive to new entrants and challenger brands, Petrocam Lubricants adopted an innovative approach to challenging the status quo and started selling its premium lubricants direct to the public through online store Takealot.com.
Petrocam is an established and respected brand in West Africa, where it’s not uncommon to see its branded filling stations, but when it launched its lubricants division in South Africa, this African reputation did not automatically translate into South African retailers and distributors rushing to stock a more affordable product that packs a similar quality as multinational incumbents.
“If anything, the pandemic has shown us the value of innovation and using technology to connect with consumers wherever, whenever, on a device of their choice. Being lean and agile, we decided to do just that: prove our product with end users,” says Petrocam CFO Ridwan Gany.
“We are a proudly African brand with high quality lubricants that compete with the best anywhere in the world. The pandemic hitting soon after our South African launch last year exacerbated the challenges of breaking into existing distribution and wholesale models. But what other organisations would have considered insurmountable challenges, we identified as an opportunity to go beyond the way things have always been done and embrace a mindset reflective of the connectedness of our customers,” says Gany.
In Takealot.com, Petrocam has been able to use the country’s largest online store to not only build brand exposure in South Africa, but to also give consumers the opportunity to experience the product and cost benefits of the lubricants for themselves. Of course, while other brands are also available on Takealot.com, these are through a distributor network and not direct from the supplier to the consumer, which Gany says is a deliberate choice – to connect with the customer.
“To date, the response from the South African public has been overwhelmingly positive. And not selling through an intermediary means Petrocam can be more flexible when it comes to product pricing. What makes Petrocam unique in Africa is that it owns the entire value chain from product development through to distribution. This ensures the consumers always get the most affordable price for one of the most technically advanced lubricants available in the market today,” adds Gany.
Such has the success of the online distribution been that the Petrocam Full Synthetic 5w40 lubricant has received five-star ratings from Takealot.com customers. And even though Petrocam Lubricants has only been selling products online since July this year, its sales have been steadily increasing surpassing how a typical motor spares retailer would perform.
“The ongoing growth reflects just how hungry South African consumers are for a new product that combines superior performance at an exceptional price point – which validates our market research and why we entered the market.
“Petrocam has had a tremendous response to both its full synthetic range and gear oils from Takealot.com customers. Online is the future of trading and it allows a more innovative way of building a brand. That is important to us. Customers need choice and they need brands with which they can connect. We are excited about where this strategy will take us,” concludes Gany.