- Polygon Logistics offers a range of logistics solutions to clients including clearing and forwarding, consultancy, air and sea freight, investments and capital investments and holding joint ventures.
- Some of the company’s top clients are Hemingways Nairobi Limited, Dominion Farms Limited, Hygiene and Healthcare Limited, International Organisation for Migration and Exclusive Timber Contracts Kenya Limited, among others.
An aggressive spirit to see projects done and passion for what he does are some of the principles that have seen Ben Omolo run a successful logistics business. His wife of 21 years is the other partner in the company which he says started on a tight budget using personal savings. At one point, he was compelled to transact business deals from under a tree at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi because an office he had booked was not ready for tenancy.
When he started Polygon Logistics Limited in 2010, the entrepreneur had gone through some hard times with investors, an experience which he says made him wiser. Prior to going it alone, he was employed as a director for six years at Skytrain Ltd – a Kenyan subsidiary of UK-based Flamingo Holdings.
Flamingo is a horticultural business involved in growing, processing, packaging, marketing and distribution of cut flowers and fresh vegetables for the UK market. Skytrain on the other hand handles clearing and forwarding operations for Flamingo, while Homegrown Kenya Limited, another subsidiary of the UK-based company, grows and processes a range of flowers and vegetables for export. Having worked at Flamingo for close to 14 years and gained valuable experience in the logistics business, Mr Omolo says he felt ready to quit and start his own venture.
He had resolved to structure his new enterprise based on the model of his former employer and in February 2010 he embarked on finding an ideal name for it. “While still at it, I moved to Rwanda to do some consultancy work where I realised a huge gap in the country’s cargo handling capacity,” said the 45-year-old father of four. He decided to change his initial plan and included cargo handling as one of the services Polygon Logistics would offer alongside consultancy in logistics. But when some investors he met in Rwanda pulled out of a business deal, the setback made him think that perhaps he had made a wrong move quitting employment.
“As I was driving back to Kenya, two job requests popped into my email box with both giving a tight execution timeline of one week,” said Mr Omolo, an alumni of Lenana School. One of the job requests was to coordinate a charter flight on behalf of a client while the other one was to clear some accessories, including pumps, for a customer.
Realising the two business deals were potentially going to be his turning point, he pursued them with vigour despite the prevailing shortcomings.
His business was in its initial stages of formation — he was yet to get a physical address while the company did not have a logo — and yet the freight was expected to be in Islamabad, Pakistan, in a week’s time.
Having been in the industry for more than a decade, he knew the nitty gritty of the clearing and forwarding business, including who to contact for assistance. “At the time, we were yet to get a license from the Kenya Revenue Authority to handle freight so outsourcing the services was the only option,” he said, adding that keeping it simple is his mantra.
He recalls pensively how events of that week gave him an adrenaline rush — from buying pipes and opening a dollar account to getting a company stamp and sending invoices — but at the end of it all, the clients paid on time and received the shipment in good shape.
Impressed by his efficiency, the client said he would be coming over to discuss more business deals. “I could not meet the client under the tree. I got temporary shelter in a 48m² office where, with my three employees, we handled perishable exports,” he said. That was four years ago. The journey, he says, has been tough, but today he has every reason to smile.
The company has since relocated to the Swissport Cargo Handling Complex where it has adopted an open-office system. “I value transparency not only in my office set-up but also in my business transactions. I have instilled this principle in my staff (currently 23 employees),” he said. The company recently featured in the 2014 Top 100 SMEs list, a feat he says “is a serious achievement and a showcase to people that transparency in business truly pays”.
To qualify for the Top 100 competition that is run by the Business Daily and KPMG, SMEs must have audited results for the past three years and an annual turnover of between Sh70 million and Sh1 billion.