Interview with Dr W. Arung, ARS House, Democratic Republic of Congo
Interview with Doctor Willy Arung, Surgeon and Entrepreneur, ARS House, Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo
Africa-Marketplace: Hello Dr. Willy Arung. Thank you for your availability today for this interview with Africa-Marketplace. We are happy to be able to welcome you to discuss the economic situation and that of different entrepreneurs in the DRC. Could you please introduce yourself and your professional activity?
Willy Arung: I am Willy Arung, medical surgeon, university professor, dean of the faculty of medicine at the University of Lubumbashi, and I am an entrepreneur on a number of activities in private. All my activities are lodged under the name “ARS House“. My business has myself as a manager, as well as my whole family. We thus run several activities including a clinic (ARS Clinic) and a Guest house (ARS House) which also includes an events room. So as not to limit ourselves to just one sector, we have also started an activity in agriculture. We do not intend to be a very large-scale player, but we have a clientele that we can satisfy with all of these services.
AM: Thank you doctor, it’s very clear. I think you really represent a really considerable entrepreneurial spirit in spite of your modesty. That a doctor would eventually open a clinic was relatively expected. That he would open multiple clinics is a bit more rare. Even more so that he would open clinics, pharmacies and a guest house!
Looking at your non-medical business, what are the customer needs you are looking to meet?
WA: In my first conception, being located on the outskirts of the city center, the outskirts in which mining companies like Ruashi Mining were located, I thought to myself that the time would come when these companies would need housing for their agents. But it must be said that there is a very dubious conception of what a good investment is in Lubumbashi, in particular in this town. Most people think that activities should be developed in the city center. As a result, these same individuals do not take it much into consideration when investments are done in suburbs. Very often I have prospects who come to visit our premises, who find them very good, but who ask me why we have settled so far from the city center. With that being said, I thought to myself I should really try and satisfy the local municipality in which I settled. In this one, there were no accommodations, no party rooms,… And so, rather than having to move so many people to the city center, I had the idea of responding to their needs locally.
AM: I understand this correctly. In general, it is true that it is really difficult to acquire a certain clientele when one is located outside the city center. What channels are you using today to acquire more customers? What are you using as campaign strategy and tools?
WA: I must say that at the beginning, in order to make ourselves known, we used social networks like Facebook, rather than audiovisual. Actually, this is a channel through which we have often been contacted in the begining. Unfortunately, I think we should have continued to invest in these channels, which I did not do given my disappointment with people’s reaction.
AM: But Lubumbashi is still a very large city. As the second largest city in the country and as a mining town, it attracts more business presence from Kinshasa, other provinces and other countries. What do you think would be necessary for you to have more use of your premises? Because concretely, there are people who need your services and who can afford them.
WA: I think the first thing is really the positioning. Unfortunately, this is not something we can change. The second is of course being able to make ourselves known in the quality of the offer that we have. I remember when I still had a website, I even had people from overseas contacting me. And let’s note this fact. A foreigner coming to the DRC will first refer to a tour guide where he will be recommended a certain area and list of service providers. If only we could be recognized by referrers like this, that would be a really good thing.
AM: The downtown vs periphery mentality is well known in all countries. Nevertheless, we have observed that in a large number of African cities, evolution has meant that several centers have developed in several municipalities. Demographic activity actually makes this transformation inevitable. Taking the case of Lubumbashi, a few years ago, no one would have imagined being able to have retail activities in the “Quartier Terminus” or “Alilac Center”. Centers do therefore evolve. Regarding your second point, I understand that you are not in a position to invest in a website or audiovisual. Is this correct ?
WA: Yes and no. Today, given the mentality of the people of Lubumbashi, we thought to ourselves that we were really going to focus on the clientele of our municipality. But I must say that I regret not having continued to deal with my online presence.
AM: The first rule to increase one’s income is to make one’s services known to a greater number of people. Do you think that if more people in Lubumbashi, even the whole DRC, knew about your services, you would have more customers?
WA: Yes, of course!
AM: As an entrepreneur that you are, what would it mean to you if you had the opportunity to make your service information available to all of the DRC?
WA: That would be a great opportunity! That was the momentum I got into when I first started my business. It really pleased me to have contact from someone in Kinshasa, Abidjan, who asked me questions about my Guest house.
AM: Precisely. This is the reality. If someone in Kinshasa needs a party hall in Lubumbashi, but the better known venues are unavailable, they may not be able to know that they can contact you to have their needs fulfilled. That’s a huge customer base that you are losing every day. Don’t you think ?
WA: I totally agree.
AM: This is the kind of service that JPMB Ventures wants to offer to the DRC and the African continent. From 2022 onwards, you too will be able to enjoy it for free.
WA: Thank you very much, this is a great opportunity that will allow me to regain my entrepreneurial spirit. I must say that before that day, given the market situation I was facing, I had rather focused on my medical activities. But this is a really great opportunity, thank you, it’s a great.
AM: Absolutely. Do you think this could be useful for other entrepreneurs like you as well?
WA: Of course! Today, no one is really up to date with all the market has to offer. The great wealth today is information. I can take a personal example. One day I was in Dubai but knowing nothing about the area and not knowing where to look, I had to call someone in Lubumbashi to inquire. China is the most powerful player in terms of exports nowadays, and many people and businesses in Africa end up buying direct imports from that country. Whereas if we had a little more information, maybe the same goods or services could be found closer. Even think about the cost of travel and the cost of time difference that local businesses have when they’re doing business with China. This is very inefficient. Closer suppliers do exist. I really think this is a great opportunity.
AM: I am delighted that you confirm the vision we had while creating this platform.
WA: I think it will solve a lot of problems. Really.
AM: Thank you for your time today Dr Arung. We wish you success on our platform.
WA: Thanks to you.
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