Mohamed Rafiu

12 mins read

Hotel Insider sits down with Mohamed Rafiu, the managing director of Ostrava Pvt Ltd, a company dedicated to providing workwear and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to the construction and hospitality industries.

Ostrava is also the sole distributor of several renowned brands, supplying safety-related products that are tested for quality and fulfills ISO, ANSI and EN standards. We talk about its wide range of products, workplace safety and how Ostrava can help new properties in safety-related matters.

Hotel Insider: Ostrava sells really good gear, and you’re not just about safety, you’re about making people look stylish as well as safe. Let’s talk about this for a bit.

Mohamed Rafiu: Ostrava mainly supplies PPE and Workwear, and among the PPE products, the widest range is in safety shoes. In the industries who use these products, the workers are young, energetic people. So, instead of the stiff safety shoes that were commonly used in the past, they look for stylish products. Also, young people who work in the private sector want to wear nice-looking work attire. So the younger generations look for nice-looking products without compromising safety. At Ostrava, we have over a hundred varieties of safety shoes. Different sectors require different products. For example, chefs, electricians, welders or fire fighters, require different kinds of protective attire. And so, customers look for comfort, safety and style that’s affordable without compromising safety.

Hotel Insider: Can you also talk a little about the process behind choosing your gear? What do you look for? What do you avoid?

Mohamed Rafiu: Mainly we look for everything that’s required by the relevant industries. We also stock products that people don’t buy regularly to complete the full range even if there isn’t much demand for it. So, for those, we stock a small quantity. But for products that are high in demand, we always try to maintain the stock. There might be times, though, when the stock gets depleted because of big, unexpected orders. Something else that we consider is ensuring that we always keep stock for regular customers, even if they buy just one particular product from us. Another is, we ensure that the usual gear like safety shoes, helmets, boiler suits, raincoats are stocked in large quantities. Because the norm here is that people will buy raincoats when it starts raining. So, if we didn’t have it at the time and had to order it, the rainy season would have passed by the time we get them. We get our products from Europe, so it takes time to get here, and the customer might not want to wait that long. So, it’s important that we maintain the stock.

And, if we get negative feedback from customers about a product, we try to not sell them anymore. In those cases, we’ll communicate with the supplier to solve the issue, and we try to discontinue selling the product. There are some that we discontinued because of customer complaints. Also, there are some products that have an expiry date, like fall protection gear. So, we have to check those too.

Hotel Insider: There are rules in place that make it mandatory for workers to have adequate protection in their workplace. Do you see any gaps in safety though, especially in the resort and construction sectors?

Mohamed Rafiu: The regulations are in place but they are not being enforced. The norm here is that, when something happens, everyone would consider it a serious issue for a while but then they will forget about it. I often see construction workers in high rise buildings working without any fall protection gear, or workers laying concrete foundations without safety shoes, and they are not wearing helmets or gloves. It’s a common sight in Male’. So even if there are regulations, I don’t think everyone obeys the rules. But now, most companies prioritise safety, and there are some companies who use all types of safety gear. There might be some products that are a bit more expensive but you get quality for that price. So, more and more companies are prioritising this.

And as for the resorts, they have a maintenance department, engineering, kitchen, so every resort would require safety equipment, PPEs like ear muffs, welding gear, and chemical masks. And there are many resorts who use all the required safety gear but sadly, there are some who don’t see safety as a priority. For example, recently there was one who said that they don’t require any PPEs. But I don’t think this is true. For resorts also, the issue is, while there are regulations, I think what’s needed is more stringent monitoring. There are some properties who take the initiative and take safety measures on their own, but if left unchecked, people will try to avoid it to cut costs.

Hotel Insider: Let’s talk about your shop in Alikilegafaanu Magu. It’s very well stocked and you get such a good range.

Mohamed Rafiu: We used to have a small showroom on Faamudheyri Magu, and we couldn’t display as many products as we wanted to. So now we have a bigger showroom and all the product ranges are displayed there. I think it’s very important for a customer to come and see the products and to check them. That’s the reason we have spent money on such a big show room. It’s not a typical shop where people come in and buy products regularly. The whole point of the showroom is to meet with customers and give them information about the products.

Hotel Insider: We’re witnessing a boom in the resort and construction sectors, fuelled by new openings. Do you see opportunity here for Ostrava to grow? How can Ostrava help out new properties in safety-related matters?

Mohamed Rafiu: Our products are mainly used by the construction industry; PPEs and workwear. So, if the industry is booming, there will be more demand. As those industries grow, we are expecting to see more growth on our side as well. In the hospitality industry, too, if there are more resorts being constructed, there will be more demand for these products at the construction stage and at the operations stage. PPEs will be required at the construction stage and during operation as well.

It used to be that most resorts would procure their products from overseas. The main reason being that good products or enough stock aren’t available. For example, chef uniforms are always shipped from overseas, but if they were to do that, they would have to order a large quantity, and it takes time to reach them. At Ostrava, we have a comprehensive range of workwear. If a product is urgently needed, even if it’s just one item, we can deliver it immediately, and we have done that. There was this instance where a resort asked us to send a chef uniform on the 12am transfer, and we opened the showroom and we were able to do that. We have even worked on Fridays and made sure urgent items were delivered. So, if it’s available from a local business, resorts would have advantages like these too.

We can supply PPEs and workwear as needed. Usually resorts have a supply boat that make regular trips. Our biggest advantage is that we have PPEs and workwear under one roof. A lot of time would be wasted buying one item from one shop and one from another. And we are reliable. If the relationship with our customer is good, we supply products on credit. We’ve had bad experiences too, so if the payments take too long, we might have to change the credit policy. But if the payments are regular, we can supply products on credit as well. That’s an advantage for new resorts. If they require a specific item that others usually don’t buy, we can stock them as well.

Hotel Insider: Lastly, where do you see Ostrava in the next five years.

Mohamed Rafiu: There are other industries related to PPEs and workwear, so it’s possible that in the future we could stock other related product ranges. We are selling workwear at the moment so we might stock professional workwear in the future, the full range. Plus, PPEs are always changing with new technologies, so the range could change. For example, we didn’t have all the fall protection gear in the beginning but now we have a complete range. So, I’m predicting that we can provide all the required workwear in the next five years. It’s also possible that we open a new showroom in the future.

Hotel Insider: Thanks a lot, Rafiu. It’s been a real pleasure.