, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 22 – Andrew Mutuma and I meet on a hot Friday in September at DHL Kenya’s headquarters in Nairobi. At age forty, the Daystar University Alumni has settled comfortably into his Country Managing Director position for the international company.
He is seven weeks old there as I write this.
“Do you feel like a newbie?” I ask him.
“The big office makes me feel like a newbie,” he says in a good measure of charm. “But the staff has been so friendly and warm that I feel like I’ve been part of the team all along.”
Taking the job was on his part a dream come true. It was also as a result of doing jobs that paved way for his highest position yet.
“I worked at companies such as Mobil (now Oil Libya), Nokia and TNT Express among others. I also took up a job as a banker somewhere along the way. All these companies prepared and instilled in me values that led me to qualify for this position.”
Mutuma is for this reason ready to work and has his matters of priority split into two. First he wants to grow DHL’s business. Second, he wants to learn the culture of DHL and contribute into it in the best way possible.
According to the Managing Director, it is best to understand an organization first when new before trying to change how things are done.
Growing the DHL business is however not as easy as is his management work seeing that he is already colliding with his biggest challenge yet; the falling currency.
At mid September, the Shilling is trading at Sh105 against the strengthening US Dollar. This has meant bad business for everyone in the country, including those in the courier business, as it has become more expensive to ship things from countries such as the US.
As a result, businesses have halted operations to monitor how the currency is behaving.
“Exporters are however having a field day as this means better business because it is much cheaper for them to do business countries hard hit by inflation.”
Mutuma’s problems do not end there.
Policies by the Kenyan Government such as pre-shipment inspection, which is meant to counter the importation of substandard items, are hurting the courier business.
“We now have to bring in more rounds of products instead of carrying in bulk because of such policies. Something that would take us three days now takes almost two weeks to get here. This is of course very costly on our side and equally expensive to our customers,” Mutuma said.
This has seen customers switch from using courier services such as those of DHL to sending and receiving products by air, which although deemed faster, is ultimately more costly because of factors such as duty and storage before clearance at the airport.
He therefore calls onto the Government to involve industry stakeholders before passing such policies so that all parties get an equal ground of conducting their businesses.
Mutuma is however not losing his sleep over these issues; rather, he is excited about what the company is doing despite them.
For instance, the company is enhancing its operation by putting money to ensure that end to end processes run smoothly. It recently purchased upgraded scanners, vehicles and equipment to ensure efficiency.
“DHL also invested US$200million earlier this year towards the gateway project at Jomo Kenyatta Airport. This was in a bid to expand our international business which is where our main focus is. The investment was important seeing that Kenya is the gateway to East Africa,” Mutuma said.