Executive Interview - Andrew Mutuma, Country Manager, DHL Kenya

Q: Tell us about yourself and your role in this organization

A: DHL has been a crucial part of the East African landscape since 1978. As for me, I have been part of the team here for just over one year. Over the nearly 40 years, DHL has continued to grow in capacity, from the number of staff and the facilities that we have as well.

The company is growing from strength to strength because we have a very good brand recall - if you were to ask people in the region, you would find that most know what DHL is all about.

Q: What have been some of the key experiences in the region for your company and how have they shaped the business over the last few years?

A: When you talk about the original perspective, we’ve got to look at pretty much some of the things that are happening within the EAC community. There is a lot of infrastructural development going.

With roads comes better connectivity, which helps us a lot because it eases the movement of our vehicles, making it a lot easier for us to move around and collect shipments from our customers. The second thing of course is the speed with which we are being able to do that.

Further, the fact that we have the EAC has allowed us having two planes that have abled us to move within the region to serve our customers, and also between our offices in other areas of Kenya besides Nairobi, that is Mombasa and Kisumu.

From the regulatory perspective, a harmonized customs and tax collection system has enabled us move our goods a lot faster between the countries in the region

Q: There has been a lot of government activity around infrastructure from the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) in Kenya, expansion of airports, ports and roads in a number of Eastern African countries. How do these developments fit into your plans into the future?

A: As DHL, we are already into the future! One of those things you think of in business is, how do you remain relevant not just presently but in the future?

What DHL has done is that we have considered what we require both from facilities point of view to equipment’s point of view and staff to take advantage of these developments.

For instance, we train our staff very well in terms of understanding the business, the business environment. This training is quite customized, such that we have over 3,500 certified international specialists in Africa who understand the business, who understand the processes that are necessary to make sure our business moves forward.

The second thing that we have done as all these developments are going on in terms of infrastructure is that we have boosted our facilities especially at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

For example, we have put in place a very mechanized way of doing business at the airport, so that when a shipment comes, it moves from one point of the facility to the other without any human intervention.

This helps in being able to appreciate that business may not be working in full capacity now but as the region continues to have integration both from the economic, regulatory and political dimensions we are then able to get to a place where we are able to get a lot more shipments through the facility. 

Once we already have the facility in place, there will be no need for more investments to thinking about, as we will just grow to the capacity that we have already built.

Q: What are challenges you face that you still face as DHL in Kenya?

A: Regulatory issues will always come. Every government thinks of taxation to fund infrastructure development and social services. For instance, our customers currently pay railway levy, which is being used currently for the SGR project at the clearance point. There are various regulatory measures the government has taken and the thing is that it takes time to be able to get the business running efficiently despite those changes.

Q: How has technology plugged into your business?

A: One of those things that have helped Kenya is that a lot of people have mobile phones so Internet access is a lot higher than other African countries.

This has allowed us to have our customers ask for pick-ups for their shipments online, they don’t have to call us, all they have to do is to get to their accounts and put in certain aspects of their details and we are able to get that through our system without them having to call and we are then able to transmit that information to our couriers in the field.

Our couriers have mobile scanners that are not only able to scan the shipment to indicate they have delivered or the shipments have been collected but also they are able to give updates in terms of where they are. They can also communicate with our contact center about any challenges they may be facing, without necessarily having to place a call.

We have also introduced e-billing, so our customers do not have to get a paper, but the bill and statements come through the customers’ e-mail. Through this online system, one is also able to track their shipments.

We are way much ahead in terms of technological advancement including significantly reducing the amount of time spent travelling to other countries for meetings, through the use of technology. We are increasing the use of technology and we will continue to do so to exploit the benefits that will help us to save costs in running the business.

Q: How has online shopping impacted your business?

A: We are pretty much pegged on to international shipments so we basically do time definite international shipment, and don’t focus a lot on the domestic market. That said we now have customers bringing in shipments from online retailers like Amazon in the US and the UK. We are doing a lot of deliveries for Amazon. That is already happening.

Q: How do you project the future of logistics business in the region?

A: It’s definitely going to get tougher as more and more international players come into the market. I believe this business line is not one of those businesses that have low barriers to entry because it is very expensive to get in to from a software/hardware perspective but even more so from getting competent staff who are able to understand this business.

There is definitely going to be a lot more government regulation of the sector as the market continues to be more fragmented because most governments are also growing in terms of their budgets so they are looking for ways to generate money to fund the budgets.

We are seeing opportunities in Kenya and we will continue to grow stronger and stronger as the country metamorphoses into something better, systems become stronger, and the benefits of the new constitution become clearer.

On the new constitution, the devolved system of government has opened new market frontiers in places like North Eastern region, for example in Moyale because those areas now have funds and expatriates are moving to those areas and ordering for shipments.

The market is therefore going to grow from strength to strength. I believe in a positive outlook for Kenya and possibly in the next 5 to 10 years, we are going to see a lot of changes in this country.

Q: What are the critical investment areas for your company in the next 5 years?

A: The most fundamental aspect of this business is the people that work for it so our first pillar is motivating the staff and getting them to understand the business. We have therefore developed a training program for all staff that covers our company from a global perspective and there are staff members who spend their full time with us to build on that capacity.

However, even as we build on that capacity, we are also working on creating customer loyalty and the only way to do that is making the entire organisation insanely customer centric. Of course, we have also talked of our investments in capacity at the airport and in technology as well.

Q: What’s the future of your business in Kenya and Africa?

A: DHL will continue to focus on Africa. We are the only courier company that is in 51 African countries. We are very well represented, we have the all the expertise and the equipment and we are very well interlinked in terms of taking advantage of this particular market in Africa and the world.

We are in 220 countries globally, over 150,000 destinations so customers have a great opportunity to work with us. We are more than just a courier company. We are a partnership, we are a trade barometer e.g. we can tell how tea is not doing well based on the samples that are coming through us, when trade is not doing well from imports and exports perspective so there are various ways we are able to appreciate business and guide our customers.

As for the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that continue to grow in Kenya, we also continue to give them very good opportunities. We have 310 retail outlets in Kenya which are not directly owned by the company, and which we are working in partnership with those business owners to grow.

These are great opportunities and we continue to empower people who work and interact with us to grow their businesses as well.