Samuel Waiganjo, a graduate of University of Nairobi is one of the Kenyan entrepreneurs exploring a world that has been ignored for a long time. The 34 year old Kenyan is the Executive Director of Costraq Consult, a consultancy firm on building management based in Nairobi. He talks to Purity Njeru of The African Executive
Purity: What’s the motivation behind Costraq Consult?
Waiganjo: Before opening my firm, I was working as a Deputy Director of Master Bill Kenya in 2000. Unfortunately, the company was going through some hard times just like many other construction companies at the time. There was a stagnation of both the public and private sector in construction. This is when I decided to leave the firm and start my own.
Purity: What made you believe that you could get clients in such an environment?
Waiganjo: I believe the human mind is capital. I felt that instead of crying that there are no jobs, why don’t I move a step forward, open my own firm, and add value to the services that Master Bill was offering.
Purity: So what did you do?
Waiganjo: I opened my firm, and instead of concentrating on designing tenders for constructions only, I was involved in the entire construction process. I also do price research and analysis, monitor if the tender prices I gave prior to the construction process are in line with the market trends. This therefore prevented clients from spending more than they had budgeted for.
Purity: If Construction management is a totally new field in the market. What used to happen?
Waiganjo: There was chaos. There were very many stalled and substandard projects. People would start projects without planning; they would work on budgets which had not been thought out professionally.
Purity: And is this gap being explored?
Waiganjo: Yes it is. In the past few years there has been tremendous growth in the construction industry and there are many opportunities coming up. At least we now have about five firms practicing construction management.
Purity: So what are you doing to fight competition?
Waiganjo: In this field we complement each other because construction management is a totally new field and there are few professionals.
Purity: How are you contributing to the growth of the economy?
Waiganjo: I have been able to manage big projects that have employed many people. We have also assisted entrepreneurs especially business people who have capital and they do not know what to do with it to invest in construction and they are benefiting from the investment. We have also assisted existing firms to increase their capacity.
Purity: So you only work with people with huge sums of money?
Waiganjo: Unfortunately yes. Construction is a very capital intensive venture. Currently, it is almost impossible to talk of a construction project costing less than Ksh.1 million. Construction is labor intensive, a lot of money is put in and also a lot of instruments are required to facilitate the process such as performance bonds, most of which range from two and a half percent to 10 percent of the construction sum.
Purity: So what does it take to deliver a project?
Waiganjo: Our terms of reference are usually time, quality and cost. Once we deliver the project on the three parameters, do our final count and handover the project to the client, then our work is over.
Purity: Which has been your most successful project?
Waiganjo: They are quite a number ranging from residential houses to office blocks in town. Most of the ones I am handling currently which include tea factories, housing projects, o
Purity: What has your experience been like working within and outside the city centre?
Waiganjo: Each has its own challenges. In Nairobi, if one is doing some excavation work one is forced to do it at night because during the day if one needs to do a hundred trucks of dumping of earth works at city council’s dump site, you may not do more than ten a day due to the traffic jam. It is therefore more convenient to do this at night than during the day. There is also lack of working space in town.
However, if you are working outside Nairobi, you realize that most of the materials are from Nairobi as you are likely to get them at cheaper prices and in greater quantities. If you have a project in Kisumu or Meru, you find yourself incurring so much on transportation. Some areas are far and a lot of time may be spent on the road.
Purity: What was your initial capital?
Waiganjo: I started with Ksh.300, 000.
Purity: How many employees do you have?
Waiganjo: Three and hope to expand and employ two more in the next one month
Purity: How do you motivate them?
Waiganjo: By having an open door policy where any of them can air grievances that one may have. They are also free to offer ideas on how best to improve the operations of the office.
Purity: What do you look for when employing people?
Waiganjo: They should be professionals in the construction industry at diploma or degree level. I also look at their experience and the human skills because there is a lot of interaction with other people.
Purity: Do you think the public is ignorant of your work?
Waiganjo: Yes. Most people do not appreciate the role of professionals who will advice one on best practices in construction and how to get value for one’s money. For example, one could be having Ksh.2 million and decide to buy a plot worth Ksh.400,000 and use the reminder to construct a house. Unfortunately, the house comes to a standstill because probably one has run short of funds. Yet, had one consulted, proper planning and budgeting can avert such situations.
Purity: Do you have plans to expand?
Waiganjo: Yes in the next 5 years. For now I want to capture existing opportunities in Kenya as the construction industry is growing quite fast. I will then expand to the entire Eastern Africa region. I have however consulted for people with projects in Sudan and Arusha.
Purity: What’s the major challenge in construction industry?
Waiganjo: Construction industry has been slow in adopting internet technology. Actually most of the agreements are done on paper. Some documents are legally binding only if they are written. However, we are trying to change that as too much time and resources are wasted on postage, and transport among others.
Purity: What message would you want to pass across to investors?
Waiganjo: I would encourage them to consult professionals. We have had quite a number of buildings collapsing in Kenya and people losing lives. I would attribute this to lack of planning. Investors want buildings constructed in the shortest time possible, disregarding the minimum standards required when constructing out of ignorance and greed. In the long run, they suffer huge losses.