Interview with Salif Romano Niang, Co-Founder in 2012.
Malô means “rice” in Bambara, a lingua franca in West Africa, where Salif and his brother Mohamed have formed their company. The brothers envision revolutionizing the rice market in Mali, to help farmers earn a living wage, and to help the people of Mali – especially women of childbearing age and children – receive the nutrients and sustenance they desperately need.
The [WJF] feedbackby far is the most comprehensive, detailed feedback we’ve had, and we have participated in a lot of competitions. And the fact that judges are willing to have you follow up with them is great.” – Salif Romano Niang
Are you in business, or still planning?
Still planning, but getting there. We (my brother and I) were both on the ground together for about 6 months in Mali, meeting with a lot of stakeholders and building partnerships. The harvest is typically November-January. We spent that time building our knowledge and shadowing farmers.
I am in the US now to touch base with our partners and investors, put together term sheets, and attend conferences (including WJF!). In the next 3-4 weeks we should be selling about 5 tons of fortified rice for the initial market introduction component of our proof of concept. We are also in the process of rebranding, from Malo Traders, to Malô.
How many people do you employ?
The current team is my brother and me. On the ground in Mali, we also have 3 interns that help us do the farmer and customer surveys, and we’re looking to hire one of them full time. Our biggest staffing need will be to get a Chief Operating Officer. We want someone who has experience doing business in Africa, preferably someone with an engineering background who has experience running relatively large plants and facilities.