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Doing Business Against the Odds, Insights from Hon. Johnson Sakaja and Heril Bangera

  Nov 17, 2014

This year’s Great Africans’ Getaway, an Alumni event organized by Strathmore Business School (SBS) was held at the Great Rift Valley Lodge from 14th- 16th November, 2014. The event provided platform for SBS alumni to network, engage in various learning sessions as well as have fun through the cocktail of activities that had been organized.

The session on Doing Business Against Odds was chaired by Hon. Johnson Sakaja, Chair, The National Alliance and Heril Bangera, CEO, Flame Tree Group of Companies. Hon. Sakaja appreciated the timeliness of the discourse on doing business, especially at a time when the government has realized it is their mandate to ensure fair opportunities and equitable distribution of resources for all Kenyan’s.

Youth entrepreneurship has become rampant and majority of Kenyans are ‘hungry’ to do business. Among the hurdles faced by entrepreneurs is lack of capital. While addressing the participants, Hon. Sakaja mentioned that there are a number of initiatives that have been rolled out by the government to support youth and women entrepreneurs. “We are looking towards partnering with the media to create awareness programs that will ensure involved parties know that the funding is available for them,” he said. He also emphasized on the importance of the government supporting business men and women in Kenya by giving them contracts. “The only way to enable growth of Kenyan businesses is to ensure we give our own people business. Before contracting others, we need to demonstrate that we do not have enough capacity or Kenyans who can do the business. If we must do business out of Kenya, it should not be at the expense of Kenyans who can do it here.”

Hon. Sakaja challenged business practitioners to engage more with the government and form partnerships that will ensure every person has an equal opportunity. He also called on the public to change their mindset from, “What can the government do for us?” to “What businesses can we do together as Kenyans as the government facilitates us?”

The business sector is plagued by the problem of corruption. If Kenya is to do good business, then corruption must not be tolerated. The government of Kenya is keen on rooting it out, however, it is the responsibility of every Kenyan to shun as well as report such cases to the relevant authorities. According to Hon. Sakaja, “Corruption and impunity are diseases of the mind, and it is therefore important to mentor and inculcate disciplines of national value and promote a positive culture among the youth.”

While Hon. Sakaja spoke on the issue of youth entrepreneurship, Mr. Heril Bangera gave tips that can enable business men and women thrive in the business sector.

• Do not complicate business, keep it simple and ensure your clients understand what you do and the product you are offering. Flame Tree Group of Companies has marked out its niche in the market by being the largest manufacturer of plastic water tanks (Roto Moulders Limited) in East Africa and one of the largest in Africa. The company has its factories in Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Rwanda and Mozambique.

• There is the temptation to make business complicated so as to ensure barrier of entry/ prevent others from venturing into the same business. The best way to tackle this is through being innovative and coming up with new products. Apart from manufacturing water tanks, Flame Tree ventured into creating skin care products, hair care and nail products all of which belong to three bands: Zoe, Alana and Cerro.

• Have a good reputation. Once the client trusts your product, they are likely to keep coming back to you.

• Have a succession plan. Your company needs to outlive you. Therefore, mentor your employees so that they can continue working excellently in the organization, even in your absence.

In his closing remarks Heril stated, “There are a lot of opportunities in Africa. Therefore do not keep all your eggs in one basket, invest in several other businesses and do them well.”

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