Ernest Baynes is a young entrepreneur and founder of Baynes Transformers Technology, a company positioned as a quality conscious and cost effective supplier of new transformers, combined with the skills to support the market with an efficient repair facility of transformers of all sizes based in Johannesburg South Africa. In this exclusive interview with Orient Energy Review’s Jerome Onoja, Ernest bares his mind on the vision of the company which he has been running for more than a decade.
Tell us about yourself and your company.
Ernest: My name is Ernest Baynes, the owner and founder of Baynes Transformers. The company was founded in 2004 and I have been running it for the past 11 years. It is a family business; my mom used to run it for 22 years. She was the very first black female in the country to run a successful company. I am the very first black, young, and upcoming breed in South Africa. I am the only one with the BE level triple one, triple A plus. So I am the only one with all the credentials for BE level. That means it is a very white dominated arena and we want to change that playing field to an increase of playing on the demography of our country, representing all races.
What are the goals and mission of your company?
The goal is to cultivate a new breed of critical thinkers. Critical thinkers are supposed to be thinking faster, more efficient and more effective in comparison to things that have been taught. We have to constantly evolve. That is the cornerstone of our company; objectively looking forward.
Primarily, what do you do, what do you manufacture?
We manufacture distribution transformers from 16KVA cable, up to about 5 10 MVA. We have also been fortunate that we are at the final stage of identifying, securing and finalizing our relationship with an international organization. We do have an MDA in place but I am unable to give you further development on this.
But what does this collaboration do to the organization?
First of all, it is going to be an organization with huge years of IP Active at their disposal, which they are prepared to share with us and I will be able to share that IP with the African continent. We will also be able to train our people with new and latest technology. So cultivating this new breed will expose them to the latest technology and at the same time, we are going to start coming out with our own IP (Intellectual Property).
I think it is going to be a three-pronged approach; over and above that, it is going to be a very reputable company. So I do not think we are going to have any challenge with regards to the Research and Development (R&D) component. What will make us strong is that we have a very strong and established R&D department. Why R&D? Because products would keep evolving. That is one of the key elements. With that we are not going to be saturated with constant technological advancement and evolutions, but we are also going to be a leader in that industry.
How many numbers of employees do you have?
We have about 50 people, and with the expansion plan, we are looking at increasing it to about 200 people. We are going to do so in a phase approach, with regards to the training components. We want to give every candidate an equal, one-on-one opportunity to be trained properly. The duration of the training would take the region of three to five years, depending on the candidate. It is also a training that is very unfamiliar to us as black people, so we have to do it properly as this would drive our economy. Without electricity, there is no industrial revolution.
At the moment, where is your facility?
The company is situated in Johannesburg. We prefer having it in one place and the reason for that is so that we have total control of the quality component. With that we are going to mitigate all possible negligent components that could come in while still doing the manufacturing process.
How big is your turnover?
The turnover is in the region of 15 to 20 million dollars, but we want to increase it to about $240 million. That is after the new merger.
Tell us about your trade mission in Nigeria?
I am one of the individuals that have been identified by government, likewise my colleagues, to discuss ways to promote young and upcoming entrepreneurs in the business spaces. Our trade mission has been on the basis whereby we try to establish and collaborate with our counterparts, here in Nigeria, and in so doing, we want to establish some form of strengthening of bi-lateral agreements and see exactly how we can find synergy, going forward in whatever we manufacture and also find the counterpart, whereby eventually, we want Nigeria to become independent, self-sufficient, to have its own independence with regards to industrialization and we want Nigeria to have all these benefits and with all your people and facilities, and in so doing, we would have emancipated the people.
What do you think about the Nigerian market?
The market is huge. I think for the vastness for the population, it is definitely holding out; it is working. But I think there are improvements that we can leverage on and make things work efficiently. It is working right and I think it is something we need to work on as a collective, and find the solutions. The solutions are there; it is just for us to search at one point and starting plugging those points. Not putting in transformers and equipments that do not serve the purpose. Transformers are supposed to be out in the field for duration of 20 to 25 years. I do not know what the current supplies of transformers are all about. I don’t know what the state is, but that is what we are here for. There are two different types of transformers — Aluminium and Copper transformers and that is depending on the price that you are going to pay for it. Copper has more longevity compared to aluminium.
How exposed are your engineers and where do they train?
The fortunate thing with this collaboration and merger is that we are definitely going to look at every qualified individual out of South Africa. As what has always been the case in a white dominated industry, we are fortunate that we have access to one of the very oldest person in the industry and we want to harness and pick his brain as much as possible, so that the knowledge can be passed down to us, black people. And he is more than willing to do that. In support thereof, I have surely thought that our strategy is to merge with an international partner and with that we are going to have IP that are 105 years old.
Prior to this merger, how do you train your engineers, do you have affiliations with foreign trainers?
It is an industry whereby you know they have to be qualified individuals. We teach people on the actual jobs, sometimes we start to draw from the pool of disadvantaged individuals from universities and training colleges, because they have got the theoretical background and we can merge it with the practicals, making them become well-rounded in the career space they want to operate.
What is the plan here for you in Nigeria?
Our plan is to identify an individual we can actually work with. I have been fortunate that there have been a few keen interests shown by some people in Nigeria. We are going to continue discussions with them; find out what is it they bring to the party; what is required; earmarking Nigeria counterpart is one part, the partner has to do something, he has to bring something to the party.
We would want to establish a good relationship. What is also very important is that there is enough for every company to make a fair living on. Marketing is one strategy and it is based on whose transformers would last the longest.
What standards are used in the manufacturing of these transformers?
They are going to be manufactured according to SANS 780 that is for distribution. For power it is IEC 67006, that is the international standards and then all the various sub-categories that go with them, because there are references to various other standards. These items are in direct contact with our public and any negligence on thr part of the manufacturers is surely going to be dealt with severely.
Do you have any plans to manufacture these equipments here in Nigeria?
Our intention first is to identify partners, then after which we would want to see what the market is, then start sending them up. Yes, we want to have a manufacturing facility in Nigeria, but not only that, we want to also commit to the training of Nigerians, our counterpart in the industry and then after which we would replicate the exact same company as ours, here in Nigeria. Then after this, we want to have some form of exit strategy; whether we would become a minority stakeholder in the company or we become a totally insignificant entity within the country.
As a form of emphasis, you are not just coming to establish a company, but also to build the capacity of Nigerians?
Absolutely, anything back to the people, so that they would be responsible for their own electricity. They are going to have their own staff complement and they would be then be running and maintaining the entire project.
What can your company do to help Nigeria escape its power challenges and problems?
Right now, I think there is the lack of maintenance. That is going to be a key component. I also think there is the shortage of skills. We are going to start from the scratch, but we will definitely get there. With that approach we will definitely make inroads, as long as the products are superior products and operate within the normal parameters they were made to be manufactured for.
Who are some of your major clients in South Africa?
Eskom. I have been repairing for them and we are currently bidding for a new three and five-year contract. We have been very successful in that sense. We are definitely coming with something new. What makes our transformers special is that we will have R&D of the latest technology. We are coming up with cheaper alternatives to the current solutions; because at first, we just manufacture in copper, but know, we are going to offer in aluminium, which is going to make us competitive. But we are not going to compromise on quality. That is key to this entire exercise. It is going to be senseless, if we are going to be starting in Abidjan, we are going to be repairing transformers there, and by the time it comes to Lagos, it is going to go back to Abidjan, because the transformers we fixed there are inferior. We need to move on to other areas, that is our intention. We do not want to go back. Going back is going to be almost like a no-no and in that area. I have taken a stand that we are doing should done 110 per cent right.
I have observed that Nigeria’s transformers are very low to the ground, while in South Africa, we have them up on the pole, and that has reduced the safety component of it, because kids can easily access Nigeria’s transformers.
Another thing is that our transformers do not have the insulators coming out on top, because we look out for the environmental change. If for instance, a bird sits on it, it gets electrocuted. That is why we have done away with that. Hence, our insulators do not come on top; it always comes on the side.
The other thing is that we have very well-oiled winding capacity and we can wind up to about 0.45 of a millimeter. That is nearly half of a millimeter, which is the strain of your hair. That is the machinery that we have there. That is extremely important, because the higher the KV ratings, the more the turns. The more the turn of the wire; the turn of the wire, the more difficult it is to handle, and so it goes on.
So if you are going to have an individual doing assembly of the transformer, it is not going to be only assembly, it is going to be assembly with all the other disciplines to make this person multi-skilled. Therefore the possibilities of him becoming retrenched are almost obsolete, because there are so many component parts that he can couple within the infrastructure. We do not want to have a 100 people, but it can be one person that we can able to tutor with the right ratio of supervisor-tutor training and also we want to keep the complement at the right level.
What is your next move from here?
There is going to be a certain phase of due diligence that is going to be conducted. After that, there is definitely a support of the department which brought us to Nigeria. I think there is definitely a willingness to assist in that regards.