Polygon Logistics: Logistical Solutions for Organizations and Individuals in Kenya

Ben Omolo gives an overview of the logistics sector in Kenya and presents Polygon Logistics Ltd, a company offering a comprehensive range of logistical solutions for organizations and individuals in Kenya, with a scope of extending the same globally. These include clearing, forwarding of both import and export shipments, as well as air charter flight services and airline representation.

Interview with Ben Omolo, Managing Director of Polygon Logistics Ltd

Ben Omolo, Managing Director of Polygon Logistics Ltd

What is your assessment of the sector in Kenya? What are the latest trends? Is the market competitive?

The logistics sector in Kenya is growing, based on the fact that Kenya is an importing country. Logistics plays a key role in terms of putting the jigsaw puzzle together. Kenya is a main entry point into the East African region, covering countries like South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Eastern Congo. Logistics is key to this economy. It is a very competitive market. We have very big players and multinationals in the industry, such as Panalpina, Kuehne + Nagel, Bolloré, Agility, and local companies who are putting their best foot forward to try and provide logistical services. The only benefit the local logistics companies will have is that we are giving a different kind of service than the multinationals. That is how we can be very competitive players.

What services do you provide? What are your competitive advantages? What differentiates you from other companies?

Our main strength is point to point air freight, and also point to point sea freight and road freight. We also offer ad-hoc air cargo charters for perishables out of Kenya.

Polygon Logistics comes from a very unique vantage point. I was involved previously in the perishables logistics business and I started Polygon Logistics 10 years ago on the back of knowing how to handle perishable exports very well. The kind of attention to detail that we provide to our clients is unmatchable. The larger companies tend to lack that personal touch in business. Being the person who is behind Polygon Logistics and as the Chief Executive, I am able to provide that service by being hands on. I delegate to my staff but I am able to follow through myself. That gives us a competitive advantage in terms of offering very good service levels. Because of bureaucracies in the multinationals, the clients tend to feel like orphans. That is why we come in and offer this competitive service.

What sectors is the company involved in?

The company is involved in many sectors. Our main strength is point to point air freight, and also point to point sea freight and road freight. We also offer ad-hoc air cargo charters for perishables out of Kenya.

What process is the company going through currently?

With the business growing, we need to think differently. We need to get very strong partners to get the business to the next level. This means a lot of transparency, visibility, and a lot of systems put into place. With those programs, we will get more clients. After that, we will need to increase our cashflows, which requires injecting a lot of working capital into the business. The only way we can do that is by joining the ‘IBUKA’ program which will lead us onto the Nairobi Securities Exchange platform. When we get more clients, we will be able to serve them properly without any issues and keep the business running.

Is the process moving at the pace you want? Do you see the attraction in your business being boosted?

The process is going on very well and I can see a lot of interest from the public already. It will take a long time and a lot of hard work and I am ready for it. One month ago, I did an interview with the local dailies, the KTN news and we received a lot of accolades from potential clients, industry peers, and people who have an interest in how Polygon is run. We can already see the result and the impact is there. We look at completing the process in the next 18 months or so.

Are you interested in attracting partners on the technology side?

We are looking at attracting partners on building our customer base. That will come with some technological improvements to the business. If a strong partner comes in, they are strong because they have a solid, permanent customer base. If that partner can come into Polygon through an acquisition, that will definitely lead to some technological advancement coming in as well for the business to prosper. We are looking at partners that are in the same business areas.

What is one of your success stories?

One of our unique success stories was in 2015. I was at my desk in my office and got an inquiry from a local customer to move 40 German Shepherds into Somalia from Kenya on a charter flight. Because they knew Polygon was strong in charters, they passed on that communication to us. Little did we know, the same communication ended up going to a company called Pet Relocation in Los Angeles in the US. That job did not happen. The next contact we got was from Pet Relocation to move 13 Rottweilers from Erbil in Iraq to Atlanta in the US. We agreed to do it. We moved the 13 dogs from Erbil via Jordan into Dubai and into Atlanta. We got an invoice from Jordan, which we paid after we had been paid by Pet Relocation in the US. We did not see the dogs or the people we dealt with, but we moved the dogs.

What are the main challenges that local companies face here in the market?

One of the main challenges is the lack of capacity building. The industry has always been left out to people who just walk in and work. They lack training and education. The government has not been very strict about putting up standards. Now, though, they are doing that through the Kenya Revenue Authority which is training the personnel that work in the industry, putting in stringent measures on ways of doing business, and putting in proper systems of tax collection. We play a very big role in tax collection and many people have been misusing that gap to defraud the government of revenue. The government is now working to keep everyone in check and make sure the industry is properly looked after.

Do you have any current projects you are proud of?

We currently have a project for an 80-megawatt solar power plant to be put up in Eldoret. We have gone through the process of putting everything together and being shortlisted from 2016. Last Friday, we just got our first air freight job. It is a large project, turning over about $500 million. We have just started and are waiting to see how it will fall into place as we move on towards completing the project with the main players.

What do you want to achieve in three years’ time, the medium term? What is your dream for the company?

The current turnover we have is about $3 million per year. We have managed to do up to $7 million per year. The business was good then. But because of the business environment in 2017 and 2018, our revenues dropped. My next target is to get to $10 million turnover per year. If things work well and we get proper investors, I want to hand over the business to someone else who can run it and let it carry on.


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