CALLFAST SERVICES LTD – GROWING STRONG FROM A SMALL FOUNDATION
“The business of clearing and forwarding is not for the faint hearted,” Maurice Wambua, the CEO of Nairobi-based clearing and forwarding firm informs us as we start the interview.
“I can tell you that there have been many individuals and companies that have been lured into this industry, attracted by the wrong impression that there is easy money to be made, only to find their companies going under or finding themselves on the wrong side of the law,” he cautions.
The company’s mission is to build value-adding long-term relationships with its clients by offering quality and cost effective services. It aims to offer customer satisfaction to all its clients as the ultimate goal.
Humble beginnings, but aiming higher
Callfast Services was established in 1999, and incorporated as a private limited company in Kenya in 2004.
“The business started small, just like many businesses in Africa do – a small business with a great idea, vision and drive to succeed. It was not easy at all but as time went by, I managed to grow the business, getting to work with various customers over time,” he adds.
Callfast Services was incorporated into a business in 2014 and capable staff recruited to offer the necessary support and backbone to the running of business.
Mr. Wambua realised very early in his building the business that to be a major player he had to make the business formal, have an office and to have the right staff to succeed. That is when he decided to incorporate the business as a limited company in 2014.
Currently, Callfast Services has offices at the freight terminal of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi and a branch office in Mombasa.
The company provides superior and cost effective solutions for both import and export cargo and brings a fresh and innovative approach to its services acting as a value adding third party logistics partner for its clients.
Its goal is to exceed the expectations of every client by offering personalized attention through outstanding customer service and is distinguished by its operational efficiency.
Its functional and technical expertise combined with its hands-on experience, ensure that the clients receive the most cost-effective, efficient and professional services. Its also proud of its winning team of trained and experienced professionals.
“Our business is more than just a clearing and forwarding company. We are extremely proud to be the General Sales Cargo Agent (GSA) for Nairobi for one of the fastest rising regional airlines, RwandAir.
The confidence and responsibility that the RwandAir has placed on us, as their official cargo partner in Nairobi, is a huge stamp on our capability as a business,” he explains.
Over the years RwandAir, the national airline of the Republic of Rwanda has built the reputation of a fast growing airline and offering affordable prices to most capital cities within the region and outside the region, says Wambua.
The airline’s passenger and cargo numbers have grown annually as it opens new routes and offers numerous value adds to its services.
The airline currently services Kigali, Dubai, Brazzaville, Libreville, Accra, Lagos, Juba, Dar es Salaam, Douala, Lusaka, Johannesburg, Entebbe, Kamembe, Bujumbura and Mombasa and the list keep growing with new routes planned.
“Further, we provide air and ocean freight for both export and import. We also consolidate loose cargo, both air and ocean freight; provide road freight into the Eastern and Central Africa region; and provide project cargo services to our clients.
“These services are complementary to our clearing and forwarding business, providing a critical business extension to our customers, meaning that we provide them with an all-inclusive, seamless service that enables them to reduce time, costs and complexity for their businesses”, Wambua adds.
The company’s location at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport’s Cargo area places the company at the heart of the cargo business coming in and out of the major regional airport hub. It also has an operations office at Mombasa to handle customer orders into and out of the port of Mombasa.
The company enjoys good working relations with all leading airlines and airline ground handlers for all import and export cargo.
This facilitates its quality and timely service delivery to its clients in the region. Further, it has partners in a number of countries around the World, including those in the US, Europe, Dubai, China, South Africa, Egypt and India.
The company has a growing number of clients from the manufacturing advertising, tourism, and telecommunications sectors, among others.
“In addition our diverse business networks internationally also extend locally with the various bodies at the Kenya Revenue Authority, Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) and other governmental institutions involved in freight handling and clearance.
This assures us that assistance is accorded on behalf of our clients speedily and any delays or possible problems are promptly addressed and rectified,” he says.
Building a viable business
“Growing our business into a viable business over the last more than 20 years has been a good challenge with numerous lessons learnt, but we can only thank our very supportive customers who have made this possible.
And I can also say that since our customers trust us to deliver as promised, we have continued to grow, even as the market has continued to become competitive.”
But what are the keys to success in the clearing and forwarding business in Kenya? The key to success for Callfast Services is reflected in the company’s values: professionalism, reliability, integrity, and teamwork. Basically, it is sticking with the rules of the land, keeping your promises and working beyond the customer’s call, placing integrity above all else and working as a team within the company, he informs us.
“For us, we have built integrity and trust of our customers for a long time. Secondly, we do not accept walk-in customers and customers we do no know well because some of these people could give us suspect cargo which might later cause problems.
We only work with corporate clients and even our trucks are not hired out to clients unknown to us,” he stresses.
Changing business environment
So what has really changed in the clearing and forwarding environment in the past 24 years Callfast Services has been in business, we ask.
“The most important change was when the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) took over from the Customs Department after which it introduced the Simba System in 1995.
The automation brought by the new system reduced a lot of the problems of the manual systems we had been used to.
It streamlined the processes and eliminated the need to be present at the Mombasa port to make a customs entry since we could then clear the goods from our Nairobi offices,” he informs us.
The other notable change has been the recent launch of the Kentrade system that has seen integration of the numerous agencies involved in clearance processes with agents.
“These recent changes have also eased the flow of information and made it easier to transact with the banks, Government regulatory agencies and KRA.
Human resource is critical to success
“This business requires our company and all our staff members to understand the major local rules and regulations applicable in the clearance of goods and forwarding process locally, regionally and internationally for our partners and clients,” he says.
A dedicated team staffs the Nairobi head office and the Mombasa branch.
“We value our employees and consider them our most critical resource, since we are a service company. People are involved at all the stages of the services we offer, so skills development for all our staff is paramount to us.”
The future is bright
Mr. Wambua says that he foresees his business growing, driven by the rising investments in the region.
“From the port of Mombasa to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport where we are located down to the exit and entry borders into and out of Kenya, we have seen tremendous investment by the Government to improve capacity. As a private sector player, our business can only take advantage of these investments to grow our business.
We are talking to a bank to get some cash to build a proper warehouse on Mombasa Road, to boost our storage capacity, further enhancing our capability,” he informs us.
And does Callfast intend to spread its wings to the region? “Yes, absolutely we are planning to have offices out of Kenya in the long term to increase our market penetration and enhance our presence internationally,” he concludes.