e started by doing odd jobs like any young and new entrant in the job market. But things would later take a dramatic turn when he took some courses related to cargo clearing and forwarding and got formal employment.
He worked for this single employer in his professional life serving him religiously in a move that saw him rise through the ranks to the position of Operations Manager when he quit in 2014 to start his own company – Equirak Logistics Limited where he is director.
Mr. Charles Kariuki, who describes himself as a family man, a businessman, a Christian man, and a logistics enthusiast with a great interest in farming was inspired by something unique, he tells Freight Logistics in an interview. He also had a short stint at the leadership of the Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association (KIFWA) as the Chairperson of the Nairobi Chapter and the National Secretary. It was during this time he served as a board member of the Federation of East Africa Freight Forwarders Associations (FEAFFA).
Having undertaken several courses to equip himself with the rapidly changing logistics industry during his employment time and has reached the epitome of a career projection in employment – just a rank to become a director, he could only become one in his own company.
“I would say I have a lot of passion in the logistics industry. This is why I have made a choice of taking training every time a need and an opportunity emerges as a precursor to serve our customers and clients better,” Mr. Kariuki said, attributing the growth of the company and his staff to this core principle he holds too dear. Through training, a lot of time is saved when someone can reason with the revenue authorities over a product he understood and whose classification had been studied before submitting customs documents. This also reduces the chances of corruption and under-table dealings.
The logistics industry has gained significant transformation in recent years, and one cannot provide competitive and global best practices if one is not well equipped on emerging trends in the fast-growing technology and other developments that have come by, Mr. Kariuki added.
For any company to grow in bounds and riches, there is a great need for the employees to understand the products and the company providing the services as well as the operating environment, which can also be gained through regular staff training.
Some of the critical areas that the customs agents must understand include Cargo Valuation, Harmonized System Code, and Customs Operations, according to Mr. Kariuki. “The foundation of our success is an entrepreneurial approach empowering a highly skilled staff of supply chain and logistics professionals. Our management team is focused on providing our customers with the very best in class service and customer experience,” added he.
With the continued growth of the market’s new demands, said Mr. Kariuki, there is a great need to embrace creative solutions to traditional logistics needs. Equirak, according to him, has learned to meet customers’ demands in a timely fashion by cementing partnerships with its clients and other logistics service providers. He relies on his 10 employees on his payroll and many other casual workers he regularly engages daily to deliver the company goals.
Having received all requisite clearance and certifications from the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), Equirak has served several sectors that include pharmaceutical, manufacturing, government-sponsored projects, textile industry among many other individual clients.
Despite the Covid-19 pandemic that disrupted the supply chain due to physical interaction limitations that were decreed, locking the sector for over two years, and the shortage of the empty containers that loomed in the restricted ports, the company has been able to grow expertise in end-to-end national logistics services, warehousing services, transportation, Imports and Exports and Clearing, and Forwarding within the innovativeness the world employed to remain afloat.
“We are now strategically positioned to ensure we provide the very best in world-class services spreading across the entire East African Community (EAC) including South Sudan, Great Britain, China, and America where we are involved in processing both the exports and imports,” Mr. Kariuki said.
Added; “These are our key strategic partners that have helped us grow and manage to transact cross-border trade.”
The company embraces flexible freight options for Air, Sea, and Road and fast port clearing and forwarding services for the client’s cargo with round-the-clock tracking, guarding, and reporting location of the customer’s cargo anywhere in the world.
The company is also able to offer a strong link between the owners of goods and owners of means of transport. It also helps cargo owners in the efficient movement of goods to the buyers by completing many procedural and documentary formalities.
By serving its national and beyond-border customers, the company can offer Grade A economical warehousing and distribution services. It is also able to handle anything from the smallest packages to oversized products, providing professional handling and security along the way.
Other value-added services include a computerized management system, loading and unloading, and segregation and palletizing. It also provides inventory management and control, pick and pack services, and security systems.
“We work with reliable independent truckers and owner-operators to achieve competitive prices. We closely manage our customers’ domestic and regional shipments to meet the specific needs of their business. Our goal is to deliver their shipments timely and securely,” Mr. Kariuki said.
Appreciating the ongoing reforms in logistics such as One-Stop Border Posts (OSBPs) across the region, Modern Weighbridges, Single Customs Territory (SCT), and National Electronic Single Window Systems among many others, Mr. Kariuki said this has revolutionized the timely provision of services and helped those in logistics sectors to grow.
“However, a far mutual cooperation between the clearing agents and revenue authorities is necessary so that the two can serve the customers seamlessly and tax collected through strong coexistence and understanding,” Mr. Kariuki said, sending a solid sign of always seeking to do the right things all the time.
He also pointed out the efforts by the Federation of East African Freight Forwarders Associations (FEAFFA) and other stakeholders in the East African region to push for the enactment of the self-regulation bill in the region. For instance, the Kenya Customs Agents and Freight Forwarders Management Bill 2020 would be a game-changer once it becomes law.
“To address the shortcomings of the existing laws, there is a need for our industry to have a mechanism where it regulates itself through an act of parliament and recognizes customs agency and freight forwarding as a professional practice, as the case with other professions,” he added. Once enacted, the bill will create a standard operating environment for all agents in the logistics sector, enhance accountability among different stakeholders, and improve the quality of services offered to importers and exporters. In the long run, the industry would reap from enhanced efficiency within the supply chain. This will lead to a significant reduction in the overall cost and time of moving cargo across the region.
The company is seeking to create more regional networks which he describes as ‘net worth’. Once he has been able to create a formidable network, the company will seek to invest in other business lines such as shipping and cargo consideration among others.
We are also working to have the company accredited to the AEO status which is an initiative of FEAFFA and KRA.