Betting on tendering pays off

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By Victor Adar

When Anthony Maina was in Kenya Institute of Management, supply of electrical and general products was not the next up for him. Although he cut his teeth as a manager, his success story shows that entrepreneurship is inevitable. Having seen a niche in supply of electrical, painting works, hardware and plumbing materials, Mr Maina believes that dreams can come true when you know what you are doing.

The 29 year old graduate of management who now specialises in electrical control didn’t know how things would change that he would today be apart of many enterprising Kenyans forming the bulk of those building the country’s economy. He started off Enamic Company Limited in 2015 to deal with supply of electrical and general products, a venture that is currently valued at Sh700, 000.

“I’m still managing myself,” he says. “Having the knowledge about what you are doing is the most important thing. I started not really in a big way, but it’s growing. I had a capital of Sh100, 000, and mostly I used to plough back the profits and that’s why we are where we are now. We are expanding.”

Use of social media and word of mouth is his major boost. He raised the initial capital by doing freelance jobs “here and there” where he managed to save up enough capital for his venture. Ground he scratched, but talking to people about electrical works, and being relevant to the current world really pushed him to higher heights.

“Mostly, I deal with tenders. And my services include supply of electrical items, painting and repair works, service of generators, plumbing works, supply of building materials, construction and minor works. The money I get out of that is what I plough back.”

For one to flourish in this line of business, it is better to be updated on mostly the four Ps of marketing that include pricing, products, promotion and place, which he says keep changing like opinion polls. His customers mainly come from the private sector, impromptu buyers as well as from institutions like Kenyatta University. Citing his long standing customers (who double as his suppliers whenever he is in need of certain products) like Scaddan Power Limited, Austar Limited, Woodmax Electrical Services, Sydney Company Limited, Spreters and Alfa Trading, business is booming.

Mr Maina can still remember that in February 2012, retired President Mwai Kibaki gave out a directive that 10% of all government contracts be awarded to the enterprising youth as a way of managing youth unemployment. Then President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2013 pledged that procurement rules would be amended such that instead of the 10% the youth, women and disabled get, they would be offered 30% of contracts, affirming that those who would go against that directive would be sacked.

He says that is not the case. In fact, access to government procurement opportunities, popular as AGPO, which aims at pre-qualifying youth, women and persons with disability-owned ventures in order for the lot to access government tenders as well as contracts is truly failing. It is not happening. Actually, the allocations are simply on paper.

“It is not a great opening for young people. It still is a problem. You just have to manoeuvre,” he says, adding: “The big fish in the market sometimes interrupt business giving young people hard time as they take most of the work leaving us with little and at times, nothing.”

Even a blind person can see this is for people with disability, youth and women but when you see the people who benefit from such tenders you wonder. It is all those who have the financial muscle taking lions’ share, leaving the young people dry of opportunities. “The market should not be dominated by the big fish who take everything. They should give us young people the opportunity.”

But amid the dark clouds, Maina is turning things around dropping some positive insights for Kenyans who would like to delve into the same business line. For him working with the private sector players is easy as compared to dealing with public institutions – there are no red tapes and bureaucracy in the private sector.

“This year is a bit stressful. Business is bad because of elections, which is just around the corner. You can also be having one contract in a month, so don’t expect too much. Most important thing is, have the knowledge. Understand the market and don’t expect too much. Just start with what you have,” he says.