Firm helps you grow your business
By Ben Oduor
You have just borrowed a huge sum of money from the bank with intentions of investing in horticulture.
Armed with the cash, you prepare a big piece of land and plant your seedlings within the early weeks of the rainy season, optimistic of a good harvest.
Unfortunately, the sun scorches, and the weatherman hints of a serious drought within the coming months. True to the announcement, the heat takes a toll on your crops, and the bank comes after you demanding its money. You are devastated.
Occasionally, enthusiastic traditional farmers have dared unpredictable weather conditions and gracefully reaped fruits from their labor. On the other hand, weather conditions can sometimes be unbearable to the crops, resulting to losses that lead to emotional and economic setbacks.
This, experts say, is largely contributed by failure to apply modern farming methods.
It is because of this traditional farming backdrop that Smart Solutions Africa (SSA), a multi-national consultancy firm which offers operational models to public and private institutions, has set strategies in motion to mitigate such challenges.
Through one of its products, the farmer’s kit, which majors on greenhouse construction, technical support and advisory, the enterprise ensures that once they have supplied and installed the greenhouses, they walk their customers all the way to harvesting through technical and professional support, giving them an edge above their competitors.
Emily Njuki, the firm’s co-founder and director says their services go beyond selling greenhouses as they provide extensive agricultural advice to clients, analyse and test the soil through a partnership with the Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research Organization (KALRO).
The firm has also partnered with the Youth Enterprise Development Fund- a body that provide loans to Kenyan youth enterprises- to refer to them youth groups interested in agribusiness.
“Through this partnership, we give greenhouses to young people and offer them technical support,” she says.
Growing Smart Solutions
Five years ago, Njuki was restless. She had been working for Interconsumer Products Limited as a brand executive but was dissatisfied with the way companies offered their services.
“I identified a huge gap in the way agencies operated their business. They were not giving clients the best,” she says, adding that at that point, she started packaging her ideas to bridge the deficit.
With her marketing background and long experience working at a big corporate, she was fortunate to meet Patrisio Njeru, a PhD holder in quality management and a lecturer at the time stationed at the then Kenya Polytechnic (now Technical University of Kenya) , who also envisioned a similar investment.
“With my marketing background, coupled with his quality management experience, we were set for the business,” she says.
Armed with two laptops, the two started sourcing for clients, at times meeting them at Njeru’s office.
With sh120000 from their savings, she reckons that they incorporated SSA in 2011 and officially kicked off operations in February 2012.
At the early stages, the firm suffered low capital streams and had few services to test the waters, but now has laid a formidable footprint in the Kenyan market with offices in 10 regions in the country and the head office in Nairobi.
Jack of all trades
Currently, the firm offers solution based services such as trade management, merchandising, product launches and sampling, consumer competition, agribusiness solutions, fish ponds and liners supplies, environmental impact audits and greenhouse construction, technical support and advisory services.
The director says marketing is one of the firm’s drivers for it has enabled the enterprise attract a huge clientele base over the years.
For instance, the firm has been outsourcing services and merchandising staff for New Kenya Cooperative Creameries for the past four years and for promotions and merchandising on behalf of Premium Foods Industries and Inter Beauty Products Limited.
Also, it has recruited merchandise staff for Nokia East Africa and trained human resource staff for the county council of Mbeere.
Additionally, SSA has just signed a mega deal with Safaricom which will see the firm popularise a new service promoted by the mobile service provider, called shupavu- which has been on the mobile banking segment- to its users.
“Smart Solutions Africa’s approach is to bench-mark firm’s operations and management strategy against global standards,” it says in a statement, adding that the approach ensures customer ownership and brands that keep the promise and surpass consumer expectations.
To keep clients satisfied, the firm says that it engages organisations in identifying existing gaps and develops remedial strategies to bridge them.
It is partly for this reason that Njeru was listed by Business Daily among the Top 40 under 40 promising male entrepreneurs while Njuki won the CFC Stanbic Rising Star Award Entrepreneur of the Year 2015.
Further, in 2013, Njuki was appointed minister for Youth and Sports by Embu County Government.
Going forward, the food scientist, who also has a Masters in Business Administration, is optimistic that Smart Solutions will be among the multibillion shilling firms in Africa in the next decade.