Fri, 31/05/2019 - 10:22
A down to earth family business reputed for its esteemed service, Kyoga Hauliers is embodying progress against an optimistic East African backdrop
Writer: Jonathan Dyble | Project Manager: Josh Mann
“Growing up under my father’s guidance, I came to appreciate the world of logistics and supply chain.
“I grew up looking at ships, trucks, cranes and cargo moving around in Mombasa, a city known as a gateway to East Africa. It was only natural that I would come to follow this path.”
For Ismail Gulam, the supply chain industry has formed the basis of an illustrious, flourishing career.
Following in the footsteps of his father, Gulam Dhora, the Founder of Kyoga Hauliers, he worked his way up through the family transport and haulage business – a process that allowed him to gain transparent oversight and learn to appreciate each and every one of the company’s individually crucial cogs.
“After completing my Business Law and Social Sciences studies in the UK, I returned to Kenya in 2009 to assist my father,” he affirms. “Starting in the operations department, I moved around to understand each element of the business, from sales, project cargo and port operations to HR, tracking operations and the workshop.”
Fast forward a decade and Gulam now stands as the Operations Director of Kyoga Hauliers, leveraging his vast knowledge of the company’s inner workings to review strategy and assist company guidance.
This input has helped direct the firm for the latter half of its 18-year history, the business having originally been set up in 2002.
At that time, Dhora realised there was a growing demand for logistics services in the East African region, and the opportunity to help meet this across not only Kenya, but equally Uganda, South Sudan and the DRC presented itself in Mombasa.
“Logistic services back then were very expensive and poorly serviced,” Gulam reveals. “With the growing importation of cargo, the industry required more service providers at better rates with more professional delivery. This in mind, we’ve embarked on expanding our fleet and service delivery ever since.”
Building from a base of just a handful of trucks, Kyoga Hauliers’ fleet has grown exponentially, now operating over 400 trucks including flatbeds, tippers, tankers and skeletal trailers.
“We also operate four yards that handle and provide storage services for various commodities,” Gulam adds. “Being within close proximity to the Port of Mombasa, we’re equally able to provide quay side, cargo management and customs clearing services. Offering our clients these end-to-end solutions, giving them peace of mind and the best possible experience, is our overriding goal.”
Beyond service excellence, however, Kyoga Hauliers’ solutions have come to act as part of the lifeblood of heavy industry across East Africa.
Gulam explains, citing the energy industry as a key example: “Haulage services are essential to our way of life. Commodities such as oil and gas are price sensitive and can have great implications on the economy. Supply, exploration and costs are very complex and as haulage providers we are very aware of the importance of these elements.
“However, exploration is typically conducted in remote areas. Thus, exploration companies rely deeply on us to be able to safely, and in a timely manner, cater to their challenging needs. Such hard to reach areas are in no other way accessible, so many adventures start with us.”
Kyoga’s crucial role in such scenarios is applicable even where terminal and pipelines provide the majority of transportation, with the delivery last mile always provided by trucks.
And while the firm’s fleet is integral to its operations, the Operations Director is quick to emphasise that it is the company’s team of more than 1,000 staff that have truly allowed Kyoga Hauliers to reach the lofty heights that it is perched upon today.
“It’s our team,” he responds, having been asked what sets the company apart. “We are nothing without our workers, and they enable us to maintain the personal touch that our customers value us for.
“As a service provider our job does not start and finish with picking and delivering cargo. We like to go the extra mile. We work with our customers to think outside the box, and by suggesting better solutions or cargo consolidation, we ensure they get optimal savings and efficiency.”
This approach has seen the organisation develop prolonged, lasting relationships with many of its customers, a second element that Gulam recognises as integral to Kyoga Hauliers’ ongoing success.
“Simply, we would not be in business without our customers,” he continues. “Our customers are our priority, and we have been able to adapt and evolve with our customers in what today is a very competitive field. Going above and beyond is always our goal, as well as taking a step back and expanding our service delivery, introducing new services year on year.”
Continual reinvestment is a third defining trait of the business, be it in physical assets or automated technologies, Kyoga Hauliers actively ensuring that it remains ahead of the curve by expanding its capacity and capabilities.
Such financing practices are not only limited to these ends, however.
Human resources also capture significant proportions of the firm’s attentions and investment strategies, owed to Dhora and Gulam’s astute recognition of the importance of its employees.
“We are always keen on recruiting and retaining the best staff, and this starts with our rigorous recruitment processes,” explains Gulam. “Training is also important. We regularly conduct workshops and staff retreats to once again cement the value of growth and unity within our organisation.
“We feel our success is that we maintain a family ethos.”
Equally benefitting from the firm’s responsible oversight are the communities in which Kyoga Hauliers operates, the company readily deploying substantial corporate social investment practices in a number of local environments.
“Where would we be without the support of our communities?” Gulam states.
“Our people face numerous challenges, so we work hard to give back. Education and medical services are a basic human right, and no one should be denied such. We focus our efforts in these areas, working with local charities and NGOs, and look to support local people in any way that we can.”
Fortunately, it seems that these communities, much like the logistics industry and the wider East African economy, are set to thrive throughout the coming years.
According to the African Development Bank’s 2019 Regional Economic Outlook Reports, GDP growth in East Africa is soaring ahead of other regions, nearing almost six percent.
“It’s Africa’s time!” Gulam states. “The region and continent are seeing growth, rapid urbanisation, changing consumer patterns and more importantly accessible funds.”
Against this backdrop, Kyoga Hauliers itself is set to draw upon a number of major benefits and interests that will set the company in ideal stead as it moves through the remainder of 2019 and beyond.
Gulam concludes, highlighting the firm’s major priorities for the coming months: “The landscape is changing, as is Mombasa.
“The National Government of Kenya has been very active and supportive, developing key infrastructure such as roads and the Standard Railway Gauge. Developments in the Port of Mombasa have also been key to reducing many inefficiencies.
“Our priority is to evolve with these changes, supporting our customers to best extract value from these developments and target areas that are now growing which previously were not accessible. Data is also important. We shall continue to automate and extract data, to understand our business and do better.
“The job is never done, and we shall continue to critique and improve ourselves.”