A humble, focused, hands-on lady, Nona Chili is guiding Makwande Supply and Distribution to be an important player in the local fuel-distribution sector. That she has a trusted partner like Scania South Africa at her side doesn’t hurt, either
Chili says that she fell into the fuel-transportation sector by default, but, listening to this intrepid CEO’s story, it seems more like a natural progression. Her career as a crude-oil trader began some 20 years ago and, in 2006, she opened Makwande Energy Trading – a crude-oil and products trading company.
By 2009 the need for diversification into the transport sector was identified, and so Makwande Supply and Distribution was established to transport fuel by road tankers. By 2012, after transporting on an ad hoc basis for the oil industry, with second-hand trucks, the company was able to buy its first two new trucks, thanks to the assistance of Scania South Africa.
“No bank would finance us for ad hoc contracts; they wanted security. When we engaged with Scania, we were doing small deliveries to mines, and they didn’t know us at all, but they expressed confidence in how we were growing our business and we got a positive response,” she explains.
Naas Burger, key account manager for Fleet Sales at Scania South Africa, explains that, to Scania, financing is not just about selling an asset: “We specialise in transport – it’s a total cost of operation solution that ensures competitive running costs and maximum uptime.”
Today the company operates 27 Scania horses, all pulling fuel tankers, which run to various regions of the country. Burger notes that these are full ADR-spec vehicles that feature safety systems like airbags and advanced electronic braking systems with radar. “They are perfectly suited to work in the fuel industry,” he notes.
Similarly, for Chili, operating in the high-risk hazchem environment means doing things correctly. The company follows strict systems, especially in terms of health, safety and the environment (HSE).
“There needs to be an understanding of the products, how to transport them and manage the trucks – all within the bigger picture of HSE. You cannot take shortcuts, because there are huge risks,” she notes.
In this regard, Makwande prioritises fleet management. “The vehicles are fitted with the Control Package of Scania’s Fleet Management System, which allows us to build a history of each truck as well as conduct driver, fuel and technical monitoring. Furthermore, our driver trainers have all been trained by Scania. Scania’s repair and maintenance plans help ensure our trucks don’t suffer technical problems, and also help us manage costs.”
All these elements contribute to what Chili enjoys most about the transport industry – the excitement.
“This industry keeps you on your toes – once you’re in transport, it’s an addiction. You’re under pressure to succeed. It’s hectic, but rewarding!” she comments, adding that it’s not a journey one can undertake alone…
“The support you get from your team, mentors and trusted partners like Scania makes all the difference,” she says.
“We stay in contact on a monthly basis to ensure that the customer is happy with the support they are getting from our aftersales team, as well as to answer any queries they may have. We regularly engage from a driver-training perspective, to ensure that Makwande’s drivers are at the top of their game,” Burger adds.
As one of Chili’s passions is to provide mentorship, what advice would she give to young women who may also want to prove themselves in the industry?
“This is a woman’s space, too. Perceptions can be a hindrance and often people fail, before trying,
because of fear. If you set your mind to it and focus, you can do it,” she explains.
Wise words from a lady who’s a transport natural.