Fri, 29/09/2017 - 07:10
Current Issue 54
Meeting Kenya’s Steel Demands
Having established a reputation for itself as innovative and forward thinking, the Blue Nile Group is expanding its product offering this year with the building of a new galvanised steel plant
Writer: Phoebe Calver
Project Manager: Vivek Valmiki
When taking into account the relatively small size of Kifaru Steel, it has experienced a rapid expansion within Kenya, and subsequently the Company has experienced a very interesting history over the years.
Kifaru Steel ensures it never forgets the steps it took to get to this point of success within the industry and its history is an everyday discussion within the Company, from its humble beginnings with a small wire products division to its current production of over 150,000 tonnes per year.
“It has been one hell of a journey for us and despite ups and downs, a very exciting time,” explains Kotni Rao, President at Kifaru Steel. “We began by purchasing an existing company that was in trouble back in 2007, enabling the start of Blue Nile Wire Products Limited. Since that point our product capacity has expanded from 1,000 tonnes per year - which for the steel industry is no size at all - to 150,000 tonnes.”
The aforementioned take-over came after the Group split from one of the largest traders of building materials, forming its own manufacturing outfit in Kenya which now comprises two particularly diverse industries. Each of these divisions within the Company is independently managed and run, while being governed by common policies and goals.
Now in 2017, the Company’s main operating lines are steel manufacturing, real estate and exports and operations are showing no sign of decline as Blue Nile becomes one of the leading commercial business houses in Kenya.
“We are incredibly proud of the reputation we have established in such a short space of time, becoming a well-known success story among those operating in the steel manufacturing sector,” adds Rao. “In order to keep up with the demands upon our reputation, we are diligent in installing state-of-the-art technology while also upgrading machinery when it is required.
“This enables us to produce high quality steelwhile maintaining the relevant safety standards, with all of our products deemed fit for usage by KEBS, the body responsible for maintaining standards within the country.”
Its director-based ownership has moved Kifaru Steel forward through the implementation of these technologies, something that it has done since the Company came to fruition.
Rao states: “If you were to look at our factories on a daily basis, things are always changing and developing and we are aware that there will always be improvements and changes that we can make to our offering. As soon as we find a more efficient way of doing things, we will ensure they are put in place.”
The Company has reached this point of success through careful selection of its management team, led by people with the best experience within the fields of engineering, finance, law and administration.
Development for future needs
During its time in the industry, Kifaru Steel has developed a large and regular client base which includes some of the top business houses in the country to rival any of its competition.
“Instead of assessing what is currently going on in the industry, we have found it more beneficial over the years to look at what can be done in the future,” Rao describes. “We believe it is the best way to stay one step ahead of the competition, people don’t always know what they want and therefore it is our job to enlighten them through offering the best products in the industry.”
Kifaru Steel has recently worked on creating products that are focused on longevity, with a guarantee to last at least 10-15 years. Customers currently want this longevity, instead of focusing purely on price and it is what they appear to be expecting from companies such as Kifaru Steel in the future.
“We have already developed our offering into two divisions that are completely functional to answer to our customer’s needs, one of those being Blue Nile Wire Products and the other Blue Nile Rolling Mills,” continues Rao. “Looking forward we are currently in the process of creating a galvanising plant which will be installed next year, enabling us to move into the galvanising industry in a more decisive way.”
Already a force to reckon with, the Blue Nile group plans to go for its IPO in the next few years which will enable it to expand at double the current rate.
Galvanised steel plant
Work on creating a galvanised steel plant has been in the pipeline for the Company for some time now and if all remains on target, should be ready for production next year.
“It is a new and exciting investment for us at Kifaru Steel and leads us into what we see as the future for the steel industry,” states Rao. “No one else has done this in Kenya, so we see it as a breakthrough in our local market where we will be at a global standard.”
Kifaru Steel will be using world-class materials and techniques in its exciting first expedition into becoming a global player in this fast-moving market.
Rao continues: “Although we are well aware that it is an incredibly fast moving market we are moving into, we are going into it with our eyes open and looking at things from a wider perspective than simply what is in front of us.”
Emphasis on people
Of course with moving into bigger markets there is even more emphasis placed on hiring the right people to take the Company further. Currently it only has 12 to 15 high-level employees, demonstrating just how careful the Company is in this area.
“We don’t just look at what a person will bring to the Company for the next five years, we look at the next 15 years of their career with us,” affirms Rao. “We also like to hire from universities, as we have found in the past that young graduates are the key to new ideas for the industry.”
Recently Kifaru Steel has started offering placements to its recruits from some of the top colleges and universities in India and Kenya, sending them into relevant industries in countries that are perhaps slight more advanced. This has been very beneficial for the Company in terms of development of new employees, as well as the addition of knowledge to the business.
“Even though these young recruits are new to the industry as a whole, we have seen great results from them and strongly encourage this development when it comes to moving our Company forward,” concludes Rao. “I believe this way of thinking is one of our main differentiators and with the support of our widely experienced management team, it will continue to drive us on to success within the industry.”