Construction of a $30 million Varun Beverages Pepsi bottling plant with a potential to create close to 400 jobs, which had been stalled by delays in securing compliance approvals, is now expected to begin on August 15 after the Indian investors got the compliance certificate from the Harare City Council last Thursday. Work on the site in Ardbennie had been slowed down by delays in approving the paperwork but now construction should begin this month with production expected to start early next year.
The ground-breaking ceremony took place in November last year. The Indian investor, Mr Ravi Jaipura, who is Varun Beverages chairman, is in the country together with his core team of officials. He told The Herald in an interview last Friday that he was excited the investment WAS now taking off the ground.
“Although it has taken us long to get the approvals to start construction of the plant, the Government has been very helpful in ensuring that we satisfy all the investment requirements, including compliance with the indigenisation laws,” said Mr Jaipura.
He said once the company completed the first phase of the investment, it would immediately consider other opportunities in the areas of healthcare, dairy, hospitality, tomato canning and processing to complete the business portfolio.
“There is huge potential for business in Zimbabwe and it is my desire that once we complete the Pepsi bottling plant, we move to healthcare. His Excellency President Mugabe, whom I met in India last year during the India-Africa Summit, was very keen that we bring healthcare to Zimbabwe through our Medanta Healthcare Group and that is my next project.’’
Mr Jaipura said he was optimistic of a good start in Zimbabwe given that the country had “very hardworking and intelligent people’’. He said he would not mind exporting some Zimbabweans to work in the countries where he had investments.
“People of Zimbabwe are very good workers and I would not hesitate hiring them even to work in my other projects outside Zimbabwe.’’ The equipment and machinery for the bottling plant has already been purchased in India and now awaits shipment to Zimbabwe. Industry and Commerce Minister Mike Bimha yesterday hailed the move saying the company was a serious investor.
“We did the ground breaking ceremony for that company and all along they were working towards establishing the plant. They are serious investors and we welcome their latest move.”
The development comes as good news to Zimbabwe which has been under European and American sanctions for nearly 16 years, costing the nation billions of dollars in potential investment by exaggerating the country’s risk profile. The coming in of Pepsi in the beverage sector and later into health coincides with efforts by Government to improve the ease of doing business in the country. herald