From paper clips to drones: the strategy of a business superstore


Business superstore Theodist has specialised in the provision of office supplies and technology for over fifty years in Papua New Guinea.  Business Advantage PNG sat down with the company’s Chief Executive Officer, Kumar Baliah, to find out more about his strategy and vision for the future.

A view from above: Theodist Super Store in Port Moresby. Credit: Theodist

Business Advantage PNG: Theodist is a well-known retailer but what is the extent of your current activities?

Kumar Baliah: Theodist is a family-owned stationery supplier in Papua New Guinea. It has been operating for over 50 years and has become the nation’s leading office products supplier.

Although it was originally solely a stationery business, we have evolved into selling a range of technology products. We now do everything, from selling paperclips to technology.

BAPNG: How have the last two years affected the business plans for Theodist?

KB: Although COVID-19 protocols have had an impact, we have grown as a business throughout the pandemic. We have benefitted from the increased demand in technology products from both individuals and businesses across the country.

‘Acquiring employees with the right skill set is the biggest challenge we are likely to face in the next few years.’

We’ve met this increased demand by increasing our range of technology offerings with a variety of drones, laptops, tablets and more. This has allowed us to build a very strong business over the last two years, despite the economic impacts of the pandemic.

BAPNG: What are the main challenges Theodist currently faces?

Theodist’s Kumar Baliah.

KB: As a growing business, we are constantly needing to fill in new roles. Acquiring employees with the right skill set is the biggest challenge we are likely to face in the next few years.

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There is a labour shortage, not just in PNG but globally. One of the strategies we have employed to deal with this is investing in training our staff. We recently hired local SME, McWilliams Training Consultancy, which specialises in sales [training]. They did a couple of sessions with our sales team, and we have already received positive feedback about customer service quality since.

BAPNG: What is your strategy for growth?

KB: Although we are already the biggest superstore on the market, we are predominantly based in Port Moresby, Lae and Mt Hagen. Over the next five years, I hope to establish a more structured distribution system with our resellers to extend this reach across the country.

Further opportunities also lie in the government’s drive to invest more in the SME space and major gas projects. This will bring more money into the economy, which is needed for the development of infrastructure and the health and education systems. The economy is set to more than double over the next decade, and that is where the opportunities lies.

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