DOVES Funeral Services (Pvt) Ltd says it is eyeing regional markets in western and southern Africa as part of its expansion programme, chief executive officer Newton Madzika said this week.
“For the past three months Doves has been doing a market research on which countries to invest. We are exploring possibilities of a funeral assurance plan in South Africa,” he said.
The South African initiative is targeted at Zimbabweans who moved to South Africa due to the prevailing economic environment.
“We are working on a strategic partnership with a funeral parlour in Botswana and interest in Zambia, Angola, Nigeria and Ghana,” Madzika said.
He said Doves would find it difficult to penetrate the Ghanaian market where businesses that are involved in the trade are mostly family run. He said the traditional customs in Ghana also posed a threat to the operation of Doves in that country.
According to the customs of Ghana if a professional dies, the coffin has to be designed in such a way that it reflects the profession of the deceased.
The Doves boss said it would take time for the group to get its foothold in the Ghanaian market, as it had to first understand the prevailing customs.
Madzika said Doves was exploring ways of opening a funeral assurance entity in the United Kingdom to cater for Zimbabweans in that country.
The regional or international expansion would be undertaken through franchising, opening up of new branches and through strategic partnerships.
With 23 branches nationwide, the Doves boss said the group was looking at expanding the branch network to 30 by the end of the year.
On the group’s listing on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, Madzika said Doves had engaged its financial advisors Renaissance Merchant Bank and the group would list on the bourse by the end of the year.
Analysts say if listed the group would complete the turnaround programme from being a funeral business to a public listed entity.
Analysts say Doves’ recent ISO 9001:2000 which made it the first funeral service provider in Africa was a step in the right direction on the turnaround of the group.
Doves was established in 1902 as the first professional funeral service establishment in the country.
In June last year, Doves group changed from being a family business to a corporate entity following its acquisition by Ecofin Venture Capital Finance. Ecofin Venture Capital Finance has business concerns in transport, agriculture and the hospitality industry among others.