Real Estate, Telcos and Industry: Nana Philip Brobbey Shares his Vision for Philbro Group in Ghana

Nana Philip Brobbey discusses latest news and upcoming plans for Philbro Group. Founded in 2006, Philbro Group has a strong presence in the Ghana market, with activities ranging from high-end luxury residential properties with Philbro Luxury Properties, edible oils with Philbro Oil, and telecom with MVNO P-Mobile.

Interview with Nana Philip Brobbey, CEO of Philbro Group

Nana Philip Brobbey, CEO of Philbro Group

Give us a historical background of Philbro Group.

Philbro Group came into light in 2006. We started with an e-commerce business called the Finish Line Online Supermarket. We did that for about a year and a half, but at that time, the Ghana market was not so conversant with e-commerce. We then decided to shift the goalpost to the production and manufacturing of commodities. In 2008, we started Philbro Oil, which is a subsidiary of Philbro Group. Philbro Oil is a free zone registered company and we produce vegetable oils and soap items. We use the byproduct from the oil production to produce liquid soap, soap bars, etc., on a small scale. Apart from the production of oil, because Philbro Oil is under the Ghana Free Zone, we do a lot of export. By law, we are supposed to export about 70% of whatever we produce to any country in the world, but currently, we do most of the sub region. We do two countries in Europe: The Netherlands and Italy. In 2021, we added Philbro Luxury Properties, which is now a subsidiary of the Philbro Group. At Philbro Luxury Properties, we are focusing on developing the coastal areas within the capital city. We started with our first project by the beach, which is called South Labadi Beach Estate. The plan is to build 250 townhomes with shopping malls and schools. We currently have about 15 units, which are 90% completed. The other company is P-Mobile and it is registered under the National Communications Authority as an MVNO. P-Mobile came into light in 2018, and the arrangement was to pilot a semi launch to see how Ghanaians were going to accept the brand and accept whatever we wanted to bring into the telecom industry. We did the piloting and we were given the Type A license. An MVNO is a mobile virtual network operator, which mostly will be running on a bigger network to provide everything from data voice, voice over IP and all the other things that come with telcos. P-Mobile’s plan was to launch in 2020, but because of COVID, we had to shift everything to 2023 to structure things properly. When we finally launch it, P-Mobile is going to be an MVNO company, whereby when you walk into a P-Mobile outlet, you should be able to subscribe a P-Mobile phone with a line. Our main target markets are the students, the lower income and the middle income index. So Philbro Oil, Philbro Luxury Properties, and P-Mobile are the three major companies which are currently under the Philbro Group.

What is your competitive advantage?

Because Philbro Group is under the Ghana Free Zone, we do not pay taxes and this gives us a little advantage over our competitors. We are not currently visible in Ghana, but we have about 30% of the market share when it comes to edible oils. The reason is because we do not do adverts, we do not have billboards and we do not do any TV adverts, but we have the market, we are producing and currently we do about 5,000 gallons a day. The moment we produce, it sells, but we are moving into our ultra modern refinery in March, which is located at Appolonia City. Once we move there, our production will shift from 5,000 to 30,000 gallons of oil a day. The real estate is something new that we just ventured into. We do not have any advantage over the current big players in Ghana, but with what we are currently doing on the coastal areas in Ghana, so far there is no other real estate company going there to develop properties for sale. We are the first to start a major project like that along the coastal area.

What is your assessment of the economy and doing business in Ghana?

Before the Ukraine crisis, in terms of my cooking oil production, we were doing a little bit over 30%, but now our factory is under full capacity. The reason is because with the new policy which is being introduced by the Bank of Ghana where cooking oil, rice and sugar are all contraband, it gives us, the local producers, a very big advantage over those that import into the country, and most of them, when they do import, have lower prices. But with the new policies which kicked off recently, we have a lot of people placing orders when it comes to edible oils, rice, spaghetti, etc. There are no concerns about the economy, because regardless of how bad the economy is, people will still eat and take a shower every morning. Before those policies were passed, we were having a lot of challenges with the influx of imported oils from the neighboring countries and also from Malaysia. With the new policy, if you are to bring cooking oil that no bank is willing to do an LC for, no bank should be able to do transfers for payment of commodities. There are all those monies moving out for cooking oil starting from January which would now be in the system. The economy currently is in bad shape, but in terms of my oil production everything looks good. With the new policy, there is going to be zero importation of raw materials from Malaysia or Ivory Coast to enhance our production.

Do you import the raw materials or do you get them locally?

Before, we were importing 40% from Malaysia, and getting 60% locally. But with the new policy that is starting now, we will be getting 100% of our raw materials from the local market.

Is Philbro Oil the brand name for the oil?

Philbro Oil is a company under Philbro Group, and we have three brands. We have Philfry vegetable oil, Arielle vegetable oil, and Oki vegetable oil. Philfry vegetable oil is our premium brand, which is everywhere in the Ghana market and also the neighboring countries (Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Gambia and Senegal).

As for Philbro Luxury Properties, what kind of buildings are you into: residential or commercial?

Philbro Luxury Properties started last year around July, and the vision and mission is to develop residential properties along the coastal areas because it has always been my dream. In Ghana right now, there are no high-end luxury residential properties like we see in other countries. Our main aim is to develop very affordable, high-end luxury residential properties. Commercial properties are part of our plan, but 90% of our projects are going to focus on residential properties. We have started our first project, which comprises of townhouses. Phase one is complete and ready to go, and it is located at South Labadi Estate, about 10 minutes away from the airport, 5 minutes away from the Flagstaff House, and 2 minutes away from the Labadi Beach Hotel.

The townhouses or the townhomes that Philbro Luxury Properties is building are mostly smart homes and because they are by the beach, most of them are sea erosion resistant. Most of our amenities are amenities that you would not get from a company that is building properties by the beach. People say that building townhouses by the beach is very expensive. It is expensive because of the sea erosion. Most of our amenities, from air condition, to TVs, to WCs, to kitchenware are all sea erosion or sea breeze resistance. So that is what makes Philbro stand out from other buildings.

When it comes to pricing, and you compare what we have done on our phase one unit to a typical townhouse in Cantonments, Labone or East Legon, our prices are more affordable and more competitive. In terms of pricing, we have the competitive advantage because most people do not want to buy homes along the beach as they are very expensive to maintain and because of the sea erosion and the breeze. But we have come onto the market to change that narrative that if you have a beach house or a townhouse along the coastal area, it is easy to maintain and easy to manage when the right amenities are put in place. And that is what you find when you come to Philbro Luxury Properties.

Are the others projects going to be?

The plan within the next five years is to develop 250 units which would have the same concept with different layout and different designs, but they are all going to be townhouses.

Are they all going to be in South Labadi Estate too?

We want to focus on South Labadi Estate. We also have land along the Marine drive. Philbro Properties chose South Labadi because of the Marine Drive project. The Marine Drive project is going to pass from the Independence Square through South Labadi Estate all the way to Labadi Beach Hotel, and it will end at the Kofi Annan Peacekeeping Center. We have strategically positioned ourselves because of the Marine Drive project passing through that area.

What is your vision for the company in the next 5 years?

In the next 5 years, we want to have about 40% to 50% of the market share in Ghana, and we want to be known as one of the cooking oil producers in Ghana and the sub region. When it comes to real estate, we have an agenda to be known as one of the upcoming developers who are focused in developing the coastal areas with affordable but luxury townhouses. P-Mobile is something that we have nurtured behind the scene within the last five years. Currently, there is no other company in the sub region that can be called an MVNO. When we launch in 2023, we have a plan to capture the Ghana market among the youth within the next two years. And the reason is because when you look at the general business of the telcos in Ghana, it is all about buying credit on the phones and talking. But with what we are about to introduce, and with our target markets, which is the students, the lower income index and the middle class, we are introducing a service called postpaid or pay as you go. The postpaid means that, even if you have 50 Cedis, you can get a phone with a line and you can talk and text unlimited for the next 30 days without paying anything, but you will only be charged when you make calls to other networks. MTN, Vodafone, Tigo and all the rest are not offering that service. P-Mobile will have its own branded devices, we will have our own feature phones and smartphones which are going to be affordable, but we are not going to sell them, once you subscribe the P-Mobile line it comes with the phone, like the way T-Mobile and Sprint AT&T do in the US. All this is structured and I am bringing a couple of people from India to help me run P-Mobile and the cooking oil segment while I focus on Philbro Luxury Properties.

Is it going to be in collaboration with other companies here in Ghana?

We have an agreement with Global Com for the next 10 years. With an MVNO you need Mobile Network Operators. MNOs are MTN, Glow and Vodafone. We have an agreement with Global Com to take our feed and to buy our bulk data and bulk voice from them, and rebrand them as P-Mobile for our clients. So with P-Mobile, we are in collaboration with Global Com to launch this year. But when it comes to the cooking oil, we are not into any partnership with anybody, and we are focusing on doing this on our own.

Is Philbro Group owned by you 100% or do you have other stakeholders?

Philbro Group is owned by me and my wife, and a little percentage also comes from my church.

Are you planning to get investors in or is it going to remain a family business?

With the real estate segment, I am in talks with a hedge fund company in the US to come on board, and as you know, most of these people would want to see what you have done for yourself or the track record before they come on board. Then with P-Mobile, I am also in talks with a company in Europe that will partner with us in terms of the hardware and the software. So I am looking at bringing other investors and the process has already started. But with Philbro Oil, the only company coming on board is the IFC. The IFC is under the World Bank, and they are putting in some funding to expand and also for us to own our own palm oil plantation so that we can help the local farmers. IFC is on board, but it is indirectly not on board as a shareholder. IFC is giving us a little bit of funding to establish our own palm plantation, so that in return, the farmers in the Eastern and Western regions can get our produce purchased by the local companies.

Are you into any CSR activities?

Every quarter we do a give out. We do donations to the aged. We have about 86 people that Philbro Group is currently giving scholarship to. And I am coming up with a clinic where my factory is currently operating, which is in Oyarifa. It is not a big clinic, but it is a very nice and ultra modern clinic. I have been feeding the aged for the last five years, and we also have a foundation that takes care of widows and single mothers that do not have any businesses. What that foundation does is we give them cooking oil as a seed capital to start. And today we have about 50 of them who are super distributors who initially started with 50 gallons. They sell them, they pay back, and today most of them are doing 5 to 10 containers, all from my foundation that we have established under the Philbro Group.

What is your philosophy in life?

I am inspired by where I am coming from, and I have always had this entrepreneurship spirit to establish my own business and to create jobs. I was born in a kiosk in Osu. My father was a tailor and my mother was a petty trader. So my poor background and my environment is what actually inspired me to change the narrative. With that, I have been able to give a lot of scholarships to people in my family from where I come from in Osu. I am doing a lot in terms of charity project works, and those are the things that inspire me and keep me going.


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