David Gatende sees water, everywhere

June 25, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 25 – Drinking water, once wrote Leonardo da Vinci, ‘can be health-giving, unwholesome, laxative, sulphurous, mournful, angry, red, yellow, green, black, blue, greasy, fat and thin.’

Indeed, ‘water is life’. The very existence of life itself on earth is based on this truth as water is the main ingredient of most living things. The human body has been described as a “virtual walking sack of precariously contained fluids.” About two thirds of our total weight is water, while as much as three fourths of our brain and muscles tissues is liquid.

Yes, access to a secure, safe and sufficient source of fresh water is a fundamental requirement for the survival, well-being and socio-economic development of all humanity.
No wonder there is a need to provide infrastructure for the management of this most basic but necessary commodity.

The Davis & Shirtliff Group is the leading supplier of water related equipment in the East African region which was founded in 1946 and focuses on four main principal product sectors which include water pumps, water treatment, swimming pools and renewable energy products.
Managing Director David Gatende tells us about this company and what it deals with including his rise to its apex.

Q: How did you get into something like water treatment and what sparked your interest?

A: I studied Agricultural Engineering in University and the whole subject of hydrology was very much at the heart of what I was studying. I remember looking for a job, about 23 years ago, and somebody referred me to a friend of his at Davis and Shirtliff.

Q: What position did you get at that time?
A: I was a trainee Engineer and this changed over the years and over time I have been blessed to get a variety of responsibilities.

I haven’t been doing the same job. I became the Field Engineer then an Operations Manager. In 1990, I became the Sales Manager and then later the Commercial Manager moving upward to become the General Manager.

Q: Did you set your target to become the General Manager?
A: No, never really. What happened was that I did little things faithfully and this contributed a lot to my growth in the company. Faithfulness, excellence and perseverance are key qualities that can help one be noticed in any organisation.

Q:  Does education play a big part in it for you?
A: Yes, I think it is important to keep on learning. I studied in Nairobi – both in Primary and Secondary schools – thereafter I went to study in Canada for three years so I can say that I have been very privileged to have very good teachers.

Q: Almost every one goes through hardships. Are there any particular moments you remember where you really felt like giving up?
A: Challenges can come out of any situation. I remember when my father passed away and shortly after wards my brother in a space of 18 months due to a very serious illness in the family. I believe what strengthened me was my relationship with God and the company of friends.

Q: Have you experienced hardships at work and how did you get through such moments?

A: There have been times which have been very tough for the country thus also putting pressure in the company. Sometimes you get pressures that are external; for instance when the economy was liberalised, we went through some very challenging times then. However as the Chinese ‘on the flip side of a challenge is where there is opportunity’ and it is during that time that the organisation started to grow. Before 1993 we had just one branch in Nairobi and today we have nineteen branches.

Q: Are there times that you felt like giving up?
A: I cannot really say that because my job has kept on changing. I cannot say that I have reached that point of throwing in the towel because where else would I go? What people focus on in a job is the remuneration (but) that has never been a big issue for me because it has not been the real focus. It has followed everything that I do. For me, working in the water sphere, the difference that it makes to people’s lives really gives me a lot of satisfaction and fulfillment.

Q: What would you say to someone who does not get job satisfaction and only goes to work as a result of the remuneration expected?
A: It is a tough one but I would put it back to them. There are some people who are extremely well paid but can hardly stand the pressure. There is a lot of stress that comes with the job. There are some people who sell products that are dangerous to people and somewhere in your conscience, this affects you and so financial benefits come secondary.

Q: How do you think that the 2009/2010 Budget is going to affect Kenyans especially when it comes to water?
A: We were very well pleased to hear that a lot of funds was allocated to the constituency development funds because very often when people in the far flung constituencies are asked what they need, they will says that they need water and so they will need pumps.

Q: How will you make these equipment accessible to Kenyans?
A: We have launched a range of products which are much more affordable to the common Kenyan. We have already started introducing them and so these are going to be more available in the future and as the CDF monies are released, then we hope that people will really begin to benefit. Another thing we are promoting is the solar water heating.


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