SCHOEMANS OFFICE SYSTEMS 50 years and counting

By By Dorcas Mhungu
October 2010
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AT the helm of Schoemans Office Systems (Pty) Ltd in its fiftieth year of uninterrupted service is Theodore Schoeman.

Affectionately known as Theo, Schoeman took Prime Focus down memory lane as he narrated how his parents, Hendrik and Joey hatched the plan to start a venture in office equipment and technology after attending the Sebit Fair in Hanover, Germany in 1958 and seeing the potential of office equipment business.

In July 1960, Schoemans Office Systems (Pty) Ltd opened its doors to the public in Namibia, as a family business dealing mainly with Olivetti typewriters.

Only in 1970 did Olivetti enter the desktop computer market together with HP and Schoemans being an Olivetti agent, in 1972 installed the first desktop computer, which today is the Olivetti Program 101, at Rossing Uranium, then called RTZ Pilot Plant. The computer was used to measure the amount of uranium in a sample. In the same year, the organization embraced the Sharp range.

It was the same time that Theo began his career with the company after graduating from University of Port Elizabeth.

In 1980, IBM introduced the first desktop computer, marking the PC revolution and Schoemans in line with its “leaders” policy bagged the IBM agency.

Theo elaborates the gradual technological evolution and how the company maintained its grip as the leaders of suppliers of office equipment and technology. In 2000, the company added Dell to their growing list of agencies and although Dell later appointed other agencies in Namibia, Schoemans is the only agent that offers warranty and repairs to Dell equipment that is bought from them.

“The policy at Schoemans has always been to make our customers more efficient, more competitive and at the same time grow our business. Because we are leaders in technology in Namibia, and have the best trained technicians in Africa, other organizations now poach our skilled staff,” says Theo adding that Schoemans feels good about the poaching because it is testimony that the organization churns out high quality staff.

Schoemans’ start in typewriters awarded the opportunity to fulfil a government contract that mandated all schools in Namibia to have typewriters. Because it was not practical to supply all the schools with typewriters from Windhoek, Schoemans saw the inevitable need to spread its tentacles to towns outside Windhoek. The organization saw the need to employ locals in these remote areas and the move also catered for employment equity.
It now has branches in Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Oshakati.

The company was tasked with the final responsibility for the installation and support of some 1000 networks and 30 000 PC’s sold in Namibia, where some were implemented in Angola, Botswana and Zambia.

Schoemans now consists of the following divisions:
• Digital Imaging technology that includes photocopying and printing, mail, room equipment, faxes and multi-function units.
• The second division is Separate Scales Division which sells and supports the retail industry, health sector, laboratory scales and general purpose scales that weigh up to 10 000 tons.
• The third division is ICT Schoemans Technologies that deals in IT equipment and solutions, convergence solutions and telecommunication infrastructure.
• The fourth division is the Technology Support Division mandated to support all products sold.

Says Theo, “Employment equity has never been an issue with us because we have taken care of that by employing 70% of previously disadvantaged people over the past 50 years.”

For Schoemans Office Systems (SOS), the future of employment equity lies in diversity management. It calls for adopting one’s organization to the environment in which you are operating and it is vital to have a supportive equity system that earns recognition rather than having punitive laws, says Theo Schoeman.

Over the years, the company embraced the concept of equity employment and has shifted from a family oriented business by engaging outside black directors from other industries.

The benefit that the organization has reaped is the incubation of new ideas that come from the outside directors.

The directors at Schoemans are Dr Ndeutala Angolo, James Hatukulipi, Sacky Shanghala, Henk Schoeman and Johan Engelbrecht.

Schoemans boasts of its pride in being a local investor that is concerned with the welfare of the people of Namibia, contrary to foreign investors who are interested in enriching themselves.

“If it goes well for Namibia, it goes well for Schoemans,” says Theo, adding, “It is imperative for the government of Namibia to infuse the country’s economy with more patriotism.

He also attributes the company’s success to the political stability in the country which he says has been the cornerstone to economic growth.

Two years ago, Schoemans had the vision to get involved in the telecommunications industry to fully address the convergence of technology and solutions.

To them, the convergence of technology means fully integrating the voice and the data, which the company has addressed by supplying wireless networks and long distance backhaul between towers and remote monitoring and management.

“The future is technology and that includes the leaders of the country,” says Schoeman.

Being a founder member of Namidef, the internet development foundation that linked Namibia to the World Wide Web (www), Schoeman challenges future leaders to be science and technology oriented because it is the countries that make the best use of technology that will survive the world economy and the country’s leaders must embrace technology. PF