A lending hand to ‘tenderpreneurs’ that collates all available procurement opportunities
Helen Njoroge runs a digital platform that offers businesses a convenient and affordable accessto procurement data and opportunities
By Ben Oduor
Faith Achieng’, a 24-year old diploma holder from Technical University of Kenya (TUK) was elated with the opportunity to try her hand in government contracting. The 30% government tenders guaranteed for the young people was the incentive. With the Kenyan government estimated to procure goods and services to the tune of Ksh300 billion, that is a guaranteed pool of Ksh90 billion.
But hope turned into despair. The company she registered failed to attract contracts as she had anticipated. It soon went dormant.
Achieng’s case is synonymous to the many youthful entrepreneurs eyeing tenders from organizations, especially government agencies.
Lack of adequate knowledge on procurement rules, regulations and the best practices as well as lack of technical know-how required to properly fill tender documents fails most companiesfrom accessing procurement opportunities.
Youth enterprises are further challenged with lack of financial know-how and credit facilities required to guarantee their tenders. Corrupt officers, on the other hand,share a portion of the blame.
A report released early this year by Hivos, revealed that only 7.7 per cent of the 30 per cent state tenders benefited the youth and disabled since the procurement policy was introduced in 2013.
“A sample of tenders worth Ksh5million and above, issued between 2013- 2016, show that only 7.71 per cent of tenders were awarded under AGPO. This proportion is significantly lower than the prescribed 30 per cent specified by law,” the report noted. Of the 2,232 tenders floatedby the state during the period of review, only 172 were awarded to AGPO registered firms.
According to Helen Njoroge, a board member of the Marketing Society of Kenya (MSK), accessing procurement opportunities, especially from the national government is a stringent process. First, accredited business owners must ensure their paperwork is in order and that they have submitted all requirements for the tender.
They must also ensure their pricing is right, having in mind that the procuring entity is most probably working with a budget. Thus costs, which include profits, have to fall within the budget.
“Sometimes businesses end up losing out on the tenders because they lack the right suppliers of their goods. Their quotes end up being higher. In my interaction with business people, especially those starting out, I encourage them to just start. One cannot learn on a day but for sure by the time you’re applying for your third time, you’ll be doing better than when you started,” Njoroge explains.
She says haste by most startups while applying for these opportunities has also denied them a chance, as many get to realize that other requirements, such as a manufacturer’s authorisation, haven’t been included in their documents they submitted.
“Some (applicants) do not read the fine print. If the procuring entity asks that you initially stamp all pages and you forget to do that then you are automatically penalised. Others end up simply submitting shoddy work and complain when the contract is not in their hands,” she says.
However, to attract these lucrative deals, Njoroge advises that applicants must be proactive and remain persistent. They must also show value to procuring entities and other service providers.
Njoroge speaks from a position of experience, having walked down the path of procurement business from five years ago. Together with her partner, PerylAdudans, they founded Tenders Kenya to assist other business on the trade.
When starting out in 2013, she realized that most government tenders were advertised on newspapers, which was not only expensive, but also time consuming.
“So I thought of the youth who would not be in a position to buy at least two newspapers every day to spot the opportunities. That’s when we came up with the idea of an online portal where all business people would get access to this information,”Njoroge says.
Tenders Kenya is an online platform that provides information on procurement opportunities in Kenya.Initially, the firm provided information at no cost, hoping to generate adequate income through website ads.
It had also planned to partner with other establishments that could buy advertising space in the portal. But this wasn’t as viably profitable enough. The founders thus had to introduce other revenue models.
Overtime, they started offering subscription packages to businesses looking for procurement information.
They now also offer procuring entities an opportunity to float their tenders on the website as well as consultation and training opportunities to equip businesses with the know-how in tendering and winning contracts.
The entrepreneur says the platform saves clients both money and time. By paying an annual subscription fee of US$20 (Ksh2,000), clients are able to receive email alerts on available procurement opportunities.
With a workforce of four and subscriber base of 16,000, Njoroge says their main focus at the moment is to keep the portal up to speed with new trends and best practices in the global scene, ensuring that ‘our developers and other staff are well versed with our business model for minimal website downtime.’
The youthful entrepreneur, who got listed as one of Business Daily’s Top 40 Under 40 impactful female entrepreneurs in Kenya, says the firm is geared for a bright future.