Karakulia resurrected

A business with an international reputation of producing the finest of woven rugs and carpets has Moses Helao at its helm and he has taken it by storm.

With heritage sprouting from 1979, Swakopmund-based Karakulia Weavers was established by an English lady from Wales, UK, with the aim to create jobs for the locals and put Namibia on the world map.

“Over the years, Karakulia Weavers has built a name for itself to the many foreign visitors who attend our workshops and our exhibitions throughout the world,” beams Helao.

Helao, now the director of Karakulia, had it coming to him due to his persistance and endurance. Born 40 years ago in Okongo, Ohangwena, Helao managed to waltz up the ladder in the weaving business from a general cleaner, to an incumbent director of the company.

Although he is currently at the reigns of one of the oldest and most famous companies in Swakopmund, this once prolific company closed down in 2006 after being sold by the management.

Helao, realising the opportunity, decided to resurrect the business, which he had worked for since 1991. At first, he tried and failed to attain a DBN loan after his business proposal fell through. Through trial and error and an astute decision to re-strategise the business plan, it all paid off as Helao had his loan approved last year.

“Since I took over last year, my target has been marketing in countries such as Germany, the UK, Austria, Australia, New Zealand , USA, Belgium and Repulic of South Africa,” states Helao.

With the company exporting 80% of its products to most european countries, it seeks to make its foot marks on the rest of the european countries as stated by the director. At the moment, Karakulia Weavers has a strong hold on Spain and Germany and has agents representing it in Europe.

In terms of assistance, the man in charge elaborates how not only has his patience and hard work aided in the resurrection but “last year, Karakul Board of Namibia helped Namibian weavers by funding our stands at Namibia Tourism Expo and this year, the board aslo gave us a 50% funding for the same. The Government (the Ministry of Trade and Industry) has tried its best to help SMEs and to make sure that we get a market,” elaborates Helao.

The weaving business is not easy to handle but is better to operate, especially when there is a hands-on experience and workers have a passion for the arts. The weaving process includes a vigorous process, which includes the carding, spinning, dyeing and weaving of pure Karakul wool into rugs and wall hangings.

Raw materials are obtained from using the wool from the local Karakul farms that have an agreement with the Karakul Board of Namibia to sort and market all Karakul pelts and the cotton yarns they get from South Africa.

With every business, challenges are often encountered and Helao stresses how with Karakulia Weavers, he has experienced marketing difficulties, as the business is in its infancy. Again, having resurrected a dying business, he had to assume the roles of the business as an SME.

“Yes, my company is an SME. As a baby, you need to crawl before you stand on your own. If I found a good market, I believe the company would grow because I don’t want the business to remain as an SME all its lifetime,” reiterates Helao.

The legacy and picture Karakulia Weavers has is one that not any ordinary Tom, Dick or Harry would maintain, hence Helao has a task. Preserving old clients and creating a new business clientelle is a problem but since every problem has a solution, his penetration into other European countries other than Spain and Germany where they already have agents, is the way to go at the moment.

Since education is a neccessity in the modern world, Helao himself attained a couple of certificates in marketing and computer courses to be inline with current business aspects.

“People are different in the way they run their businesses; some people need degrees to do the kind of job I do now, unfortunatelly I didn’t study much - that is why I just use my life experiences, which I grasped from previous management positions,” explains Helao.

He attributes his success to hard work and hands-on experience. He also believes that in business, you need to ask God to show you the way; how to overcome all the problems you may face and be able to discipline them.

The man who has managed to fill the shoes many could not, now plans to offer courses on the whole process so as to allow for the future generation to be able to keep the legacy rolling. Currently, Karakulia Weavers has a work-force of 10 permanent employees and five on a temporary basis and hopes to tripple it as soon as the market opens its doors.

“The business depends on the market and crisis in the world but my idea is to meet our Government half-way, to create more jobs to my fellow Namibians especially the youths,” concludes Helao. PF